What Is an Ecologist? (With Duties, Salary and Skills)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 5 March 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An ecologist studies living organisms and how they interact with their environment. They use field experiments to study and analyse the life processes of living organisms like plants and animals. Learning more about the ecologists can help you explore how they play a pivotal role in biodiversity conservation and decide if you want to pursue this career path. In this article, we answer "What is an ecologist?", list some steps to become one and find out how much they earn on average.

What Is An Ecologist?

What is an ecologist, can be described as a scientist who studies and analyses the relationship between living organisms and their habitats. One of their core tasks is to study how species and ecosystems can be protected and preserved alongside thinking of solutions to various environmental issues like forest fires or extinction of life forms. Ecologists spend most of their time in the field conducting investigations and classifying the organisms to collect data. They use this data to draw conclusions like how a species has evolved over the years or what are its challenges when faced with predators.

Related: What Do Environmental Scientists Do? (With Career Advice)

Duties Of An Ecologist

Apart from studying living organisms, ecologists are also responsible for the study of the footprints humans have on nature. This study can help them suggest various solutions to the adverse effects of human activities on the environment. Here are a few duties of an ecologist:

  • Classify plants, animals and other living organisms

  • Conduct field surveys of the organisms and their habitats

  • Research on theories in laboratories

  • Present scientific data in a concise manner

  • Monitor scientific investigations

  • Record and analyse details of species and their environment

  • Form plans to protect species that are on the verge of extinction

  • Study the environmental impact on living organisms

  • Recommend environmental legislation to government bodies

  • Maintain equipment used for field research

  • Work with software programmes like geographic information systems

  • Manage ecological projects

  • Write proposals for funding opportunities

  • Write and publish articles

  • Present research at conferences and events

  • Investigate the effects of changes in the ecosystem

  • Devise sustainable practices

  • Propose plans to conserve biodiversity

  • Spread awareness among local communities about environmental issues

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Fields Of Study Of An Ecologist

Ecologists study their field at the following five levels:

  • Organism: It can range from a tiny insect to a giant blue whale.

  • Population: It is a group of organisms of the same species, like bees, living in the same area at the same time.

  • Community: It is a biological group of all the populations of varied species that exist in an area.

  • Ecosystem: It comprises all the organisms that live in an area along with abiotic or physical factors that influence the community.

  • Biosphere: It is the planet earth where communities and populations of species live.

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Fields Of Specialisation For An Ecologist

Ecologists can specialise in varied fields like:

  • Marine biology

  • Botany

  • Toxicology

  • Zoology

  • Microbiology

  • Soil science

  • Chemistry

  • Genetics

  • Physics

Related: How To Become a Scientist in 4 Steps

Average Salary Of An Ecologist

The average salary for an ecologist is ₹49,323 per month. Organisations can offer ecologists different pay packages depending on their work experience, expertise in the field and geographic locations. An ecologist can get either a part-time job or it can be a full-time engagement. Their working hours can vary depending on the work description. Their pay scale can also differ. For example, an ecologist can receive greater monetary benefits when working in the laboratories than carrying out fieldwork.

How To Become An Ecologist?

If you wish to become an ecologist, you can follow these steps:

1. Complete school education

Complete the higher secondary education (10+2) with physics, chemistry and biology from a board recognised by the Government of India. Secure an aggregate of 50% marks in the 12th standard's board examination, as this may be an important requirement to pursue a bachelor's degree. If these subjects are not part of your main curriculum, you may opt for them as additional subjects if your school allows for such an arrangement.

2. Finish a bachelor's degree

After completing higher secondary education and gaining a strong background in science, you can pursue a bachelor's degree in science or subjects like botany, biology, zoology or forestry. Depending on what area you want to specialise in, you may consider an additional bachelor's degree in environmental science, oceanography, geology or climatology. A bachelor's degree can help you better understand the various nuances of the field.

3. Gain a master's degree and Ph.D.

Once you have a relevant bachelor's degree, you may consider expanding your knowledge base by gaining a master's degree like a master's in science. A master's degree can also play an important role in getting admission to advanced ecology courses like a Ph.D. in ecology. A bachelor's degree, a master's degree and a Ph.D. can help you show substantial educational experience to your employers during the job interviews.

4. Pursue additional courses and certificate programmes

If you plan to get a job immediately after a bachelor's degree, you may consider pursuing various diploma or certificate courses for specialised and comprehensive knowledge. Good ecology courses can help you understand topics like ecosystem dynamics, conservation, sustainability, biological diversity and other social and ecological systems. This exposure to in-depth learning can add to your resume and help you create a rewarding career in the field.

5. Work as an intern

You can consider working as an intern with industry experts who can help you acquire first-hand job experience. Internships can help you build subject awareness and you can use this knowledge when you start working as a professional in the field. Internships are a great way to perform a variety of tasks in different departments. With an internship, you can also build a network that may present job opportunities in the future.

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6. Apply for jobs

After completing your degree course, you can apply for the position of an ecologist. If you are applying as a fresher, create a resume to list out your academic achievements. You can visit the websites of the organisations that work in the field of ecology and check out if there are any openings. Fill out the job application form and write a cover letter to feature your educational accomplishments.

Related: How To Become a Marine Biologist in 6 Steps (With FAQ)

Skills Required To Become An Ecologist

Here are a few important skills that you can develop before choosing ecology as your career path:

Interest in nature

To become an ecologist, having a great interest in nature and its beings is important. An ecologist's passion towards the environment and its conservation defines their dedication towards the work. Loving their work can inspire them to achieve more.

Analytical skills

Ecologists often deal with a lot of data and analysing that data is one of their core duties. Possessing strong analytical skills can help an ecologist to efficiently compile and assess the many findings. These skills can also help them provide solutions to various problems.

Technical skills

An ecologist uses scientific equipment and advanced computer software to record and process the research data. They also create many computer models that help them virtualise an ecosystem. Having the ability to quickly learn specialised computer systems can prove to be advantageous.

Communication skills

Ecologists can work in a team and different scientists can have different theories. Possessing good communication skills can help ecologists to clearly convey their points of view. Having interpersonal skills can also help them become good listeners.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Ability to be patient and pay attention to detail

Ecologists can sometimes spend years on research with indistinct results. Being patient can help them stay focused on their goals. Their ability to pay attention to minute details can also help them come up with solutions to various problems.

Writing skills

One of the responsibilities of an ecologist is to write the findings of their research. They publish papers, share results with their colleagues and also write proposals for funding. Knowing how to do that with clarity can prove to be advantageous for them.

Work Environment Of An Ecologist

The organisations can ask ecologists to work in various fields like research or teaching. For instance, if an ecologist is working in the field, their job can require them to travel often and conduct field research. The fieldwork can take them to remote locations where the tasks can be mentally and physically challenging. Working outdoors can also involve uncomfortable situations such as extreme temperatures in deserts or heavy rainfalls in the rainforests.

An ecologist's profile can also be a desk job where they largely work on computers and laboratory equipment. Many universities also hire ecologists to teach their students subjects like chemistry, geography and earth sciences. In a teaching job, an ecologist interacts with young students and guides them towards a rewarding personal and professional life.

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Where Can Ecologists Work?

Different organisations where ecologists can work are as follows:

  • Government bodies

  • Environmental groups

  • Environmental consulting firms

  • Local organisations

  • Universities

  • Conservation agencies

  • Research institutes

  • Laboratories

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Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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