Career Development

What Does a Naturalist Do?

Find out what a Naturalist does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Naturalist.

Embarking on a career as a Naturalist involves immersing oneself in the study and interpretation of the natural world. This role is dedicated to educating the public about the environment, ecosystems, and the diverse species that inhabit them, aiming to foster a deeper appreciation and understanding among community members of all ages. Through guided tours, workshops, and various educational programs, Naturalists serve as the link between scientific knowledge and the general public, making complex ecological concepts accessible and engaging. Their efforts are instrumental in promoting environmental stewardship and encouraging sustainable practices, ensuring that the natural beauty and biodiversity of our planet can be appreciated by future generations.

Naturalist Job Duties

  • Lead guided tours and educational programs for the public, focusing on local flora, fauna, geology, and ecosystems.
  • Develop and implement conservation projects aimed at habitat restoration and species protection.
  • Perform field research, including data collection on wildlife populations and plant communities.
  • Design and maintain interpretive displays and materials for visitor centers and nature trails.
  • Coordinate with local schools and organizations to facilitate environmental education workshops and events.
  • Manage volunteer groups in conservation efforts, including training and supervising their activities.
  • Write grant proposals and reports to secure funding for conservation projects and educational programs.
  • Conduct species inventories and monitor environmental changes using GIS and remote sensing technology.

Naturalist Salary & Outlook

Salaries for Naturalists vary based on experience, specialization in certain ecosystems or species, and the type of employer, such as government, non-profits, or private sectors. Public engagement skills and grant writing abilities can also significantly influence income, as these can secure additional funding for projects and programs.

  • Median Annual Salary: $46,725 ($22.46/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $67,500 ($32.45/hour)

The employment of naturalists is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

This growth is driven by increasing public interest in environmental conservation and outdoor recreation, leading to greater demand for educational programs and conservation efforts. Naturalists, with their expertise in these areas, are essential for guiding such initiatives, thus fueling the need for more professionals in the field.

Naturalist Job Requirements

Education: A Naturalist typically holds a Bachelor’s Degree in fields such as Environmental Science, Biology, Ecology, or a related discipline. Coursework often includes botany, zoology, conservation science, and environmental education, providing a comprehensive understanding of natural sciences and ecosystems. Advanced degrees may enhance career prospects, focusing on specialized research or conservation efforts. Academic internships or fieldwork, integral to these programs, equip candidates with practical experience in natural habitats and wildlife observation.

Experience: Naturalists typically have experience beyond entry-level, often having spent time in roles that involve environmental education, wildlife conservation, or similar fields. They may have gained this experience through on-the-job training, participating in relevant training programs, or working in settings like parks, nature reserves, or environmental education centers. The ideal candidate has a solid foundation in natural science and has honed their skills in public speaking, program development, and field research through practical, hands-on experiences. This background equips them to effectively educate the public about the natural world.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications and licenses are not typically required for the job of a Naturalist. However, CPR and First Aid certifications are often recommended for safety reasons. In certain roles, especially those involving wildlife handling or environmental education, specific permits or certifications such as a Wildlife Rehabilitation License or Environmental Educator Certification might be beneficial.

Naturalist Skills

Species Identification: Accurate differentiation among various plants and animals enhances conservation efforts and ecological research. It supports biodiversity cataloging and ecosystem health monitoring, facilitating informed decisions and actions.

Ecological Monitoring: Techniques ranging from remote sensing to ground-based surveys assess biodiversity and ecosystem health accurately. Such skills require meticulous attention to detail and the ability to analyze complex data sets to identify patterns and trends indicating ecological shifts.

Habitat Restoration: The rejuvenation of degraded ecosystems combines science-based practices with indigenous knowledge to reestablish native flora and fauna. It involves careful planning and ongoing management to ensure the habitat supports biodiversity and resists future environmental challenges.

Environmental Education: Conveying complex ecological concepts and conservation strategies to a broad audience, naturalists tailor their communication to be engaging for all. By doing so, they inspire a deeper appreciation for nature and a commitment to environmental stewardship.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Analyzing spatial and geographic data, naturalists map ecosystems, track wildlife migrations, and monitor environmental changes. GIS supports natural resource management by visualizing ecological data clearly.

Wildlife Tracking: By identifying signs like footprints, scat, and disturbed vegetation, naturalists effectively monitor wildlife populations. This skill gathers critical data on animal behaviors, habitats, and movements, shaping conservation strategies and educational programs.

Naturalist Work Environment

Naturalists often find their workplace under the open sky, in the heart of nature reserves, parks, and wilderness areas. Their office space is as dynamic as the environment they protect and study, ranging from dense forests to coastal areas, requiring adaptability to various weather conditions and terrains. The tools of their trade are as varied as their work settings, including binoculars for bird watching, water testing kits for studying aquatic life, and GPS devices for mapping and tracking wildlife.

Work hours for naturalists can be irregular, with early mornings, evenings, and weekends common to catch glimpses of wildlife or lead educational tours. Dress code leans towards practicality, with sturdy boots and weather-appropriate gear being staples. The work culture emphasizes a deep respect for the environment and promotes continuous learning and sharing of knowledge, both among peers and with the public.

The pace can fluctuate with the seasons, and while some periods demand rigorous physical activity, others allow for data analysis and planning. Travel is often local, but can occasionally involve distant locations for research or conferences. Interaction with others is a mix of solitary research tasks and engaging public speaking or educational activities, fostering a balanced emotional environment. Technology plays a supportive role, enhancing research and educational outreach. Overall, the role offers a fulfilling blend of outdoor activity, conservation efforts, and community engagement, appealing to those passionate about nature and education.

Advancement Prospects

Naturalists, deeply rooted in their passion for the environment and wildlife, often begin their careers in entry-level positions at parks, nature reserves, or conservation organizations. Advancement prospects include becoming senior naturalists, park managers, or environmental educators, where they can lead conservation efforts and educational programs.

To ascend in this field, gaining hands-on experience through volunteering or internships is crucial. This not only enhances practical skills but also exposes one to various ecosystems and conservation strategies. Specializing in a specific area of interest, such as ornithology or botany, can set a naturalist apart, opening doors to roles like wildlife biologist or ecological consultant.

Leadership roles require a blend of field experience and a deep understanding of environmental policies and management strategies. Engaging in projects that showcase the ability to lead teams, manage resources, and develop conservation programs can be pivotal. Naturalists aiming for higher positions might also contribute to scientific research or publications, further establishing their expertise and influence in the field.


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