Best Master’s in Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management Programs

Check out how the best master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management programs prepare graduates to protect the natural world.

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by Doug Wintemute

Updated July 29, 2022

Edited by Kristina Beek
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Industrialization and the growing human population increasingly affect the natural world. A master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management can equip students with the skills they need to better manage our impact and protect nature. The degree can lead to environmentalism, zoology, and conservation careers.

The Bureau of Labor of Statistics (BLS) projects 8% growth in life, physical, and social science occupations between 2020 and 2030, an addition of more than 110,000 new jobs. Furthermore, the median annual salary in this sector exceeded the median annual salary for all occupations by more than $20,000 in May 2021.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Despite the strong job outlook, rising program costs and graduate school debts can dissuade prospective students from choosing graduate school. To help prospective students with their decision, we look at the best master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management programs from the top traditional and online schools.

Our Top Pick

University of Florida - Gainesville, Florida

Why It's #1: UF offers students many reasons to attend its top-ranked program, including the highest graduation of programs in this discipline. While the school's tuition is on the high end, a large percentage of UF learners receive financial aid. The school also features one of the lowest percentages of financial aid via student loans, meaning many degree-seekers at UF qualify for scholarships, grants, and other more desirable forms of aid.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

Best Accredited Master's in Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

University of Florida

School Information
Location Gainesville, Florida
Admission Rate 37%
Graduation Rate 88%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Course
In State | $575
Out of State | $575

Credits to Graduate
33

Program Information
N/A

UF offers a thesis-based and a non-thesis MS in wildlife ecology and conservation program, providing students with knowledge of conservation laws and medicine. The core studies in this program include courses in wildlife crime scene processing and wildlife laws and policies. 

For admission, prospective students need a bachelor's degree with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, plus a statement of purpose and recommendation letters. Applicants with a doctorate in veterinary medicine also qualify. 

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#2

University of Wisconsin-Madison

School Information
Location Madison, Wisconsin
Admission Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 88%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year
In State | $12,176
Out of State | $25,504

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
N/A

Since 1939, UW has offered a wildlife ecology program. The school's MS in wildlife ecology program features course options that include forest biometry, extinction of species, and environmental remote sensing. Students also complete an entrance and exit seminar and a thesis defense for their degree. 

For admission, prospective students need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. They must also possess the appropriate science prerequisites for entry. 

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#3

Texas A & M University-College Station

School Information
Location College Station, Texas
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 82%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus and Online | Scheduled and Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year
In State | $8,026
Out of State | $17,558

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
N/A

Texas A&M's master of wildlife science in wildlife science program teaches students practical skills and prepares them to be leaders in the field. The non-thesis program features course options in wildlife study design and analysis, wildlife restoration, and ecological risk assessment. Students also need to pass a final examination to earn the degree. 

For admission, prospective students need a bachelor's degree and the appropriate prerequisites. They also must submit letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose.

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#4

Clemson University

School Information
Location Clemson, South Carolina
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus and 100% Online | Scheduled and Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $855
Out of State | $1,777

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
N/A

Clemson's master of wildlife and fisheries program features a thesis and a non-thesis option. Students may choose from many courses, including wildlife ecology in managed forests, global change ecology, and wildlife behavior. The program also offers internship and volunteer experience opportunities. 

For admission, prospective students need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Applicants without the necessary relevant experience or a 3.0 GPA may submit GRE scores for consideration. 

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#5

Michigan State University

School Information
Location East Lansing, Michigan
Admission Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 81%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes 

Avg. Cost per Academic Year
In State | $14,710
Out of State | $29,904

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
N/A

MSU runs a thesis and non-thesis MS program in fisheries and wildlife. The programs feature specializations in integrative toxicology; quantitative biology; resource economics; and ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior. Each specialization has its own courses and requirements, but all students take a course on perspectives on fisheries and wildlife. 

For admission, prospective students need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0, plus results from the GRE and an advanced biology exam. Provisional acceptance may be provided to applicants with a minimum GPA of 2.75.

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#6

University of Alaska Fairbanks

School Information
Location Fairbanks, Alaska
Admission Rate 76%
Graduation Rate 35%
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $539
Out of State | $1,105

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
N/A

UAF's MS program in wildlife biology and conservation features core courses in research design, scientific writing in the biological sciences, and data analysis in biology. Learners also complete a thesis requirement for six credits.

