Education

Best Conservation Biology Degree Programs of 2022

Learn more about the top Conservation Biology programs, what to expect, job prospects, and how to choose the program that’s right for you.

Conservation biology is the study of the ways in which humans can protect and conserve the natural world. Conservation biologists work to identify and protect endangered species, to restore damaged ecosystems, and to develop sustainable practices for the use of natural resources.

Conservation biology is a growing field, as the world’s population continues to put pressure on the planet’s resources. Conservation biologists are in demand in a variety of settings, including government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private companies.

Conservation biology degrees can prepare students for a variety of careers in conservation biology, including environmental science, wildlife management, and ecological engineering. Students in conservation biology degree programs learn about the different theories and techniques of conservation biology, and how to apply those techniques to protect and conserve the natural world.

How to Choose the Right Conservation Biology Program

When it comes to choosing the right conservation biology bachelor’s degree program, there are many things that prospective students need to consider. One of the most important factors is the cost of the program. Tuition rates can vary significantly from one school to another, so it’s important to do your research and find a program that fits your budget.

Another important factor to consider is the location of the school. If you’re interested in working in a specific region after graduation, you’ll want to make sure that the school you choose has a strong presence in that area. Additionally, you’ll want to consider the climate and geography of the region where the school is located. This is important because it can impact the types of conservation projects you’ll have access to during your studies.

Finally, you’ll want to consider the length of the program. Most conservation biology bachelor’s degree programs take four years to complete, but there are some accelerated programs that allow students to earn their degree in as little as two years.

By considering all of these factors, you’ll be able to find the right conservation biology bachelor’s degree program for you.

Best Bachelor’s in Conservation Biology Programs

The best programs for Conservation Biology ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Some of the metrics influencing how the rankings are determined include graduation rate, average salary for graduates, accreditation, retention rate, and cost.

Rank 1
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL

The Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from University of Florida focuses on developing students’ knowledge of the conservation and management of wildlife and habitats for the greatest aesthetic, ecological, economic, and recreational values. The mission of the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation is to foster education, expand knowledge, and reward scholarship, using multi-disciplinary approaches, for the purpose of understanding, managing, and conserving biological resources.

Rank 2
University of California-Davis
Davis, CA

The Bachelor of Science in Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology from University of California-Davis offers many opportunities for hands-on experiences with wildlife through laboratory classes, fieldwork, research and internships. Students will begin their study with fundamental courses in natural sciences and mathematics before progressing to more advanced work in general biology, environmental sciences and wildlife/conservation biology. At the upper division level, students will select a specialization within the program and complete courses related to that area. Some choices for specialization include behavioral ecology, ecotoxicology and disease ecology, wildlife damage management and physiological ecology.

Rank 3
Boston University
Boston, MA

The Bachelor of Arts in Biology—Ecology & Conservation degree from Boston University is designed for students seeking a greater depth of training in ecology and conservation biology. The coursework for the major provides students with a sound conceptual framework as well as hands-on experiences in ecology and conservation biology, preparing them for graduate study in the environmental sciences and careers in academia, government, or the private sector.

Rank 4
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI

The Bachelor of Arts in Conservation Biology from University of Wisconsin is a science-based major designed to provide students with broad training in biological, ecological, and related disciplines most relevant to conservation. The major emphasizes basic knowledge of natural history, whole organism biology, ecological interactions, and field biology. It is characterized by flexibility, allowing students to tailor the program to their interests. The major is recommended for those seeking a liberal education in the intrinsic values of natural resources and those preparing for graduate study in the field of conservation biology.

Rank 5
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN

The Bachelor of Science in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology from University of Minnesota is a broad scientific degree emphasizing the biological and environmental sciences needed for careers in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation biology, as well as other natural resource and environmental professions. Students can choose from three tracks – Conservation Biology, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, and Wildlife – and have the option of adding a pre-vet emphasis.

