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What does an Ecologist do?

An ecologist might be called a basic Researcher, Research Scientist, Research Environmental Engineer, Environmental Sustainability Manager, Environmental Service Director, Environmental Protection Agency Counselor, Environmental Programs Manager, or simply an Environmental Consultant. Ecologists are part of a larger group of Environmental Scientists who focus on creating solutions to the environmental problems that sometimes arise, particularly when parts of water or land have become polluted.  Some individuals who enter an ecologist career path will work along with other companies to determine what if any, the company’s projects will have in the water and land in the area.  For instance, the ecologist might have to assess the risks a construction site poses to the quality of the environment.  In turn, the same ecologist will then provide safety recommendations to the business on how to keep the environmental impact down to an absolute minimum.  Recommendations are also provided to government agencies with the goal always to be ensuring the preservation of the air, land, and water.

Who is an Ecologist?

An ecologist is a person who attends college to learn more about human health and the natural sciences.  Some ecologists may work at identifying the damage to a site and then cleaning it up so it can be healed and restored. The ultimate goal of the ecologist is to protect all life and the environment.  Sometimes ecologists are called on to give advice to lawmakers who are in the position to create regulations that will continue to keep the environment protected from future pollution and ruin.  Ecologists look to minimize waste and the pollution of the air, land, and water for the betterment of human health, the environmental, and all that live within it.

Local, state, and federal environments have already established laws that, when adhered to, will keep hazardous waste and materials out of the earth’s soil and toxic pollutants out of water. With laws already in existence, the environmental scientist or ecologist is to make sure businesses adhere to the established law and regulations.  There are other ecologists who are hired for the purposes of consulting. Sometimes the individual helps businesses by advising them on how they can achieve compliance with all local, state and federal policies.

Ecologist Job Description


Advising businesses and governmental agencies about conservation and environmental management, and creating industrial sustainable methods are part of the ecologist job description. The individual is trained in the development of plans for sustainability, renewable resources management, environmental versus economic benefits and costs, and how to create mathematical models of conditions related to environmental conditions.  The individual can also analyze such models and other environmentally related information to draw conclusions or make predictions about the environment or how certain actions might influence or impact the environment as well.

The ecologist may be called on to help in the creation of a scientific or technical database. Research and presenting the research to business heads or governmental officials is all part of being an ecologist.  The environmental scientist might research industrial ecosystems, natural ecosystems, social issues, and might also be required to assess and monitor the impact of environmental accidents wherein an area is exposed to toxins and pollutants.

Ecologist Duties and Tasks

  • Explain findings and research in progress
  • Helps and guides the public business owners, and officials in government to handle health risks and hazards
  • Plan development for helping repair, manage or put a full stop to environmental issues, especially those influencing the water and land.
  • Sample analysis, surveys, and full threat assessments
  • Gather data and scientific samples of food, water, soil, air and alternative materials for in-depth analysis and study
  • Familiarity and use of surveys, investigations, and methods for conducting research for project completion.
  • Ready reports, regulatory reviews, and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).
  • Organism classification.
  • Teach others and share discoveries with the officials and the public via published reports in industry appropriate journals and alternative approved publications.
  • Help with mitigation plans.

Skills Required

  • Wetland Delineation
  • Data Analysis
  • Technical Writing
  • Project Management
  • Environmental Consulting

Working Conditions


Some ecologists will work in laboratories and offices, while others may have to work outside in the field to collect information about the environment which they collect for further analysis and monitoring.  If the individual is required to perform field work it is part of the job many consider demanding, particularly because the work must be done regardless of weather conditions. On occasion, travel might be required between the office and a client’s location or between the job and the place where environmental data is collected. The ecologist who publishes bodies of work in industry-related journals might have to travel to conferences and present the research they write. The work is full time and sometimes more than the average 40-hour work week is required.

Ecologist Salary


In the United States, the average entry level ecologist makes about $15,000 per annum.  The individual working under the title of ecologist might make more money based on skills, abilities, or experience.  Where the employee resides also makes a significant difference in how much money the ecologist makes in terms of yearly wages.  Bear in mind, however, experience alone does not necessarily serve as a means for boosting one’s salary beyond the national average, an experience in this field has a mild impact, if at all.  In general, many of the individuals working in this sector indicate satisfaction with the work.

How Much does an Ecologist Make?

When it comes to the ecologist salary and the question of how much does an ecologist make the answers vary considerably.  In the earliest phases of the ecologist’s career the worker might anticipate a salary that is approximately $46,000.00 per annum. Of course, the latter salary, when compared to the first-year entry ecologist’s salary, is a sizable difference when it comes to the yearly income for those employed for five to nine years within the same field, which is around $55,000.00 each year. Then, following two decades working as an ecologist, the individual is likely making the same amount of money as those with ten to 15 years of experience; thus, no change is demonstrated between the two latter groups as both bring home about $61,000 per annum.

$46,000.00$55, 000.00$61,000.00

Special titles within the field promise the individual will make more.  For example, a Senior Ecologist has a median wage of $68,000 per annum. Many workers have medical benefits: As much as 90% of all working under the title of ecologist, and 70% have dental benefits. About 58% of ecologists have vision insurance, and about 9% have no insurance coverage.

