Subscribe to ECo News

Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation (until Spring 2010)

Current and incoming students (for Fall 2010), read the announcement on the new majors in NRC. For the new NRC page, click here.

The Field :: Career Opportunities :: The Major
Curriculum: Fisheries Option :: Curriculum: Wildlife Option :: The Minor

Contact an Advisor

The Field

"There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot."
— Aldo Leopold

For over half a century, the Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation program has sought to train those young people who cannot live without wild things. This major provides students with the essential education to manage, conserve, and protect fish and wildlife, and the land and water environments on which they and we depend.

Such tasks demand that people be broadly trained in the natural sciences and mathematics, with a focus on biology/ecology. After receiving this general background, our students take a variety of courses in natural resource management and conservation which provide them with the knowledge necessary to understand the conservation profession. Upon graduation you will be well-versed not only in the wondrous variety of life in our natural world, but also in the values society holds for these resources, the uses the resources may be put to, and the policy process whereby human impact and use is managed to provide sustainable, healthy resources and ecosystems into the future.

Wildlife and fisheries conservation is both science and art. It requires talent, personal commitment, enthusiasm, sound technical training, and special skills. Our curriculum is designed to provide you with the skills necessary for entry-level employment in conservation professions, or with the skills necessary to receive graduate training for a more specialized career.

The wildlife and fisheries conservation field is indeed a broad discipline, including such specializations as restoration of endangered species, international conservation, wildlife and fisheries resource management, protection and management of critical habitats and ecosystems, conservation education, environmental law enforcement, urban wildlife management, resource utilization, animal damage management, and population dynamics. Potential career opportunities are as varied as the specializations listed above.

News from this program:
Student surveys rank us second on campus in student satisfaction!

Career Opportunities

Federal, state agencies, and local conservation agencies constitute the major employers of wildlife and fisheries conservation professionals. Every state has a fish and wildlife management agency, and at the federal level majors in wildlife and fisheries may be employed by a number of agencies, including the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Forest Service, The Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Private consulting firms and conservation organizations also provide career opportunities, and some of our graduates start their careers with overseas assignments in the Peace Corps.

A graduate with a B.S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation may be employed as an aquaculturist, biological aide, conservation educator, environmental impact assessor, field crew leader, field or laboratory technician, foreign fisheries observer, natural resources law enforcement officer, naturalist/interpreter, park ranger, or preserve management assistant.

Although employment opportunities exist once one has earned a bachelor’s degree, many positions in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation – both in government and industry – now require a graduate degree. Thus, many students find that the opportunity for advancement and career development is best achieved by completing some graduate training. Students with M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are employed as research scientists, refuge managers, supervisors of wildlife/fisheries management programs, extension specialists, environmental scientists, land managers, environmental consultants, and university educators.

The Major

Students start with general courses that provide background in the natural sciences, mathematics, statistics, and economics. You also will take courses in the general field of natural resource management, such as Environment and Society, the Origins and Evolution of Conservation in the U. S., and Forest Conservation. Once basic background is completed, your coursework will concurrently provide a broad training in the process of natural resource conservation, and a specific focus in either wildlife or fisheries conservation.

Learning does not begin and end in the classroom. An essential part of your education should involve gaining extensive practical field experience. We aid you in finding suitable field research projects, summer jobs, internships, or cooperative education positions with state and federal agencies or private conservation organizations to gain such experience. After you graduate, this will not only provide you with a competitive edge in pursuing either your first job or graduate training, it also will help you to choose the direction you might take in the array of career directions available in conservation.

Among the variety of additional experiences our students have gained through summer jobs/internships include studying salmon/grizzly bear streams in coastal Alaska, marine fisheries and wildlife resources of our coastlines, wildlife resources in Rocky Mountain and Appalachian Mountain ecosystems, grassland/buffalo preserves in the western prairies, and salmon/trout hatcheries here in Massachusetts. You may wish to assist on research projects supervised by our faculty here in New England, either as a paid field/laboratory assistant or volunteer, depending on the time you can allot to such an experience while pursuing coursework. The University also provides numerous semester/year exchange opportunities to universities in other regions of the U. S. or internationally for students who would like to enrich their educational experience in this way.

