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Occupational Profile

Ecologist

Ecologists study the interactions between living things and their environment to understand how natural and human-caused changes in the environment influence the behaviour and abundance of species and how interactions between species and their environment influence the natural world.

  • Avg. Salary $84,973.00
  • Avg. Wage $45.86
  • Minimum Education 6 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed 2,600
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Biological Scientist, Naturalist, Research Scientist

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

43%
43%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Provincially Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Ecologist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Biologists
NOC code: 2121.1
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to conduct ecological and environmental impact studies and to prepare reports, and to develop new practices in biological research

OBJECTIVE

Interest in precision working with instruments and equipment to conduct experiments in plant and animal growth, heredity and breeding

DIRECTIVE

Interest in consulting to advise on issues related to biological processes and research and the development of new products; may supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Mar 21, 2016

Ecologists usually specialize in animal behaviour, botany, marine biology, microbiology, population dynamics, soil science, toxicology, zoology or other disciplines concerned with environmental conservation and management. Often working as part of multidisciplinary teams, ecologists may conduct research studies into:

  • how energy flows through ecosystems
  • relationships among predators, parasites and prey
  • the types and organization of plant communities in the landscape
  • the impact of invasive species on native communities
  • the effects of human activities like dam construction, oil and gas development, mining and hunting on natural habitats
  • the management of fish, wildlife and forestry resources
  • the design of reserves and recovery plans for threatened species of plants and animals
  • the effects of pollutants discharged into the air by factories or vehicles on natural vegetation and wildlife
  • the effects of chemicals released into rivers and lakes on plant and aquatic animals
  • the accumulation of contaminants in food webs 
  • the restoration of functioning ecosystems
  • habitat changes after a fire
  • fundamental underlying questions such as what determines population sizes or diet choices, or how nitrogen flows through an ecosystem.

Duties and responsibilities vary from one position to another but, in general, ecologists:

  • plan and conduct field research, which involves following rigorous scientific procedures to collect water, soil, plant or animal samples, and count and identify organisms
  • use the data they collect or analyze existing data to understand and classify vegetation and landscapes
  • use computers to design and manage databases and maintain data, perform statistical analyses of large data sets, model problems and evaluate possible solutions, and develop geographic information systems (GIS) layers and products 
  • conduct studies to develop or refine ecological land classifications
  • study animals over long periods of time, noting characteristics such as population numbers, life history patterns, behaviour, diet and habitat use
  • study and dissect plant and animal specimens in greenhouses and laboratories
  • conduct environmental impact assessments
  • write proposals and prepare written reports and recommendations
  • provide information, make presentations and give talks for schools, clubs and interest groups
  • contribute to the development of government policy
  • work with the public to develop and implement conservation strategies
  • supervise the work of technologists and technicians.
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 21, 2016

Depending on the nature of their projects, ecologists may work outdoors in locations that may be rugged or remote, or indoors in laboratories and offices. Some ecologists primarily work on computers and use data obtained from other scientists.

Ecologists often work long hours. Some projects require hours of observation or weeks of travel. Others require the use of specialized equipment and techniques.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 21, 2016

Ecologists need the following characteristics:

  • the ability to learn quickly, think logically and persist in a search for answers to complex questions
  • an interest in nature
  • the ability to remain objective
  • good oral and written communication skills
  • the ability to work independently and as part of a team.

Some types of field work require considerable physical stamina.

Ecologists should enjoy synthesizing information to develop innovative approaches to problems, using instruments and equipment to perform tasks requiring precision, and supervising research projects.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 21, 2016

Ecologists must have at least 1 university degree with a solid grounding in biology (morphology, physiology, genetics, microbiology, zoology, botany, conservation biology), organic and inorganic chemistry, physics, mathematics, calculus, statistics and computer science. Depending on their area of specialization, ecologists also may have an academic background in such diverse subjects as climatology, economics, geology, mathematical modelling, meteorology, oceanography, sociology or soil science.

Most research jobs in ecology require a graduate degree in biological sciences: usually a master of science (M.Sc.) degree, sometimes a doctoral degree (PhD).


Required Education

The following schools offer programs and courses that meet this occupation’s educational requirements. Other eligible programs and courses may be available.

Ambrose University

St. Mary's University


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 21, 2016

Biologist

Biologists study living organisms and apply their scientific knowledge in various fields.

Legislation

Professional Biologist is a protected title under Alberta's Professional and Occupational Associations Registration Act. This means that to call yourself a Professional Biologist, you must be a registered member of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB). At present, you can call yourself a "biologist" if you are not a registered member of ASPB.

Education

Membership requires: (1) at least 3 years of acceptable work experience, (2) a bachelor's degree, master's degree or doctoral degree in biological sciences from an approved educational institute, or equivalent and (3) 2 letters from professional referees (preferably, at least 1 from a Professional Biologist). For official, detailed information about registration requirements, visit the ASPB website or contact the ASPB.

Working in Alberta

Biologists who are registered and in good standing with a regulatory organization elsewhere in Canada may be eligible for registration in Alberta if registered biologists in the 2 jurisdictions have similar responsibilities and competencies. For more information, see What if I am already certified in another province or territory? and the Alberta regulatory authority (below).

To find more information on the certification process for internationally educated biologists, see Biologist Registration Process on the AlbertaCanada.com website.

Contact Details

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists
370, 105 12 Ave SE
Calgary, Alberta
Canada T2G 1A1
Phone: 403-264-1273
Email: pbiol@aspb.ab.ca
Website: www.aspb.ab.ca

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 21, 2016

Ecologists are employed by the following types of organizations:

  • provincial and federal governments
  • universities and colleges
  • research institutions
  • conservation organizations
  • environmental consulting firms
  • large private corporations such as manufacturers of agricultural products, forestry companies, paper manufacturers, and oil and gas companies.

Governments often employ ecologists to complete policy assessments in relation to environmental issues. Many ecologists, particularly those with master's degrees, are involved in identifying gaps in environmental impact assessments and developing recommendations for improvements to meet legislated requirements. Additional experience with legal aspects of environmental biology is an asset for those involved in environmental impact assessments.

Corporations employ ecologists to help safeguard supplies of raw materials, make sure their operations comply with government regulations, and monitor processes and products.

Related summer work experience or volunteer experience is a definite asset when university graduates are looking for work. Entry level jobs often are short-term contract positions.

Applicants who have bachelor's degrees may be hired for non-research positions that involve conducting laboratory tests or inspections, or collecting routine field data. Advancement opportunities are limited for ecologists who only have a bachelor's degree. A doctoral degree usually is required for university and independent research positions, and may be required for advancement to senior management positions.

Ecologists are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2121: Biologists and Related Scientists. In Alberta, 80% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 21, 2016

Salaries for ecologists vary depending on their educational qualifications, experience and specific field of study.

For information about salary ranges for university professors, see the University Professor occupational profile.

Biologists and related scientists
NOC code: 2121

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $19.50 $54.74 $33.14 $31.25
Overall $27.99 $68.42 $45.86 $43.04
Top $33.00 $106.05 $61.02 $56.29

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Health Care & Social Assistance
Public Administration
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

43%
43%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

33%
33%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

16%
16%

2015 Vacancy Rate

5%
Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Agriculture and Related Technologies
  • Environment, Forestry and Related Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Sciences
  • Social Sciences, Law and Religious Studies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 21, 2016

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists website: www.aspb.ab.ca

ECO Canada website: www.eco.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 16, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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