Careers in Ecological or Evolutionary Biology

This is a summary of our discussions with potential employers for our students with interests in some aspect of Organismal, Ecological, or Evolutionary Biology.

Almost every potential employer we spoke with mentioned the following two pieces of advice:

  • EXPERIENCE: To land a job, you must have some relevant experience. Do anything you can to get that experience. Some possibilities include internships (see below), part-time employment, volunteering, working on a faculty research project or senior honors thesis, and many more. Many of the employers we talked to themselves "fell" into their first few jobs by being interns, lawn-mowers, gofers, and other "low-level" employees, then moving up the ladder through lucky turns of event. Note that experience (even at "low level" jobs) helps you make contacts, and your contacts may find more uses for you if they like your performance (remember that reliability counts for a lot with employers).
  • People and communication skills are important. The ability to cooperate, collaborate, follow directions, read, and write is important in most jobs (yes, even in science!). In many ways, the specific classes you take as a student are much less important to potential employers than whether you learned to apply these people and communication skills during the classes. You must be able to get along with others, and be able express yourself clearly on paper and in person.

Many of our contacts also mentioned the following as well:

  • Know how to use dichotomous keys! Environmental biologists often run into critters they don't know, and must figure out species identifications on their own. Courses that include species identification (e.g., Entomology, Flora and Taxonomy, Ichthyology, Vertebrate Zoology, Herpetology, and Invertebrate Zoology) are therefore very useful for many of these jobs.
  • There is a shortage of botanists trained in basic plant identification, plant communities, and plant ecology.  Many jobs in wildlife biology and other fields require or strongly encourage at least some coursework in botany, especially plant identification. For example the Wildlife society's Certified Wildlife Biologist program requires at least 9 hours of botany credit (
  • A broad biological background is more important than the specific area of biology you specialize in. GIS (Geographical Information System; a computerized approach to storing geographical and ecological data) skills are often useful as well. Being comfortable (not necessarily expert) with computers is also helpful.  
  • Experience with controlled burns and other ecological management tools can be a big plus to some government and private employers. Consider volunteering with the Nature Conservancy or ODNR to get such experience.  
  • The Environmental Studies Certificate offered by the University of Akron can be a plus, as long as the employer is made aware of exactly what that certificate means (such certificates from other schools are sometimes pretty rinky-dink).  
  • Make sure there are no obvious misspellings or other mistakes on your application materials! Especially when many people apply for a job, mistakes can quickly eliminate you from consideration, since they may indicate that you don't care enough or aren't attentive enough to proof-read your application. (One employer said that he automatically discards any application that has even a SINGLE spelling mistake!)  
  • Many, but not all, Field Biology jobs require a Master's degree.

Potential employers/internship providers

OHIO EPA -- Internship opportunities are updated about every 2 weeks. Postings for permanent jobs also appear here. Furthermore, they often offer FREE training in wetland assessment (e.g., ORAM) and other topics.

Davey Tree. In addition to the obvious, they have an extensive environmental monitoring, remediation, and consulting business. World headquarters for this big outfit is in Kent. In addition to the obvious, they have an extensive environmental monitoring, remediation, and consulting business. World headquarters for this big outfit is in Kent.

Cleveland zoo. Summer intern program. Full time keepers often conduct research. 

Enviroscience. An Akron company doing innovative work in consulting, monitoring, biocontrol, and other areas. 

The Ohio Nature Conservancy. Many great opportunities to volunteer or intern with this group. Many internships are not advertised, so ask them or a UA faculty member for more info. Many great opportunities to volunteer or intern with this group. Many internships are not advertised, so ask them or a UA faculty member for more info. Click here to link to National TNC Page; also see

Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Many volunteer opportunities

Biology Faculty at The University of Akron. Talk to us! We have many opportunities for students to gain valuable experience working in our labs on ongoing research projects

Career Center, University of Akron   Information on careers, jobs, internships, job search, interviewing, etc. Make an appointment, and work with them to plot your career plans. They receive a steady flow of job openings for biologists, some for students, some full time jobs for after graduation. They have books full of current job openings, and also have a resume filing service. Once your resume is on file, they will screen incoming jobs for those relevant to you, and will make your qualifications available to the many nationwide employers that contact them during their employee searches. Contact the careers center, Shrank hall north 153. 330-972-7747

Also, see the Job announcements posted in the Biology Department's mailroom and halls.

Finally, E-mail Dr. Mitchell (rjm2 at uakron dot edu) and ask to be put on his jobs e-mail list -- as opportunities for jobs, internships, research assistantships, summer employment, and other are announced, they will be forwarded.

Other potentially useful sites:

USDA Forest Service Home Page

Jobs with the State of Ohio

Career Positions with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks & Recreation As yet, this just has addresses to write and numbers to call, not web-postings.

MetroParks serving Summit County

Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area

Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (Be a counselor for 5th grade nature camp! Earn College Credit!)

The Society for Conservation Biology   has a number of national listings for jobs in that field.

The U.S. Government's official site for jobs and employment information. From the Park and Forest service the USDA to the Secret Service…. Nationwide listing

Summit county jobs

Ecolog Listserv - after clicking, enter "sub ECOLOG-L {your name}" as the message text to join Ecolog -- an email list that will send you dozens of postings for internships, part-time, and fulltime employment as they arrive. Worldwide listings.

Environmental Education jobs- nationwide openings Nation-wide listings Environmental Jobs and Careers. Nation-wide listings

Life Sciences also known as

The Riley Guide. Employment Opportunities and Job Resources on the Internet

Army Corps of Engineers. This primarily civilian organization is involved with a lot of the environmental work done in our country. Many of their positions are suitable for biologists - you do not need to be an engineer!

USAJOBS. Lists government job openings. You'd be surprised how many openings there are in places you might not have expected (e.g., there is a strong need for biologists to be Patent Examiners).


Careers in Biology. Collection of sites that discuss various careers in biology maintained by the AIBS (American Institute of Biological Sciences)

Careers in Ecology - Lots of information for prospective ecologists. Maintained by the ESA (Ecological Society of America).

Careers in Botany -- A general document about what sorts of jobs are available and how to prepare for them, with no specific job postings. A good site to look at , even for non-botanists.

Career planning center for young scientists and engineers. Sponsored by American Association for the advancement of science, National Research Council, and other high-profile organizations.

Careers in science. From Science magazine, mostly for those with master's and higher degrees

Emporia State University Biology Careers Page. Many good links here for all biological careers.

A Guide to Green Careers. Inspiring professionals to use their skills in green careers, helping to create a renewable, sustainable world.

Climate Change Career Information