Ecologist Employment


In terms of the current workers with on the job experience, about 3% of all ecologists are in their first year of employment, and the largest group of individuals, about 41%, have five to nine years of experience.  Of those ecologists with ten to 19 years in the field, about 26% of all workers fit into such a group, and the remaining 3% have been working in the field for over 20 years.


As mentioned above, some experience may have an influence on what an ecologist makes, but other skills may have no financial impact at all.  Those who have knowledge and skills related to analyzing data can make us much as 26% more than the national average of $51,000.  Ecologists with technical writing backgrounds might make as much 23% the national average, and those who have project management skills might increase the per annum salary by three percent. Environmental Consulting and Wetland Delineation, while exceptional skills to have and such experience is liable to prove helpful on the job, often has no increasing influence on the ecologist’s salary.

Experience and its increasing influence on the yearly salary of the Ecologist become evident with greater lengths of time-in-title.  Typically, entry-level ecologists do not see any impact on their initial salary until they become part of the five to nine years time-in-title group, where a seven percent increase on salary is noted. Those with a decade to 19 years on the job and those with two decades or more will likely see an 18 to 19% increase in wages, based on experience.

Of the 94,600 environmental specialists and scientists, of which is the group ecologists are a part of, the industries offering the most job opportunities are those in technical, scientific, and management services (23%).  Ecologists also work for state and local government agencies (22%), and another 10% work for engineering services.  The remaining six percent work for the federal government, except for the postal service. The growth rate from 2014 to 2024 in terms of job positions for those interested in pursuing the ecologist career path is faster than other job and, as mentioned earlier, is projected at 11 percent.  The impact the growing population will have on the environment as well as the public awareness of the need to enact and ensure environmental protections are believed to be the potential causes for the increase in available jobs.  Experts expect more businesses to turn to ecologists for advice on how to reduce wastes, costs, and adhere to environmentally-related regulations, all while maintaining proficient practices.

Gender Distribution

In many jobs within the scientific field, women remain at a disadvantage and, thus, a disproportionate number of women work in specific fields when compared to the number of men working in the same fields: This is true with the position of ecologist where 55% of those employed are male and the remaining 45% are female.  Women, however, are slowing gaining some ground, but right now, they also make less than the average male working in the same position.  There is also a disadvantage for women within the scientific publishing industry wherein a study of some 6000 scientific publications proved that the writing of men was more often accepted and published than the research of their female counterparts at a ratio of about three to one.


How to Become an Ecologist?


The question of how to become an ecologist is best addressed with a full explanation of the ecologist education requirements and the necessary certifications for the field. Basically, for those looking to pursue a career as an ecologist, the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree is usually expected as bare minimum requirement.  With the appropriate bachelor’s degree, people are then eligible to work in available entry-level positions as environmental scientists and ecologists.  The path of study usually involves mastery over engineering, geosciences, physics, chemistry, and biology.  Those individuals who want to move beyond the basic entry level position pursue a master’s.

Ecologist Education Requirements

Some students choose to go beyond the master’s degree and pursue a Ph.D. thereby making them eligible to teach in an academic setting or to work in-title on some special research projects, but the percentage of those that do is relatively small.  Those students who opt for a bachelor’s degree and who are satisfied starting out in the field in entry-level positions will usually get a degree with a focus on natural sciences: A broad approach, whereas Ph.D. students are better off with a far narrower focus, and are often advised to undertake geology, physics, biology or chemistry as a major instead of a degree with a focus on the environmental sciences.

While in college it is advised, the student take part in available and industry-related internships so they get a chance to master some on the job skills.  The most desirable internships are those that contain an opportunity to work with geographic information systems, data analysis, and computer modeling.  If looking for options in which the student can learn more about the environmental sciences, there are several programs made available by The University Consortium of Atmospheric Research.

Ecologist Colleges

There are several leading accredited ecologist colleges you can attend if you are interested in pursuing a degree in environmental sciences. The schools are located across the nation; below is a list of the top ten universities where you can easily pursue a degree with a focus on environmental sciences. Three of the top ten schools are in New York, two are in Illinois, and in Durham, North Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; St. Louis, Missouri, and Ann Arbor, Michigan all have a university where you can work toward a degree in the natural sciences.

  1. Princeton University, New Jersey
  2. Columbia University, New York, New York
  3. Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
  4. University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
  5. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
  6. North Western University, Evanston, Illinois
  7. John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
  8. University of California, Las Vegas, California
  9. Washington, University, St. Louis, Missouri
  10. University of Michigan, Ann-Arbor, Michigan


Major Subjects

Students can expect to study English to master spelling, writing, and grammatical skills, all of which will serve well when writing reports and presentations in the workforce.  Technical writing might also be a requirement, but if not, makes for a good elective.  Engineering is another subject the student will student, as is the subject of math with studies in statistics, calculus, geometry, and algebra. Chemistry is another subject the student must master, and the individual will learn about different properties in association with a selection of substances as well as chemical structure, composition and the transformation that can occur when chemical processes are triggered.  Students study biology and master a knowledge of cells, tissues, and functions as well as the interdependencies of both animal and plant organisms, and study of how these organisms interact with their ecosystems.  Some familiarity with law becomes necessary in the role of ecologist: The individual must know about laws impacting the environment.  Additional studies might focus on physics, geology, and some might take specialized coursework in waste management or hydrology.