There are two options in this major, one in Fisheries Conservation and one in Wildlife Conservation. Requirements for both options are similar through at least the first two years, but do differ in the junior and senior years to provide students with training specific to whichever of the two options they have identified as being of greatest interest. You do not have to decide which option you will pursue as soon as you enter this major, but we do encourage you to make a decision as soon as you understand where your interests lie. Not only will that allow the completion of requirements to proceed with the least amount of disruption, but also will be important if/as you choose to pursue exchange programs, summer internships, and other opportunities. The requirements of the Fisheries and Wildlife options of this major are below.

Transfer applicants with above-average grades in a range of disciplines (including writing/composition, humanities, social sciences, public speaking, mathematics, and natural sciences) usually qualify for general admission to the University. The Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation major requires about 65 semester credit hours of wildlife and fisheries conservation or related coursework once general background courses in the natural sciences and mathematics have been completed, and there are a number of general education requirements for all undergraduates at the Amherst campus, so early transfer is desirable in order to have the greatest opportunity for a timely graduation. We recommend that prospective transfer students complete as many of the following courses as possible to prepare for transfer to our campus and major: a semester of geology, a year of general biology, a year of chemistry, a semester of ecology, a semester of college algebra and trigonometry, and a semester of introductory statistics.

Curriculum: Fisheries Option


Fall Semester   Spring Semester  
NRC 100 Envir. and Soc. (I) 3 RES-ECON 211 Intro. Stats. 3
Biol 100 (or Biol 103) 4 BIOL 101 (or BIOL 102) 4
MATH 104 3 ENGLWP 112 College Writing  (CW) 3
CHEM 110 (or CHEM 111) 4 Physical Science elective1 3
    _________________ 3
Sophomore Year      
WFCON 260  Water & Fish Cons. 3 W&FCONS 261 Wildlife Cons. 3
WFCON 260L Fish Tech Lab 1 NRC 211 Wildlife Tech Lab 1
BIOLOGY 287 Intro. Ecology 3 FOREST 225 Forests & People 3
BIOL 297B Marine Vertebrates 3 NRC 297S Intro. Spat. Data 3
BIOL 280 Evol. & Div. of Live  3 Quantitative elective2 3/4
_________________ 3 __________________  3
Junior Year      
BIOL 542 Icthyology 4 WFCON 470 Fish Ecol (even years) 3
Nat. Res. Econ. elective3 (SB) 3 NRC 409 Nat. Res. Policy 3
NRC 382 Human Dimension 4 GEOSCI 103 Oceanography 3
NRC 397A Jr. Yr. Writing 3 __________________
_________________ __________________ 3


Senior Year      
W&FCONSV 571 Fish Science Mgt (even years). 4 NRC 597M Ecosystem Mgt. 2
Communications elective4 3  BIOL 500-level animal elective5
___________________ 3 __________________ 3
___________________ 3 __________________ 3

 Required courses fro the major =89-90 credits, plus an additional 12 credits of Social World Gen Ed Courses and 18-19 elective credits for a total of 120 total credits to complete all university requirements. This curriculum meets all course requirements for certification as a Fisheries Professional by the American Fisheries Society. Students may also consider using this degree program to fulfill requirements for a Five College Certificate in Coastal and Marine Science, see more information at

Physical Science elective – CHEM 250 (s), PHYSICS 100 (f,s), 139 (f)  

2 Quantitive elective – NRC 592G & 597G (f), WFCON 577 (f), STATS 501, EDUC 555, MATH 127

3 Natural Resources Economics elective – RESEC 263 (f) or RESEC 262 (s)

Communications elective – FOR 492 (f), COMM 250  (f,s: seniors only), COMM 260 (f,s; seniors only)

