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Conservation Scientists

At a Glance

  • Focus on two areas: range management or soil conservation
  • Plan and develop methods for using land
  • Have good communication and negotiation skills
  • Work both outdoors and indoors
  • Often travel to visit sites
  • Have at least a bachelor's degree
  • Work for the government or forestry companies

Career summary

Conservation scientists manage, develop, and help protect soil and rangelands.

reviewed 3/20/19 lh

There are two main areas of conservation science:

Soil conservationists focus on stopping the loss of topsoil from farm crops. Range managers specialize in protecting the lands and vegetation that feeds animals. Both work to use land and water sustainably, but each focuses in a different area.

Soil conservationists determine the best ways to use land and water for farming. They perform many tests to make sure the land is healthy. They calculate the most efficient ways to irrigate crops in different areas and to decrease the loss of topsoil. They also help land users control weeds and insects using few or no chemicals. Soil conservationists do similar work to agricultural scientists.

Range managers determine the best grazing seasons for animals. They use their knowledge to decide which plants are best for various regions and grazing purposes. They control toxic plants that can sicken or kill grazing animals. In addition, range managers protect rangeland from fire and rodent damage. They plan and oversee construction of fences, corrals, watering reservoirs, and soil-erosion barriers. They may also manage recreation areas that are part of rangelands. Range managers are also called range scientists, range ecologists, or range conservationists.

Despite their different focus, these two types of conservation scientists have similar tasks. They plan and develop methods for using land without harming it. They study how land is currently used and any problems caused by that use. They may locate water sources; study how pollution enters rivers and lakes; test how fast water evaporates from farms; and time how fast topsoil erodes. They may also find ways to rehabilitate land after clear cutting, fires, or floods.

Conservation scientists use computers to collect, interpret, and share information. They may enter information in databases and websites for others to read on the Internet. They use software such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to take information and display it on computerized maps. They may map water and air quality, underground water sources, or the health of forests and grasslands.

Once they analyze their findings, conservation scientists develop plans to maximize the use of the land and water for cities, farmers, ranchers, and animals. Conservation scientists must consider land use and environmental protection laws in their plans. They often write reports about plans. They may talk to the people the plan affects, such as farmers, ranchers, and mining companies. Occasionally, they testify at hearings when disagreements arise with property owners. Once a plan is finalized, conservation scientists monitor projects to make sure land owners follow plans. They occasionally visit land owners and inspect their land-use practices.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to conservation scientists.

Common work activities

Conservation scientists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, conservation scientists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Conservation scientists frequently:

It is important for conservation scientists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for conservation scientists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Conservation scientists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a conservation scientist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most conservation scientists have a bachelor's degree. Relatively few colleges and universities offer a degree in soil conservation. About 40 schools offer a degree in range management. Thus, many conservation scientists have a degree in a related field and take courses in their area of interest. Suggested areas of study include environmental studies, agronomy, general agriculture, or hydrology. You can also study crop or soil science, wildlife biology, forestry, or range management.

A doctoral degree (PhD) is required to lead research projects or teach at a college or university. In order to complete an advanced degree, you take more classes, do fieldwork, and conduct laboratory research.

On-the-job training

Many conservation scientists undergo more training once on the job. The training may be conducted through classroom work, strictly on the job, or a combination of both. Training usually lasts a few months, and will depend on the employer.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers require conservation scientists to have at least a bachelor's degree. Employers prefer if the degree is in range management or soil conservation. However, they often will accept a degree in a related field.

Employers prefer applicants who have good communication and people skills. This is because conservation scientists must talk to people and convince them to change their ways. Employers look for applicants who enjoy working outdoors and are in good physical condition.

Costs to workers

Some workers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Conservation scientists (SOC 19-1031)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $21.92 $24.52 $27.73 $35.49 $42.34
Monthly $3,799 $4,249 $4,806 $6,150 $7,338
Yearly $45,590 $51,010 $57,680 $73,810 $88,060
    Bellingham Hourly $21.80 $24.33 $26.83 $28.83 $30.56
Monthly $3,778 $4,216 $4,650 $4,996 $5,296
Yearly $45,347 $50,589 $55,807 $59,977 $63,563
    Longview Hourly $23.13 $24.95 $27.53 $28.21 $36.10
Monthly $4,008 $4,324 $4,771 $4,889 $6,256
Yearly $48,104 $51,892 $57,273 $58,679 $75,093
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $23.13 $24.95 $27.53 $30.42 $39.84
Monthly $4,008 $4,324 $4,771 $5,272 $6,904
Yearly $48,109 $51,892 $57,274 $63,269 $82,874
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $23.14 $26.83 $32.71 $36.11 $39.84
Monthly $4,010 $4,650 $5,669 $6,258 $6,904
Yearly $48,119 $55,813 $68,042 $75,097 $82,878
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $23.74 $26.99 $35.93 $48.84 $64.10
Monthly $4,114 $4,677 $6,227 $8,464 $11,109
Yearly $49,373 $56,143 $74,755 $101,568 $133,311
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $22.12 $24.32 $28.20 $37.94 $44.27
Monthly $3,833 $4,215 $4,887 $6,575 $7,672
Yearly $46,005 $50,588 $58,669 $78,909 $92,072
    Vancouver Hourly $25.56 $32.13 $41.94 $49.86 $70.89
Monthly $4,430 $5,568 $7,268 $8,641 $12,285
Yearly $53,164 $66,824 $87,221 $103,710 $147,461
    Walla Walla Hourly $25.57 $27.54 $29.95 $32.94 $37.09
Monthly $4,431 $4,773 $5,190 $5,709 $6,428
Yearly $53,183 $57,292 $62,299 $68,523 $77,152
    Wenatchee Hourly $22.60 $27.47 $31.82 $36.94 $45.65
Monthly $3,917 $4,761 $5,514 $6,402 $7,911
Yearly $47,010 $57,129 $66,197 $76,832 $94,945
    Yakima Hourly $22.20 $24.96 $27.54 $30.95 $37.02
Monthly $3,847 $4,326 $4,773 $5,364 $6,416
Yearly $46,184 $51,902 $57,278 $64,371 $77,006
United States Hourly $16.35 $22.22 $29.48 $38.27 $47.33
Monthly $2,833 $3,851 $5,109 $6,632 $8,202
Yearly $34,020 $46,210 $61,310 $79,600 $98,450

