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Naturalist vs. Conservationist: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Naturalists and conservationists are both professionals who work to protect the environment. Though they share some similarities, there are several key differences between the two. In this article, we discuss the differences between a naturalist and a conservationist, and we provide additional environmental professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Naturalist?

Naturalists work in a variety of settings, including zoos, parks, nature centers, aquariums, museums and environmental organizations. They educate the public about the natural world through interpretive programs and hands-on activities. Naturalists develop and lead educational programs about plants, animals, ecosystems and the environment. They also conduct research on topics such as the impact of humans on the environment and the effects of climate change on wildlife. Naturalists often work with volunteers and interns to help them gain experience in the field.

What is a Conservationist?

A conservationist is someone who works to protect and preserve natural resources, such as forests, wildlife and water. They may work for the government, non-profit organizations or private companies. Conservationists develop and implement plans to use natural resources in a sustainable way. They also work to raise public awareness about the importance of conserving natural resources. Conservationists often have a background in biology, ecology or environmental science. They may also have experience in law, policy or business.

Naturalist vs. Conservationist

Here are the main differences between a naturalist and a conservationist.

Job Duties

Both naturalists and conservationists have similar job duties, although the specific tasks they perform depend on their area of expertise. Naturalists focus primarily on studying nature and wildlife. They may conduct research to learn more about a particular species or evaluate an environment to determine how human activity affects it. These professionals can use the data they collect to develop preservation strategies.

Conservationists work to promote the protection of natural resources. They may do this by lobbying government officials to support environmental legislation or by educating the public about the importance of preserving natural resources. Conservationists can also help naturalists with advocacy efforts by raising awareness of important causes.

Job Requirements

Most naturalist and conservationist positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, biology or another related field. Some jobs may require a master’s degree or higher. Many professionals in these fields also pursue certifications through organizations like the Society for Conservation Biology or The Wildlife Society to stay up-to-date on best practices.

Work Environment

Conservationists typically work in offices, where they can use their knowledge of environmental science to create plans and policies. They may also travel to different locations to assess the state of the environment and determine how best to protect it. Naturalists often spend time outdoors, observing wildlife and studying nature. This means that naturalists are more likely to experience outdoor conditions like extreme weather or dangerous animals.


Both naturalists and conservationists need to have a deep knowledge of the natural world and the ability to communicate that information to others. Naturalists typically work in education and outreach, so they use their skills to teach people about the environment and how to protect it. Conservationists often work in more technical roles, such as conducting research or developing policy. As a result, they may use their skills to collect data or analyze environmental problems.

Both naturalists and conservationists need to be able to identify plants and animals. They also both need to understand ecological concepts, such as food webs and the water cycle. However, naturalists may need to have more teaching experience than conservationists. Conservationists may need to have more experience with things like GIS mapping or statistical analysis.


Naturalists and conservationists both work to protect the environment. Naturalists typically earn an average salary of $46,517 per year, while conservationists earn an average salary of $54,068 per year.


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