Curriculum: Wildlife Option

 Fall Semester    Spring Semester  
Freshman Year      
NRC 100 Envir. & Society (SI) 3 RES-EC 211 Intro Statistics 3
BIOL 100 (or BIOL 103) 4 BIOL 101 (or BIOL 102) 4
MATH 104 3 ENGLWP 112 Coll. Writing (CWo 3
CHEM 110 (or CHEM 111) 4 Earth Science Elective 1 3
    __________________ 3
Sophomore Year      
WFCON 260 Fisheries Cons 3 WFCON 261 Wildlife Cons 3
WFCON 260L Fish Tech Lab 1 NRC 211 Wildlife Tech Lab 1
BIOL 287 Intro Ecology 3 FOREST 225 Forests & People 3
NRC 212 Forest Botany 2 NRC 297S Intro. Spat. Data 3
BIOL 280 Evol & Div of Life 3 Physical Science elective2 3
 _______________________  ___________________
Junior Year      
NRC 397A Junior Yr Writing 3 NRC 409 Nat. Res. Policy 3
Nat. Res. Econ. elective3 (SB) 3 Quantitative elective4 3/4
NRC 382 Human Dimensions 4 BIOL 500-level animal elective5 4
WFCON 564 Wildlife Hab. Mgt. 4 _________________________ 3
_________________________ 3 _________________________ 3
Senior Year      
WFCON 565 Wildl. Pop. Dyn. 4 NRC 597M Ecosystem Mgt. 2
Communications elective6  3 BIOLOGY 500-level animal elect5 4
______________________ 3 _________________________ 3
______________________ 3 _________________________ 3

Required courses for the major = 89-90 credits, plus an additional 12 credits of Social World Gen Ed courses and 19 elective credits for a total of 120 total credits to complete all university requirements and the requirements for Wildlife Biologists (GS-486 series) with the US Department of Interior. To qualify as a Certified Wildlife Biologist by The Wildlife Society, students will need to include one additional Communications course as one of their electives.

1 Earth Science elective – GEOSCI 100 (f), 101 (f,s), 103 (f,s), 105 (f,s), PLSOIL 105

2 Physical Science elective – CHEM 250 (s), PHYSICS 100 (f,s) 139 (f)

3 Natural Resources Economics elective – RESEC 263 (f) or RESEC 262 (s)

4 Quantitative elective – 592G & 597G (f), WFCON 577 (f), FOR 534 (f) STATS 501, EDUC 555, MATH 127

5 Biology 500 Animal elective –

At least 1 of  the following:
              BIOL 544 – Ornithology (s)
              BIOL 548 – Mammalogy (s)
       If only 1 of the above, 1 more of the following:
              BIOL 521 – Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy (f,s)
              BIOL 540 – Herpetology (s)
              BIOL 550 – Animal Behavior (f,s)
              BIOL 567 – Comparative Animal Physiology (s)

6 – Communciations elective – FOR 492 (f), COMM 250 (f,s; seniors only), COMM 260 (f,s; seniors only)

The Minor

The minor in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation is designed to introduce students from a variety of other disciplines to the information essential for wise stewardship of fish and wildlife resources. This background may aid students in making career choices and in broadening their options with regard to graduate school and future employment. A minimum of 15 credits is required.


Take both of the following:
W&FCONSV 260 Fisheries Conservation (3 cr)
W&FCONSV 261 Wildlife Conservation (3 cr)

Choose 3 courses from the following, but no more than 2 from either group:

Group A – Wildlife & Fisheries Ecology and Conservation
W&FCONSV 470 Ecology of Fishes (4 cr)
W&FCONSV 564 Wildlife Habitat Management (4 cr)
W&FCONSV 565 Wildlife Population Dynamics and Management (4 cr)
W&FCONSV 571 Fisheries Science and Management (4 cr)

Group B – Integrated Natural Resources Planning/Resource Policy/Human Dimensions
NRC 597R Watershed Science and Management (3 cr)
NRC 397A Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Management (4 cr)
NRC 409 Natural Resources Policy and Administration (3 cr)
NRC 549 Ecosystem Management (4 cr)

Contact an Advisor

Curtice R. Griffin
Program Director

324 Holdsworth
(413) 545-2640
Email: cgriffin " AT "

You can contact this advisor using the NRC contact form

Page updated: January 31, 2010