Ecologist

DNR forester and landowner walking in landowner's woodlands

If you have a passion for plants, animals, or conservation, an ecologist position might be right for you.

Ecologists at the DNR study plants, animals, rare resources, scientific and natural areas, ecosystem health and much more!

Why do we need ecologists?

Ecologists help create and maintain healthy plant and animal populations and lands throughout Minnesota.

What do ecologists do?

Ecologists perform many different types of work, both in the field and in the office.

  • While in the field, ecologists monitor the status, distribution and conservation needs of plants, native plant communities and animals in the field. Ecologists also work with others to figure out the best ways to protect these resources.
  • While in the office, ecologists manage data on Minnesota's rare features and state-listed species in the office. Ecologists also use GIS mapping software to analyze data, draft reports and review proposed management or development activities.
  • Ecologists build partnerships with nonprofit organizations, universities, natural resources agencies and tribal governments.
  • Ecologists review development projects, identifying effects to natural resources, and provide recommendations so that harm to natural resources is avoided, minimized, or compensated for long-term sustainability.
  • Ecologists might also complete natural area conservation planning, focusing on areas of high biodiversity, and manage Minnesota's Scientific and Natural Areas.

What are the working conditions?

Ecologists work both indoors and outdoors in all sorts of weather conditions and terrain. In the field, ecologists might work alone or with others and the work might be physically demanding. They might travel by vehicle, by foot, or even by paddling. They might also work full-time in an office setting entering data or reviewing projects.

What kind of educational background or work experience do I need?

If you would like to do professional-level ecology work, you will need a college degree. To prepare for college, take science, math and language courses and begin exploring the requirements of schools that offer natural resource degrees.

  • Sciences: Having a good understanding of physical, chemical, and biological sciences. In addition, earth sciences and environmental science classes are useful.
  • Math: Ensure you gain important math skills such as algebra, geometry, calculus, and statistics.
  • Language arts: Communication and language are key to success in any career, including natural resources. In high school, take courses in English, intensive writing and public speaking.

What do I need to do in college?

To be an ecologist, you will need a bachelor's degree in biology, botany, conservation, ecology, natural resources management, or a related field.

In addition to coursework, you can gain valuable experience by applying for an internship or seasonal position at the Minnesota DNR or another natural resources organization. You can also look for opportunities to volunteer with nonprofits, nature centers, or local government agencies. You can check out the DNR volunteer webpages to find events of interest.

What if I am not pursuing a four-year degree?

The DNR has jobs that do not require a college degree such as the natural resources technicians and laborers who complete habitat management on the DNR's Scientific and Natural Areas.

Career advancement

At the Minnesota DNR, some ecologist positions are entry-level jobs that can lead to more intermediate or senior-level positions.

DNR ecologist classifications

When you are applying for a position you will see both a classification or pay grade and a more descriptive working title. Here are some examples of what you will want to look for.

  • NR (Natural Resources) specialist — ecological services
  • NR specialist intermediate — ecological services
  • NR specialist senior — ecological services

Example working titles

  • Bee survey assistant
  • Environmental assessment ecologist
  • Invasive species specialist
  • Nongame specialist
  • Plant ecologist
  • Regional ecologist
  • Management specialist

Positions in other industries

With similar education and background, there are other industries you can work in such as federal agencies, American Indian tribes, environmental consulting organizations, universities and natural resource agencies in other states. 

To learn more

You can email our Human Resources Department or reach out to one of the DNR’s area offices to learn more.

Wages

The salary for the entry level ecologist position will vary depending on qualifications and experience, but the range is:

  • $21.08 to $30.59 hourly
  • $44,015 to $63,872 annually