Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ECOVIEWS: Readers Inquire about Futures in Ecology

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ECOVIEWS: Readers Inquire about Futures in Ecology

Article excerpt

With schools across the country well into their first term, many youngsters are pondering what career to pursue as an adult. "How do you become an ecologist?" is a question I get often.

A recent inquiry indicates that the question is of global interest:

Q: I am 15 years old and studying in grade 11 in the British curriculum in Malaysia. I have been thinking about what career path to pursue. I want to choose a profession that I can also enjoy as a lifestyle. I have three questions for you.

As an ecologist/conservation biologist, do you consider it to be a good-paying, secure job with regard to having a family of my own and being able to provide for them a good education?

A: Yes. I have known hundreds of ecologists and conservation biologists, and most of them think they have secure and successful careers. The pay range varies considerably (as with all professions), but of course no universal correlation exists between one's happiness and one's income. Despondent millionaires and happy paupers can be found worldwide. I don't know any ecologist millionaires but most of the ecologists I do know are quite content with their lives.

Q: You once said in an article that anyone planning to be an ecologist should have a strong academic background in science, including biology, physics, chemistry, geography and computer science. Were you talking about high school or at university? Do you think the courses one takes in high school would have a significant effect on becoming an ecologist?

A: High school is a step toward college, and getting as thorough a background in science as possible can give you an advantage in college. Unfortunately, not every high school offers all of the science courses I mentioned. Nonetheless, you can prepare for college by taking as many science classes as possible in high school, learning good study habits and keeping a high grade point average. All those measures will serve you well when you enter college. If you want to become a professional ecologist, one thing that will matter is how well you do in general science and mathematics courses in college. …

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