Are you interested in evolution and gaining an understanding of how natural living systems function and evolve? Is it important to you to know how these systems can be managed to conserve while providing benefits to people? Depending on what college campus you walk onto, an ecology, evolution, systematics and population biology program can have a diverse number of names which all lead to a similar outcome.
There is the evolution, ecology and population biology program at the school of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis; the systematics, ecology and evolution program at Louisiana State University (LSU) in the department of biological sciences; and the ecology, evolution and environmental biology program at Columbia University – just to name a few. But no matter how you arrange the words, they all have one common theme: they offer insight into where life – human and plant – came from and where it is going.
What is great about ecology and evolutionary biology is that they are highly integrative disciplines. And ecologists and evolutionary biologists use them to explain past and present patterns of abundance, distribution, and diversity of organisms. You can become part of this fascinating world of science by familiarizing yourself with a broad range of knowledge and specialized fields, from molecular and population genetics to the mechanisms and history of plate tectonics.
While many colleges and universities offer courses in subjects such as ecology or biology, to enter an ecology, evolution, systematics and population biology degree program is to commit to a very specific educational focus: ecology and evolution.
Now while you may find that you will need to take courses such as chemistry, physiology, biology, calculus, physics and statistics, depending on the college or university you attend, you may also study topics such as:
Though there are a few undergraduate degree programs in ecology and evolution, such as the ecology and evolution program offered by the University of California, Santa Barbara, traditionally this program is offered only at the graduate degree level. You may decide on entering ecology and evolution as a specialized undergraduate program or you might want to consider getting an undergraduate degree in a life science – biology, anthropology, chemistry – before moving on for your Master degree or Doctorate degree in ecology, evolution, systematics and population biology.
In addition, there are related certificate programs in topics such as conservation biology and environmental policy.
After you have conquered the books and gained technical knowledge about science and math, you’ll want to be sure to develop the skills necessary help you in your career. Skill sets your degree program should provide you include:
If you’re considering a career as a biological scientist, you’ve made a good choice. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employment growth will likely be much faster than in other occupations – around 21% over the next few years. On the other hand, conservation scientists can expect their growth rate during the same period to be about average – 12%.
While you can take some of your undergraduate courses via online college – make sure the credits transfer – for the best course of study you’ll want to attend a brick-and-mortar college.
Typically students who pursue an undergrad program in ecology and evolution do so in order to prepare for further graduate studies which ultimately lead to academic research or teaching positions. However, with a graduate degree you may also choose to work in technical and consultative positions within the industry or in government agencies where you would be involved with environmental assessment and devising ways to use and improve natural resources as you safeguard the environment.