Rank 6
Texas A & M University-Commerce
Commerce, TX

The Bachelor of Science in Wildlife & Conservation Science from Texas A & M University-Commerce is a comprehensive program that covers organismal sciences and focuses on wildlife management, ecology, and the preservation of biodiversity. The program meets the standards of The Wildlife Society and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, making graduates competitive for jobs in a variety of settings. Students in the program take courses in zoology, botany, ecology, wildlife management, vertebrate biology, and more.

Rank 7
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg, VA

The Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Conservation from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University focuses on the ecology and conservation of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians and their habitats. The program provides a comprehensive understanding of wild animal ecology, habitats, and human uses and values of wildlife. Students take courses in natural resources and environment, population dynamics, human dimensions of fisheries and wildlife, evolutionary biology, legal foundations, and more.

Rank 8
SUNY Cortland
Cortland, NY

The Bachelor of Science in Conservation Biology from SUNY Cortland provides students with a strong foundation in the biology of organisms and ecosystems, with an emphasis on the application of modern scientific approaches to environmental problems and their connections to human activities. The program also provides students with opportunities to intern with various organizations across the country and overseas, as well as the opportunity to participate in research projects.

Rank 9
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Syracuse, NY

The Bachelor of Science in Conservation Biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry is a unique program that focuses on applied ecology. Students in the program obtain background in the basic sciences (math, chemistry, physics), then learn the basic ecological principles and evolutionary forces that affect wildlife and their associated habitats. Course work then addresses the assessment and management of wildlife resources as well as the biology and natural history of various taxonomic groups. Students are advised to enhance career opportunities via taxonomic proficiency with one or more plant or animal groups, special skills such as GIS, and practical working experience as an intern, volunteer, or paid employee of a conservation agency.

Rank 10
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ

The Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences degree from Arizona State University offers students a comprehensive education in the field of biology with a focus on conservation and ecology. The curriculum provides students with a solid foundation in the principles of biology, ecology, and conservation, and also includes courses in calculus and statistics. The program offers both online and in-person courses, and all required labs can be completed online.

What to Expect From a Bachelor’s in Conservation Biology Program

Students in a bachelor’s in conservation biology program learn about the science of ecology and the ways humans can impact ecosystems. The degree often takes four years to complete and may require around 120 credits.

Most programs include general education requirements, such as math, English, and social sciences. Students then move on to major-specific coursework, which might cover topics like environmental law, natural resource management, and ecological principles. Many programs also offer opportunities for hands-on learning through internships, research projects, and fieldwork.

Graduates with a bachelor’s in conservation biology often go on to work in fields like environmental education, natural resource management, and environmental policy. Some students also use the degree as a stepping stone to further study in graduate school.

Common Conservation Biology Courses

Here is a list of five courses that are often required or recommended for students pursuing a degree in conservation biology.

Principles of Ecology

This course covers the scientific study of the distribution and abundance of organisms, the interactions between them, and the factors that regulate these properties. The course emphasizes the application of these principles to the conservation of biological diversity. Topics include the scientific method, biotic and abiotic factors, populations, communities, ecosystems, and landscape ecology. Upon completion, students should be able to apply the principles of ecology to the conservation of biological diversity.

Animal Behavior

This course covers the behavior of animals in natural and captive settings. Emphasis is placed on the adaptive value of behavior, how behavior is influenced by the environment, how it develops, and how it is integrated with other aspects of an animal’s physiology and life history. Upon completion, students should be able to apply the principles of animal behavior to the management and conservation of wildlife populations.

Biodiversity and Conservation Biology

This course covers the scientific study of the distribution, abundance, and demography of plant and animal species, with an emphasis on the application of these concepts to the conservation of biological diversity. Topics include the history of the conservation movement, the scientific basis for conservation biology, the assessment of biodiversity, the design of conservation reserves, the reintroduction of endangered species, and the management of invasive species. Upon completion, students should be able to apply the principles of conservation biology to the design and implementation of conservation programs at the local, national, and international levels.

