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Ecologists study the interactions between living things and their environment. They do this to understand how natural and human-caused changes in the environment influence the behaviour and abundance of species. They also study how interactions between ecosystems, species, and their environment influence the natural world. They may interpret and monitor ecosystems for science, policy, and land-management purposes.

Also Known As

Aquaculture Ecologist, Biological Scientist, Conservation Biologist, Conservation Ecologist, Conservation Scientist, Ecological Planner, Plant Ecologist, Naturalist, Research Scientist, Terrestrial Ecologist, Vegetation Ecologist, Wildlife Biologist, Wildlife Ecologist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

Here is how this occupation has been classified over time.

2006 NOC

  • 2121.1: Biologists

2006 NOC-S

  • C021: Biologists and Related Scientists

2011 NOC

  • 2121: Biologists and related scientists

2016 NOC

  • 2121: Biologists and related scientists

2021 NOC

  • 21110: Biologists and related scientists

2023 OaSIS

  • 21110.01: Biologists
Updated Mar 21, 2023

Ecologists usually specialize in some area of environmental conservation and management or life sciences. Examples include animal behaviour, botany, marine biology, microbiology, population dynamics, soil science, toxicology, and zoology. Often working as part of a multidisciplinary team, ecologists may develop and test hypotheses about:

  • Relationships among predators and prey
  • Effects on organisms and ecosystems of parasites
  • The types and organization of plant communities in the landscape
  • The impact of invasive species on native communities
  • The effects of human activities (like urbanization, dam construction, oil and gas development, mining, and hunting) on natural habitats and ecosystems (often by monitoring the presence or abundance of target species)
  • The management of fish, wildlife, and other biological resources
  • The design and management of protected areas
  • Evaluation, listing, and recovery plans for species at risk
  • The effects of pollutants on terrestrial or aquatic vegetation, wildlife, and ecosystems
  • The restoration of functioning ecosystems
  • Habitat changes after a natural disturbance, such as fire or flooding
  • Fundamental questions about individual behaviour, population dynamics, community structure, or ecosystem function
  • Biogeochemical processes, such as the flow of nitrogen, carbon, or energy through an ecosystem
  • Populations, communities, and ecosystem function

Duties vary from one position to another. In general, ecologists implement, plan, and conduct or oversee field work. They then report on and interpret the results of that work. This may involve counting populations of plants, animals, and other species or collecting water, soil, plant, or animal samples. Ecologists also:

  • Analyze existing data or use the data they collect to understand and classify vegetation and landscapes
  • Use computers to enter data, design and manage databases, develop geographic information systems (GIS) layers and products, perform statistical analyses, model problems, and evaluate possible solutions
  • Conduct studies to develop or refine ecological land classifications
  • Count individuals, populations, species, and communities of organisms
  • Study animals over long periods of time, noting characteristics such as population numbers, life history patterns, behaviour, diet, and habitat use
  • Study ecosystem attributes over long periods of time, noting characteristics such as species composition, spatial patterns, connectivity of habitats, and patterns of natural and human anthropogenic disturbance
  • Study and dissect plant and animal specimens in greenhouses and laboratories
  • Do environmental impact assessments
  • Write proposals and prepare written reports and recommendations
  • Provide information, make presentations, and give talks to individuals, schools, clubs, and interest groups about ecosystem processes and species relationships, and the natural or human impacts on these processes and relationships
  • Contribute to developing government policy
  • Work with the public, stakeholders, or government to develop and implement conservation strategies
  • Use modeling techniques to assess the potential impact of changes to the ecosystem, such as the introduction of new species

Ecologists may also supervise the work of technologists and technicians.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 21, 2023
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

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

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

The main role of an ecologist is to study and observe environmental patterns. As a result, ecologists work in a variety of locations, including but not limited to an office, a lab, or the field.

