Wildlife specialist

DNR employee

If you love being outdoors and spending time in the woods, and have a passion for wildlife and conservation, a position in our Fish and Wildlife Division might be right for you.

Wildlife positions manage habitat and wildlife resources in Minnesota to sustain healthy ecosystems and provide quality hunting opportunities.

Why do we need wildlife specialists?

This position exists to preserve, manage, and develop the resources on state wildlife management areas and other state lands such as state forests. These positions gather and provide information to assist the department in formulating sound resource policies and they also maintain public hunting grounds for public use. A large aspect of this position is to provide information to the public regarding wildlife and the use of natural resources, including managing private lands and nuisance animal complaints.

What do wildlife specialists do?

Wildlife specialists perform a diversity of work functions, but some of their primary job duties are:

  • Designing and implementing habitat improvement projects, including prairie and tree plantings, timber harvest, water level management and prescribed fire.
  • Performing wild animal population surveys, including deer, grouse, pheasant and furbearing mammals.
  • Managing access to public lands by developing and maintaining roads and parking area, including thoughtful land acquisitions that increase public access and opportunity. 
  • Educating and informing the public on a variety of questions centered on wildlife from hunting or trapping questions, to habitat or nuisance animals in backyards.
  • Maintaining equipment such as ATVs, snowmobiles, small boats, tractors and planters.
  • Informing processes for determining hunting seasons and bag limits.
  • Conducting surveys of public use on WMAs, including bag checks, car counts, and interviews of users.

What are the working conditions?

During all seasons, being a wildlife specialist is a physically demanding job that sometimes requires lifting heavy objects, operating tools and equipment in all types of weather conditions on a daily basis. In the spring, habitat projects begin with prescribed fire and prairie plantings. Summer work includes tree planting, invasive species control and public access maintenance. Fall work includes many wildlife population surveys, access maintenance and prep for spring habitat activities. Winter work includes boundary management of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), as frozen ground can make access to portions of WMAs ideal, along with invasive species management and timber harvest activities. There is plenty of office-based work to do as well, including prescribed burn plan development, managing wildlife depredation cases, returning calls to the public, and much more.

How should I prepare while I am in high school?

If you would like to do professional-level wildlife work, you will need a college degree. To prepare for college, take challenging coursework in high school and begin exploring the requirements of schools offering natural resource degrees. 

Natural resource careers such as wildlife specialist require interdisciplinary skills and a background in the following:

  • Math: Wildlife specialists require data analysis skills. Ensure you gain important math skills in high school such as algebra, geometry, pre-calculus and statistics.
  • Sciences: Having a good understanding of physical, chemical, and biological sciences in high school will provide you with a strong background to explore more specialized subjects such as wildlife management. In addition to biology, chemistry, and physics, earth sciences and environmental science classes are also useful.
  • 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.

It is also helpful to get hands-on experience so that you know what the job is really like before you pursue a degree in the area. High school students can contact local wildlife offices about doing a volunteer job shadow to see firsthand what the work is like. They can also volunteer with nonprofits such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, MN Deer Hunters Association, and many local sportsmen’s clubs, which conduct habitat projects, sometimes in conjunction with the DNR wildlife offices.

What do I need to do in college?

To be a wildlife specialist, you’ll need a bachelor's degree in wildlife or a closely-related area.   

The DNR expects that wildlife specialists will:

  • Understand wildlife species identification, habitat relationships, food habits, animal behavior, parasites and disease, life histories, and reproductive potential.
  • Have knowledge of wildlife management and ecology of game species.
    • Wildlife population survey techniques wildlife population dynamics.
    • Statistics and geographic information systems.
  • Knowledge of or experience with hunting and trapping traditions, methods, and regulations.
  • Knowledge of census and survey techniques and their limitations.
  • Knowledge sufficient to identify common terrestrial and aquatic plants, including invasive species.
  • Knowledge of GPS technology.
  • Knowledge of experience in prescribed fire techniques, methods, and equipment.

The Minnesota DNR currently requires the following coursework:

  • A minimum of three courses directly related to wildlife management and biology.
  • One course in each: chemistry or physics, statistics, communication, and ecology.
  • At least four additional wildlife or ecology, or related courses, such as animal or plant taxonomy, comparative anatomy or physiology, soils or geology, mammalogy, ornithology, or parasitology.

In addition to coursework, you can gain valuable experience by applying for an internship at the Minnesota DNR or another natural resource organization, volunteering with researchers on wildlife habitat projects, and joining the Wildlife Society. 

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

The DNR has jobs that don’t require a college degree. For example, roving wildlife crews that are part of the Laborer General classification series do prescribed burns on WMAs.

Career advancement

At the DNR, wildlife specialist positions are entry-level jobs that can lead to more intermediate or senior-level positions. Examples include positions in research, shallow lakes program, species managers, policy and planning, and supervisors of staff in an area or DNR region. The titles of some of these positions are below:

  • Big game manager
  • Farmland animal research specialist
  • Waterfowl manager
  • Wolf management specialist
  • Animal survey statistician
  • Area wildlife manager
  • Operations program manager

DNR wildlife 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 wildlife
  • NR specialist intermediate wildlife
  • NR specialist intermediate wildlife research
  • NR specialist senior wildlife
  • NR specialist senior wildlife research
  • NR area supervisor wildlife

Example working titles

  • Assistant area wildlife manager
  • Shallow lakes specialist
  • Animal damage specialist

Positions in other industries

With similar education and background, there are other industries you can work in including federal agencies, American Indian tribes, watershed districts, nonprofits, universities, and natural resource agencies in other states. 

To Learn More

Email our Human Resources Department or reach out to one of the DNR’s area offices.


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

$21.08 to $30.59 hourly

$44,015 to $63,872 annually

Back to top