Environmental Policy

This course covers the development and implementation of environmental policy at the local, state, and federal levels. Topics include the evolution of environmental policy, the role of government and nongovernmental organizations in environmental policymaking, the process of environmental policymaking, and the impact of environmental policy on individuals, businesses, and society. Upon completion, students should be able to analyze environmental policy issues and make recommendations for policy change at the local, state, and federal levels.

Evolution

This course covers the mechanisms of evolution and the evidence for it. Topics include natural selection, sexual selection, genetic drift, gene flow, mutation, and recombination. The course also covers the history of evolutionary thought, the patterns of evolution, and the application of evolutionary principles to contemporary problems. Upon completion, students should be able to explain how evolution works, describe the evidence for evolution, and apply evolutionary principles to solve problems.

Career Options for Conservation Biology Graduates

Graduates of conservation biology programs work in a variety of fields and industries, including environmental conservation, wildlife management, and environmental education. They may also work in fields such as environmental law and environmental policy.

Environmental Educator

Environmental educators work in a variety of settings—including schools, parks, zoos, and aquariums—to teach people about the natural world and ways to protect it. They develop and lead educational programs and create materials, such as lesson plans, handouts, and website content. Environmental educators may also work with environmental scientists to develop new educational programs or conduct research on the effectiveness of current programs.

Park Ranger

Park rangers are responsible for the day-to-day operations of a park, which can include everything from maintaining trails and facilities to providing customer service and enforcing park rules. Park rangers typically work for state or local governments, but some may work for the federal government, particularly in larger national parks. In addition to their regular duties, park rangers also often give talks or lead programs about the park’s history, geology, and wildlife, and they may assist with search and rescue operations, firefighting, and law enforcement.

Environmental Consultant

Environmental consultants work with businesses and government agencies to help them understand and comply with environmental regulations. In this role, you might conduct audits, collect data, and develop reports on a company’s environmental impact. You might also develop environmental management plans, permitting strategies, and compliance programs. Many environmental consultants also provide litigation support, testifying as expert witnesses in court cases involving environmental issues.

Recycling Coordinator

Recycling coordinators develop and oversee recycling programs for their municipality, business, or organization. They are responsible for planning and implementing programs, conducting outreach to engage the community, and ensuring that the program meets all regulations. In some cases, recycling coordinators may also be responsible for managing a team of workers.

Sustainability Officer

Sustainability officers develop and implement programs and policies intended to make their organizations more environmentally friendly and sustainable. This can include reducing energy consumption, waste, and emissions; increasing recycling and composting; and promoting sustainable practices among employees, customers, and other stakeholders. Sustainability officers often work in the public or nonprofit sector, but the role is increasingly found in the private sector as well.

Insights From a Conservation Biology Graduate

Kailyn Marquez is an Environmental Consultant at AECOM. She has a bachelor’s degree in conservation biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Kailyn has over 3 years of experience in environmental consulting.

ClimbtheLadder: What were the biggest takeaway(s) you got from your Conservation Biology program that you may not have gotten otherwise?

Kailyn Marquez: The biggest takeaway from my conservation biology program is that there is always more to learn. In conservation, there are always new threats to the environment and new ways to conserve.

I also learned that it is important to be proactive in conservation. We can’t wait for a species to become endangered before we start working to conserve it.

ClimbtheLadder: What should students interested in Conservation Biology be good at?

Kailyn Marquez: Students interested in conservation biology should be good at critical thinking, problem solving, and research. They should also be passionate about the environment and have a strong desire to protect it.

ClimbtheLadder: What misconception(s) do people have about a Conservation Biology degree, and what would you tell them?

Kailyn Marquez: I think the biggest misconception about conservation biology is that it’s all about saving animals. Yes, that is a big part of it, but there is so much more to it than that. Conservation biology is about protecting ecosystems and the environment as a whole. It’s about finding ways to sustainably use natural resources. And it’s about educating people about the importance of conservation.

So if you’re interested in a career in conservation biology, don’t be discouraged if you’re not an animal lover. There are many different aspects to the field that you can get involved in.

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