UAF students benefit from the 2,000-acre physical study area near campus. Teaching assistantships may be available. For admission, prospective students need a bachelor's degree, plus letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose.

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#7

Mississippi State University

School Information
Location Mississippi State, Mississippi
Admission Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus and 100% Online | Scheduled and Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $514
Out of State | $514

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society

MSU's MS program in wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture allows learners to specialize in any of these three fields. They choose courses from over 45 departmental offerings to fill out their program. Students also complete a six-credit research component, a thesis, and a comprehensive examination. 

MSU offers teaching assistantships and waives or covers tuition for admitted graduate students. For admission, prospective students need a BS degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0.

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#8

Oregon State University

School Information
Location Corvallis, Oregon
Admission Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 67%
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $498
Out of State | $1,046

Credits to Graduate
45

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

OSU's department of fisheries, wildlife, and conservation science focuses on sustainable use of natural resources, biodiversity conservation, and natural resource management. The MS program in wildlife science features coursework and a professional component with an internship or capstone project and defense.

Wildlife science students benefit from OSU hosting the Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. For admission, prospective students need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Applicants with a lower GPA may submit GRE scores for consideration. 

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#9

Utah State University

School Information
Location Logan, Utah
Admission Rate 91%
Graduation Rate 54%
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $404
Out of State | $488

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
N/A

USU's MS program in wildlife biology focuses on the conflict between humans and wildlife. Students choose between a thesis-based program or one with a final paper or creative project. Course options include forest ecology, community ecology, and human-wildlife interactions. 

USU students have access to several biology and ecology research centers and labs, plus a diverse research environment surrounding the campus. For admission, prospective students need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. They must also submit letters of recommendation. GRE scores may be required by some advisors. 

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#10

West Virginia University

School Information
Location Morgantown, West Virginia
Admission Rate 84%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $513
Out of State | $1,449

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
N/A

Students in WVU's thesis-based MS in wildlife and fisheries resources program conduct original research on historical or contemporary issues. Core requirements include completing special topics and wildlife seminars and a research course. Other course options include conservation genetics, aquatic toxicology, and wildlife data analysis. 

Graduates qualify for biologist certification from the Wildlife Society or The American Fisheries Society. For admission, prospective students need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75. They must submit letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and adequate GRE scores. 

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Popular Online Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Master's Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management Programs ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 23 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

BestColleges' Ranking Factors

Frequently Asked Questions About Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management Programs

Is a master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management worth it?

Yes. A master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management program can provide students with very specialized training in an important field. These courses of study can also prepare graduates for positions managing natural resources and multiple-use land. They also learn to support wildlife and ecological conservation efforts.

While traditional programs come with many benefits, remote learners can enjoy the added value of an online degree. Online learning offers flexibility, which can help working professionals balance school and their jobs. Limited travel requirements also enable degree-seekers to expand their search parameters.

What can I do with a master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management?

A master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management program can prepare graduates to pursue many careers in the life sciences sector. They may apply for jobs in zoology and wildlife biology, environmental science, conservation science, and forestry. They may even pursue positions in agricultural and food science.

Depending on their positions and specialties, these professionals may study specific animal populations, environmental changes and effects, and ecosystems. Their work may take place in one location or require extensive travel.

What continuing education is available for wildlife and wildlands science and management graduates?

In addition to the many career options, graduates enjoy various continuing education possibilities. A master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management can lead to doctorates in the same discipline. More specialized degrees may include doctorates in wildlife biology, in ecology, or in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation.

Graduates may also find post-graduate certificates in wildlife management, ecology, or related disciplines. In some locations, graduates may qualify for professional certification with the right courses and credentials.

How much money can I make with a master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management?

Salaries for professionals with a master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management depend on their position, location, and experience. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for life, physical, and social science occupations was $72,740 in May 2021.

The median annual salary for zoologists and wildlife biologists was $64,650 in May 2021, as per the BLS. Those with experience and advanced degrees may make more. The top 10% of professionals in this field earned $103,900 in May 2021. In federal government positions, the median annual wage was $81,890 during the same period.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management?

The highest-paying jobs open to graduates with a master's in wildlife and wildlands science and management belong to those in natural sciences management roles. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for these positions was $137,900 in May 2021. The top 10% of these professionals made more than $208,000.

Professionals in research and development earned the highest median annual wages ($170,770)in May 2021. Those in manufacturing earned $161,630, and professionals in consulting services made $151,870. Federal government workers earned $124,430, and those at the state government level made $86,320.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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