Ethologists receive advanced training in biology and zoology, specializing in animal behaviors, such as aggression, mating and communication habits. Ethologists work in universities and laboratories, with some field placements. Some ethologists have additional training in ecology and biology and most have at least a master's degree in zoology, although many have their doctorates.
As of May 2012, the average salary for ethologists was $62,500 or $30.05 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary for ethologists was $57,710 per year or $27.74 per hour. Those just starting in the field, who usually have the least experience, made an average of $37,100 annually or $17.84 per hour, compared to $95,430 annually or $45.88 per hour for top earners in the 90th percentile.
Earnings differ by geographic location. On the West Coast, ethologists in Washington made an average salary of $69,250, those in Oregon made $65,620 and those in California made $69,300. In the Midwest states, North Dakota's annual salary was $60,610, South Dakota's average was $49,310 and Nebraska's average was $54,00. In the South, ethologists in Texas earned $59,470 and those in Louisiana made $66,310. On the East Coast, those in New York earned $64,260, those in Maine earned $50,710 and those in Maryland earned $97,870.
Where you work as an ethologist determines how much you'll earn. Among industries employing the most ethologists, those who work for the federal government earn the most at an average annual salary of $78,540, followed by those working for scientific research and development services who earned an average of $66,340 yearly. Those working for colleges, universities and professional schools and management, scientific and technical consulting services earned about the same salary, approximately $61,300.
Ethologists, who are in the zoologist and wildlife biologist category of the BLS survey, have a projected job growth of 7 percent compared to 14 percent for all other occupations. Job growth fluctuates from year to year, depending on state and federal budgets, as the government is a major employer. Job opportunities arise due to retirement, advancement and career changes by seasoned ethologists.