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How Do I Become a Field Naturalist?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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A person who wants to become a field naturalist will need to obtain a bachelor's degree and may want to consider graduate-level studies to have more job opportunities. This work can include field research, conservation activities, resource monitoring, and education. It helps to have an interest in the natural environment along with good observational skills. Physical fitness can also be valuable, as some field naturalists need to hike to reach work sites and may spend days or weeks in the field performing research.

A high school student who knows he plans to become a field naturalist can plan ahead. Taking extra science classes can be helpful, and it may be possible to take additional courses at a local college. These classes can help the student take care of prerequisites and acquire some useful skills before going to college. Many colleges and universities train naturalists, and applicants may want to consider whether they have a specific area of interest, like desert environments or forestry, that they want to focus on in school. This can help students decide where they should apply.

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In college, a student who wants to become a field naturalist can pursue a degree in biology, forestry, or a related field. Some schools specifically offer certificates and programs for naturalists, and these can be another option. While in school, it can help to pursue internship opportunities. These offer a chance to get involved with research activities and connect with working naturalists, which may lead to jobs or useful information later.

After graduation, a student may be able to become a field naturalist immediately by applying for jobs that only require a bachelor's degree. Some science educators and docents work with four year degrees, and research assistant positions are also available with this qualification. Students can also opt to continue on to graduate school. In graduate school they will have an opportunity to perform their own research and narrow their area of focus to become a field naturalist with a particular specialty.

Graduate degrees can be necessary or helpful for many jobs, including working as an educator or high level researcher. Many organizations with an interest in conservation and environmental health also expect at least a master's degree from their field naturalists. Students who are not sure about the best degree track for their needs can look at job listings to get an idea of the kind of opportunities available. They should also consider meeting with a career counselor to discuss their options.

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