Zoologist vs Wildlife Biologist

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: January 3, 2023  •  6 min read  •  Animals
Approved Course is reader-supported. If you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small commission.

When you have a love for animals, becoming a zoologist or a wildlife biologist makes a lot of sense. These two career paths are found in the animal sciences area. Both work with animals and have some similarities.

However, zoologists and wildlife biologists are rather different. Learning about both of these career options can help you choose the right one for you. Let’s look at what both are and the differences between zoologists and wildlife biologists.

Zoologist vs Wildlife Biologist

What is a Zoologist?

If you become a zoologist, you will study animals. You may specialize in an area specific to a type of animal, such as mammals, reptiles, or another group. Some of the common job duties of a zoologist include:

These job duties are common to a zoologist. You might work for an academic institution or the government. It’s also common to spend a large amount of time working in a lab.

What is a Wildlife Biologist?

As a wildlife biologist, you will also work with animals and their environment. However, you will look closely at the environment and how it might be impacted. Some of the common job duties of a wildlife biologist include:

These job duties are very common in this type of career. When you become a wildlife biologist, you will likely do a decent amount of travel. You will have to travel to the natural environment, and you may work long hours during your trips.

Zoologist vs. Wildlife Biologist: The Key Differences

While zoologists and wildlife biologists both work with animal life, they are not the same type of career. A zoologist will study animals, while wildlife biologists study animals and how they interact within their natural environment.

Zoologists tend to spend more time looking at the characteristics and traits of the animal. On the other hand, a wildlife biologist will look at how the animal interacts with plant life, climate, and other elements within the environment.

Both of these careers observe patterns in animals, collect data, and conduct research. However, they take on different duties and work in different environments. While a zoologist may work in a zoo, a wildlife biologist will likely work in the natural habitat of the animal. Both may spend a decent amount of time working in a lab environment, too.

Common Specialties for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

These two careers are rather general. Most scientists going into either area will specialize in one of the following:

There are many different specialties to consider if you become a wildlife biologist or zoologist.

Education Requirements for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

The education you will need for either of these careers is pretty similar. You will need to earn a bachelor’s degree first. Commonly, you will get this degree in zoology, ecology, biology, or wildlife biology.

While some career options are available once you get a bachelor’s degree, an advanced degree is often necessary. A master’s in zoology or wildlife biology can help qualify you for a research career. You can even go further and get a doctorate in your field if you want to work for a university.

It’s also common to complete an internship in either of these areas. It will likely be a part of your school degree program. If you go on to specialize, you may need additional training, too.

Where do Zoologists Work?

It’s common for a zoologist to work as a part of a research team or independently. They may be employed by several different facilities, including:

Zoologists spend time working in an office environment, outside, and in a lab.

Where do Wildlife Biologists Work?

If you become a wildlife biologist, you will likely work with a team of scientists. You might work for a university, a private office, or the federal government. It’s also common to work in a research facility.

Wildlife biologists’ jobs commonly take place in the lab. They will also travel to and work in the natural habitats of the animals they are studying.

How Much do Zoologists Make? Wildlife Biologists?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for zoologists and wildlife biologists is about $66K per year. They state that the job growth for these positions is about 5% over the next ten years. Both zoologists and wildlife biologists are put into the same category with this source.

However, according to Salary.com, zoologists can earn a median salary closer to $76K per year. The range from this source goes from about $49K per year to over $109K per year, specifically for zoologists.

Indeed.com states that the average wildlife biologist’s salary is around $69K per year. Top employers pay more than $74K per year, with some close to six figures.

While both careers tend to have similar salary ranges, it’s common for a zoologist to make a little bit more than a wildlife biologist.

Choosing to Become a Zoologist or Wildlife Biologist

Since the education requirements and the salary are very similar for zoology and wildlife biology, the decision will likely come down to how you want to interact with animals. If you become a zoologist, you will likely interact directly with animals. However, as a wildlife biologist, you will interact more with the natural environment of the animal. They both work with animals, but they do it in a different ways.

It’s not easy to make the decision between these two careers. Take the time to do your own research and look closer at both of the options. Then, you can make an informed decision about your career.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.