It is true that most of the top jobs for those interested in wildlife require undergraduate or post-graduate college degrees, but there are some jobs that can be obtained with some or no college education that can lead to satisfying careers in this field. An interest in animals, science, environment or preservation may be the only prerequisite you’ll need to get started. Many of these and other positions could be sought after by degree holders in a weak job market, so enthusiasm and attitude may go a long way in getting the upper hand.
Keepers are the basic caregivers for animals in a zoo setting. Teams of scientists and veterinarians are primarily responsible for the animal’s health and habitat, but the keeper is the closest human companion to the animals in a zoo and higher positions rely heavily on keepers to have a keen eye for symptoms of problems, according to Occupational Outlook Quarterly.
The keeper position is one available to those without a college degree, although most do have bachelor’s degrees in biology or animal science. There are also non-degree programs in zookeeping and exotic animal training.
An aquarist is a keeper in a wetsuit. Like keepers, these jobs entail the feeding, monitoring and maintaining of exhibits for the animals in their care. The aquarist deals with animals in an aquarium, such as fish, manatees, sharks, turtles and other underwater dwellers. The most common educational requirement for these types of jobs is a certification in scuba diving, which is available at many dive shops or colleges. A bachelor’s degree, again, is not necessarily required to be an aquarist, but as in zookeeper jobs, competition for the job may be tough against someone with a formal education in marine biology or another related field.
The wildlife photographer is much like a hunter, except his trophies are in the form of photographs or video instead of wall-mounted taxidermy. While an education in video production or photography may be helpful in getting a job with a network like Animal Planet or such, much of this kind of work can be done by anyone with a knack for capturing beautiful or hard-to-get images with a camera. Whether you want to capture the polar bear in his natural habitat or want to take photos of squirrels in your back yard, the limits are up to you. Making a living as a freelance photographer or videographer may be challenging, but if you have a passion for wildlife and the talent to produce compelling content you will probably be able carve out a satisfying career.
National Park Service
Many National Park Service employees such as a visitor use assistant do not require a college degree. While the pay for these positions are usually not very high, they offer full-time benefits and sometimes housing, according to government employment website USAjobs.gov.
The visitor use assistant typically works in the visitor center of his park and may be the only representative of the park service that the visitor sees during her stay. The duties include fee collection, visitor information and resource orientation. The visitor use assistant will get the chance to educate the public on the events happening at the park, the wildlife contained within its borders, ongoing preservation efforts and more.
Forest Firefighting and Prevention Supervisor
Fighting fires is among the most dangerous and important jobs in wildlife habitat preservation, and it does not require a college degree. It takes a certain breed of character to be involved in firefighting, but if this sounds like something up your alley then it may be the job for you.
The supervisory job in this field is responsible for communicating fire details to supervisors, subordinates and interagency dispatch centers using two-way radios and is the overall supervisor of firefighters who control fires in forests or vacant public land.