How to Become a Naturalist

How to Become a Naturalist: Career Guide 

Becoming a naturalist is an excellent career choice for those who connect with people and nature; naturalists get to observe nature and communicate the importance of our natural resources to people using various programs and activities.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in a career as a naturalist. We've also included helpful information for a naturalist career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Naturalist

If you want to become a naturalist, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree in a field such as environmental science, forestry, botany, outdoor recreation or similar fields. Courses such as ornithology, plant taxonomy and urban planning can be very helpful towards your future career.


Ensure that while you are in school you maintain an open mind and ask a lot of questions from teachers working in the field. If you show an interest in becoming a naturalist, they will likely give you a lot of helpful tips.


Success Tip: Ask your professors if they are aware of any internship or summer job opportunities in the field!




Naturalist Job Description

Naturalists, also known as "Park and Wildlife Naturalists" are scientists who help people gain an appreciation for the natural world and our environment. They act as a link between the knowledge students acquire in school and real challenges involved in protecting plants and animals that live in the wild.


Naturalists participate in projects aimed at protecting and preserving geographical areas such as forests, parks, rivers and wetlands. Such projects may include teaching people how sustainable ecosystems can be established and maintained. 



Naturalist Job Duties

• Develop lesson plans related to demonstrate the effect that human activity has on the environment

• Teach students and any other interested parties how to protect the environment

• Teach students and any other interested parties about climate change and weather patterns

• Answer questions from students, organizations, and the general public

• May provide consulting and advising services for government agencies, non-profit organizations and companies


Who Hires Naturalists?

Naturalists are public sector employees and are typically hired by government departments at all levels (municipal, provincial/state and federal). Examples of typical names for government agencies and departments that create naturalist jobs and hire naturalists include:


• Parks and Recreation Department (Municipal government)

• Ministry of Environment (Provincial Government)

• Department of Natural Resources (Federal Government)

• Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (Federal Government)

• Parks Canada (Federal Government)





Prepare for a Career as a Naturalist in High School

If you want to become a naturalist, there are things you can do long before you set foot in a university classroom. Here are a few tips:


Explore the landscape around you: Take a look at the surroundings of your neighbourhood or area; can you imagine what they looked like many years ago, and what forces have shaped them into what they are today? Thinking about, and subsequently learning, what it looked like and what used to live there can help you develop research and analytical thinking skills you can apply to your future career as a naturalist.


Practice observing nature: Sketch or take notes of what animals you see and where. This ‘note taking’ will help you develop the ability to closely observe your natural surroundings.


Practice research: Is there anything that interests you about nature, natural resource history or your landscape, such as where the rabbits you see in your neighbourhood sleep? If so, go to the library or conduct an internet search (using credible sources) to find out about the topic. This will help you develop much needed research skills, as naturalists must be knowledgeable in many areas concerning nature. 


Attend programs at parks: While you attend these programs, ask the naturalists working there what they did to become a naturalist, they will be able to give you some great advice.



Successful Characteristics of Naturalists

Not all naturalist jobs are the same, as not all parks and wildlife areas are the same, nor are the governments that administer them. Most naturalist jobs are quite similar however, as they share a fair amount of common traits. Because of this, the personality characteristics needed to become a naturalist is fairly consistent. Below are examples of some of these skills:


Natural curiosity and appreciation of nature: Those who become naturalists are typically very curious about nature, most of them don’t just simply get a job as a naturalist for the sake of paying bills.


Demonstrate initiative: Part of the job of a naturalist is to initiate activities and make things happen in order to inform others about how to protect our natural resources. For example, a naturalist might initiate a project to work with community members to clean up part of a river.


Enjoy being active: Naturalists are frequently involved in outdoor tours and activities. They may lead forest hikes or rock climbs, or they may lead other activities such as games. Most naturalist positions are however accessible to people with disabilities, as the terrain is not always rough or difficult to access.


Connect with people: In order to effectively communicate the importance of protecting our natural resources, you must be able to connect with people and relate to them. 



Careers Similar to Naturalist

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to that of a naturalist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Conservation Officer

Environmental Education Officer

Environmental Impact Assessment Specialist

Parks Planner

Wildlife Manager



References: Naturalist Career

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a naturalist.


Occupations in Alberta:Interpretive Naturalist.” (September 22, 2009). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 5, 2020.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Conservation Scientists and Foresters.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 5, 2020.

Career Profile:Naturalist.” (n.d.). ECO Canada website. Retrieved January 5, 2020.

Job:Park Naturalist.” Kathleen Harris (n.d.) Environmental Education for Kids website. Retrieved January 5, 2020.



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Scholarships for Becoming a Naturalist

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Naturalist can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Naturalist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a naturalist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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