Wages vary by area of specialization and employer. Those who work for the federal government often receive higher wages than those who work for state or local government agencies.

Conservation scientists usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include health insurance, sick leave, paid vacation, and a retirement plan. Benefit packages tend to be better in government agencies than in small, private firms.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Conservation Scientists (SOC 19-1031)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,002 9.0% 16.1% 103
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 115 13.0% 13.4% 13
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 59 6.8% 8.6% 5
    Benton and Franklin Counties 14 7.1% 15.0% 1
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 43 2.3% 11.9% 4
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 68 10.3% 15.2% 8
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 332 7.8% 14.1% 33
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 98 9.2% 14.6% 10
    King County 102 11.8% 19.6% 11
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 86 2.3% 13.8% 7
    Pierce County 23 4.3% 15.2% 2
    Snohomish County 25 8.0% 12.4% 2
    Spokane County 34 5.9% 13.9% 3
United States 23,800 3.8% 5.2% 2,600

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Job growth for this occupation is expected be about as fast as average. This is due to public concern for water and soil pollution from farms and logging. As new laws address these concerns, large farms and logging operations will hire conservation scientists to help them comply with the regulations. In addition, research firms will hire conservation scientists to help them prepare environmental impact statements.

Fire prevention and suppression will become more important for those employed with the US government. Fires in the southwestern and western parts of the US will create demand for more conservation scientists who try to find ways to prevent large wildland fires.

Most job openings will occur in government agencies as current workers retire or switch jobs.

Other resources

AgCareers.com (external link)
Western USA Office
AgForLife (external link)
American Association for the Advancement of Science (external link)
1200 New York Ave, NW
American Fisheries Society (external link)
425 Barlow Place, Suite 110
Bethesda, MD 20814-2144
American Forests (external link)
1220 L Street NW, Suite 750
Washington, DC 20005
American Geophysical Union (external link)
2000 Florida Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009
American Institute of Biological Sciences (external link)
1800 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 400
Reston, VA 20191
American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists (external link)
American Institute of Hydrology (external link)
Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 1230 Lincoln Drive
Engineering D - Mail Code 6603
Carbondale, IL 62901
Careers in Botany (external link)
(from The Botanical Society of America)
Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (external link)
4420 West Lincoln Way
Ames, IA 50014
Ecological Society of America (external link)
1990 M Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
Environmental Career Center (external link)
P.O. Box 3387
Hampton, Virginia 23663
Environmental Protection Agency (external link)
Park Place Building
1200 - 6th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Explore Ecology as a Career (external link)
Forest Guild (external link)
Forest Resources Association (external link)
1901 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 303
Washington, DC 20006
International Association of Hydrogeologists (external link)
National Academy of Sciences Interviews (external link)
National Ground Water Association (external link)
601 Dempsey Road
Westerville, OH 43081
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (external link)
1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 5128
Washington, DC 20230
Science Careers (external link)
Seaweb Aquaculture Clearing House (external link)
Society for Conservation Biology (external link)
1133 15th St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20005
Society for Ecological Restoration (external link)
1133 15th St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20005
Society for Range Management (external link)
6901 South Pierce Street, Suite 230
Littleton, CO 80128
Soil and Water Conservation Society (external link)
945 SW Ankeny Road
Ankeny, IA 50023
Student Conservation Association (external link)
Seattle/Northwest Region
PO Box 18497
Seattle, WA 98118
The Wildlife Society (external link)
425 Barlow Place, Suite 200
Bethesda, MD 20814
United States Environmental Protection Agency (external link)
USDA Forest Service Research & Development (external link)
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (external link)
Washington State Conservation Commission (external link)
PO Box 47721
Olympia, WA 98504-7721


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupations

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters