Online ecology degrees: What you’ll study, career outcomes and more

October 03, 2023 · 4 min read · By ASU Online
Get the details on what ecology majors study, the different areas of focus, career opportunities for ecologists and the online bachelor’s degree that can prepare you for the field.

What is ecology the study of?

Ecology is the scientific study of relationships between living organisms and the patterns that impact the behavior of the biosphere. It examines how organisms interact with each other and with non-living components of their environment. The study of ecology is a big contributor when researching environmental issues such as climate change, ocean acidification and loss of species diversity.

Some ecologists are drawn to the field because of the chance to work with animals, keep animal populations strong and advance our understanding of their living habits. Other ecologists seek to improve farming resilience and understand how weather changes impact agriculture. The field of ecology is diverse, which allows you the opportunity to build career paths that are unique to your scientific interests.


Different types of ecology

The categories within ecology take on their own specific approaches to the subject, while also providing research for the other scientists within the field. For example, marine ecology makes use of conservation ecology, while microbial ecology applies the insights of population ecology.

The following subdivisions represent the major fields of study and work in ecology:

  • Conservation ecology: The use of ecological knowledge to determine the best ways of conserving the integrity of ecosystems and strengthening living populations.
  • Marine ecology: The study of ecosystems and biological relationships in the world's oceans, lakes and rivers.
  • Microbial ecology: The study of ecosystems and biological relationships at the level of single-celled organisms.
  • Population ecology: The study of how large groups of a single species behave over time, and how those behaviors relate to their natural environment.
  • Systems ecology: The study of mostly non-living elements of the environment, and how those elements affect life and the biosphere.
  • Terrestrial ecology: The study of ecosystems and biological relationships on land.


The types of jobs ecology majors are prepared for

The study of ecology is a diverse field that can lead to roles working in governments, private businesses or non-profit organizations. Ecologists can choose to work hands-on in the field, behind the scenes in an office setting or conducting research in a laboratory.

An ecology degree student sets up a trap camera on a mountainside.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of environmental scientists and specialists is expected to grow 6% from 2022 to 2023, which is faster than average for all occupations. Additionally, the median annual salary for these professionals is $76,480 as of May 2022.

Examples of roles ecology graduates may pursue include:

  • Ecological sciences professional: Ecology is a complex discipline, and the science itself requires reinvestment to continue advancing. These professionals are often employed by universities and work as professional research scientists, lecturers or both.
  • Environmental consultant: Environmental consultants focus on reducing organizations' environmental impacts and ensuring their operations aren’t harming natural habitats. This role encompasses ecological consulting in both the public and private sectors.
  • Natural resource manager: This occupation involves monitoring and protecting the state of a particular ecosystem, often through investigating certain environmental factors. Natural resource managers routinely monitor the populations of various species and use their observations to determine how living and non-living natural resources should be controlled.
  • Park naturalist: Distinct from a park ranger, a park naturalist generally interacts with the public and provides educational services. They might be tasked with enforcing park rules at times, but they are more specifically responsible for making sure visitors know why the rules are there, and why it's important that they be respected.
  • Restoration ecologist: Restoration ecologists are hired to help undo damage that's already been done, which makes them one of the most important professionals in the field of conservation. Their duties can range from designing rehabilitation programs for oil-slicked areas of water to supporting the repopulation of habitats in overly clear-cut-area forests.


Earn your online ecology degree at Arizona State University

Earning a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences with a concentration in conservation biology and ecology prepares you for a variety of careers focused on solving complex environmental and ecological challenges that impact Earth’s organisms and ecosystems. This bachelor’s degree includes the biological sciences core curriculum with an applied focus on conservation biology and ecology courses.

You’ll take general science courses to build a foundation of knowledge, such as general chemistry, biology and statistics. Then, you’ll complete courses focused on the concentration, such as Conservation of Biodiversity and Fundamentals of Ecology. You’ll also have the opportunity to customize your skill set based on your interests through electives including Oceanology or Animal Behavior.

This bachelor’s degree can also be completed as part of an Accelerated Master’s program. When accepted, you can earn a Master of Science in Biology in as little as one year after completing your undergraduate degree. This opportunity saves you time and money while giving you advanced knowledge in your field.

Everything you need to know about ASU Online classes and degree programs

We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


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