In the office, they:

  • Enter and analyze data, including spatial mapping, statistical analysis, and geographic information systems
  • Communicate on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and the public, and present report findings to clients
  • Prepare computer models based on reach to illustrate and manipulate ecosystem structure
  • Compile data and preparing reports and scientific articles

In the lab, they:

  • Process samples collected in the filed, by counting and measuring organisms, analyzing samples, and conducting genetic analysis
  • Conduct lab experiments
  • Maintain and prepare equipment for fieldwork

In the field, they:

  • Study wildlife and plant populations, such as by collecting samples and specimens
  • Observe the impact of invasive species on native communities
  • Use a GPS for capturing field data
  • Use geographic information systems (GIS) to analyze, evaluate, and prepare information
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.


2006 NOC: 2121.1

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

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


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


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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 21, 2023

Ecologists need:

  • An impartial nature
  • Persistence in searching for answers to complex questions
  • Logical thinking and comfort with uncertainty and probability
  • Analysis and communication skills
  • The ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Precision and attention to detail
  • Physical stamina in field situations
  • An interest in nature

Ecologists should enjoy:

  • Synthesizing information that leads to innovative approaches to problems
  • Using instruments and equipment for precision tasks
  • Supervising, writing, and presenting research projects

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Biologists and related scientists

2016 NOC: 2121

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 27 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Oct 29, 2021 and Apr 10, 2024.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Construction Specialization: Team player
Construction Specialization: Excellent written communication
Construction Specialization: Accurate
Construction Specialization: Excellent oral communication
Attention to detail
Tasks: Monitor and compile research results
Tasks: Supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists
Work under pressure
Tasks: Deliver presentations at conferences, workshops or symposia
Tasks: Produce reports
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 21, 2023
  • Minimum Education 6 years post-secondary

Ecologists must have at least 1 university degree with a solid grounding in several ecology courses. They also need courses in complementary fields, including:

  • Biology (e.g., morphology, physiology, genetics, microbiology, zoology, botany, conservation biology)
  • Organic and inorganic chemistry
  • Physics
  • Mathematics, calculus, and statistics
  • Computer science

Depending on their area of specialization, ecologists may have an academic background in many other diverse subjects. These might include climatology, economics, geology, mathematical modelling, meteorology, oceanography, sociology, or soil science.

Most research jobs in ecology require a graduate degree in biological sciences. This is usually a master of science (M.Sc.) degree, and is 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

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 21, 2023
  • Certification Provincially Regulated

Certain professional titles or duties within this occupation are protected by provincial legislation. Requirements vary if you use these titles or perform these duties.

The related legislation is shown below. If there are multiple related legislations, select a certification heading to learn about each one.


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


Under Alberta’s Professional and Occupational Associations Registration Act [pdf] and Professional Biologists Regulation [pdf], you must be a registered member of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB) to use the Professional Biologist title or the P. Biol. and P Biol initials.

You do not have to register if you do not call yourself a Professional Biologist.

For information on what you need and other details, visit the certification profile Biologist.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 21, 2023

Ecologists work for:

  • 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 prepare policy assessments in relation to environmental issues. Many ecologists, particularly those with master’s degrees, are hired to identify gaps in environmental impact assessments and come up with recommendations for meeting legislated requirements. Experience with the legal aspects of environmental biology is an asset for those involved in this kind of work.

Corporations often employ ecologists to:

  • Help safeguard supplies of raw materials
  • Make sure their operations comply with government regulations
  • Monitor processes and products

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

Advancement opportunities are limited for ecologists who do not have graduate degrees. Applicants with only bachelor’s degrees may find themselves working in non-research positions that involve laboratory tests or inspections or collecting routine field data.

A doctoral degree is the standard for university and independent research positions and may be needed to advance to senior management positions.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 2121: Biologists and related scientists occupational group, 79.3% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 2121: Biologists and related scientists occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.1% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 58 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2019-2023 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 21, 2023

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.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Biologists and related scientists

2016 NOC: 2121
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 2121 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

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.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

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.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $22.00 $55.00 $34.71 $33.00
Overall $24.00 $70.91 $46.17 $46.86
Top $26.00 $101.09 $60.62 $58.00

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.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Health Care & Social Assistance
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
Vacancy Rate
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, 2023

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB) website:

ECO Canada website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 21, 2023. 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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