Ecologist Specializations


There are specializations within the field people can study for to qualify for such positions and to fulfill the responsibilities of the specialty titles in question.  Below is just a sampling of the unique specialties a ecology-oriented student can do:

Industrial Ecologists: This title involves the examination of how energy and materials flow through existing industrial systems.  The observation is conducted to see if a strategy can be put into place to improve the efficiency of the system, including cost reduction of the system operation as well as the impact of the system on the environment.

Climate Change Analysts (CCA) examine and assess how the rapidly changing climate might influence different ecosystems. The CCA will track, measure, and observe greenhouse gasses, ice masses and melting icebergs, oceanic status, and the temperature of the atmosphere.

Environmental Health Specialists (EHS) will observe how the environment and its conditions are influence or impacting the health of people.  A person filling this title might have to conduct special investigation into the impact of manufacturing nuclear arms and if or how it might serve as a form of contamination of water and soil. These same workers will teach others about their findings identify and share risks with those in a position of power to perhaps pass laws that can reduce environmental and health risks too.

Chemical Ecologist: This individual might undertake the examination of how living organisms interact with one another and is something observed on a molecular level.  Also, the ecologist might study how bugs interact, like termites. Wasps, bees, and ants, or they might study defensive chemicals and how the impact plants, the environment, and people.

Environmental Restoration Planners (ERP) examine sites that have been exposed to pollution to determine the extent of the damage and what costs will be involved in the clean-up and restoration of the area. The person in this time must ready documentation of any findings, and may have to attend public hearings or stakeholder meetings.  Familiarity with technical reporting is required and the individual will likely work with a team.

Professional Association of an Ecologist

There are several associations of an ecologist groups you have when looking to become the member of a prestigious association. One association that is more than ideal for those involved in the studies natural sciences is the Ecological Society of America (ESA).  The ESA proudly claims being “The Largest Community of Professional Ecologists.”  The ESA was officially launched on December 28, 1915, and was founded by Henry Chandler Cowles and George Tansley. The organization sustains several journals for the ecological industry including the Bulletin launched in 1917, The Ecosystem Health and Sustainability in 2015, Ecology launched in 1920, Ecological Applications (1991), Ecological Archives (1931), Ecosphere (2010), and the Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (2003).  What becomes clear with all the industry related journals the organization manages is that they are attempting to make a big difference in the field by educating the public while simultaneously giving ecologists many platforms in which they can share their discoveries. The group is an excellent means for networking.  Members get free access to all the industry journals supplied by the ESA.

Famous Ecologists

Rachel Louise Carson (1907-1964), an American native was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania.  She is a  conservationist, essayist, biologist, author, and marine biologist who has served as a leader in her field, particularly following the act of writing the book entitled Silent Spring and other writings.  Her work helped the environmental movement.  Here areas of scientific specialty include ecology, marine biology, and pesticides. Early in her career, Carson was a biologist for the United States Bureau of Fisheries and she was writing as a fulltime author by 1950s.  Her book “Silent Spring” brought to the attention of many US citizens the impact of synthetic pesticides on the natural environment. Her other notable bodies of work include the 1955 release of “The Edge of the Sea,” and the 1951 release of “The Sea Around Us.” Her book “Silent Spring” was released in 1962. Nancy A Moran is another American ecologist and an evolutionary biologist. She is also the do-found of The Yale Microbial Diversity Institute and a University of Texas Leslie Surginer Endowed Professor. A native of Dallas, Texas.  She began her studies in the early 70s at the University of Texas, Austin, and later attended the University of Michigan.  She has been awarded the MacArthur Fellowship and the International Prize for Botany.  She has conducted research on the Acyrthosiphon pisum, a pea aphid along with its bacterial symbionts; she asserts that a greater understanding of random chance and genetic drift can cease any confusion in relation to evolution.

Ecologists FAQ

What are some of the benefits or advantages associated with the ecologist career?

The job has its perks including a decent pay check many ecologists have medical, vision and dental coverage as an additional perk.  The individual working as an ecologist can take great pride in the position for the main goal of the ecologist is cleaning and protecting the environment along with animals and humans.  The ecologist can help in educating others, whether it is agencies, individuals or businesses on the best ways to recycle and save money.  The ecologist often gets to work independently a lot too, this person can do the job at a pace that is comfortable.

Are there any disadvantages associated with the job?

Occasionally, you may face overtime hours if you are out in the field, and there may be travel back and forth to sites where you must collect data or samples.  The fieldwork is likely the most demanding part of the job, and the travel can prove intensive.  The ecologist must have an impeccable sense of organization and a good method for documenting data because the greatest level of accuracy is expected from all collection measurements and sample reporting.

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