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ECC students catching fish in nets in river

People who work in conservation love being outdoors. They also work well with people and have good communication skills. Working conditions vary considerably and are often physically demanding. Although some of the work is solitary, foresters and conservation scientists also deal regularly with landowners, loggers, forestry technicians and aides, farmers, ranchers, government official special interest groups, and the public in general.

Wildlife biologists study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems, including the physical characteristics of animals, animal behaviors, and the impacts humans have on wildlife and natural habitats. Conservation scientists and foresters manage overall land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources.


Nearly two-thirds of salaried conservation scientists and foresters work for federal, state or local governments. Other top employers include colleges and universities, and consulting firms. States with the highest number of jobs in this field include Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Alaska; top paying states for this career field are Connecticut, Alabama, Massachusetts, New York and Louisiana. Job titles include Conservation Scientist, Forester, Park Ranger, Conservationist, Naturalist, Park Manager, Resource Technician, Vegetation Specialist, Operations Supervisor, Park Attendant, Educator.

Most job openings will result from the number of workers who leave jobs on a seasonal basis and from retirements. Demand for forest and conservation workers increases as more land is set aside to protect natural resources or wildlife habitats. In addition, jobs may be created by federal legislation designed to prevent destructive wildfires. Increasing pressure for the U.S. Forest Service to undertake major road repair may also result in higher levels of employment.


ECC’s two-year Associate of Arts (AA) transfer degree is designed to meet the requirements of colleges and universities to which students may wish to transfer for completion of baccalaureate (BA or BS) degrees. In many instances, transfer colleges accept this degree as equivalent to their own general education requirements. Because the requirements for an AA degree change periodically, students should check with their academic advisor or the ECC Admissions Office to confirm that they have the most current information. Students are responsible for knowing the requirements for the degree they hope to obtain and for planning their schedule accordingly.

The majority of ECC’s Wildlife/Fisheries/Forestry majors transfer to Upper Iowa University, the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University, the University of Wisconsin and South Dakota State University; others have transferred successfully to a number of other colleges.

Admissions Partnership Program with Iowa State, UNI and Iowa

ECC participates in the Admissions Partnership Program with Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa to enable ECC students to transfer credits seamlessly to any of the state universities. Participants are dual-enrolled at ECC and the university with access to academic advising and student services at both institutions. The universities guarantee admission into the desired degree program, provided all requirements are met. Ask the ECC Admissions Office for more information!

The Ellsworth Experience

Here’s what you can look forward to in ECC’s Wildlife/Fisheries/Forestry program:

  • Enjoy the vast majority of your classes and activities outdoors. You’ll spend LOTS of time at Calkins Nature Area & Interpretive Center, a 76-acre natural resource located along the Iowa River just three miles from campus. It’s ECC’s “outdoor laboratory” for studying woodland, wetland and prairie ecosystems.
  • Hands-on activities include fish shocking, monitoring wildlife populations, fish sampling in streams, bald eagle surveying, re-establishing prairies, building wildflower (and other) seed collections, and more.
  • Master the identity of every tree and bush native to Iowa, and its role in the ecosystem.
  • Explore and help maintain the ECC Natural History Museum (housed at Calkins Interpretive Center), an extensive collection of more than 600 mounted mammal and bird specimens, an avian egg collection, a mussel collection from the Iowa River, an assortment of rocks/minerals/fossils, and many native North American artifacts.
  • Gain a hands-on understanding of current field technology, including Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
  • Care for injured and orphaned wildlife as part of the Animal Care & Rehabilitation class.
  • Local field trips include activities like astronomy, canoeing, fishing, bird watching, frog and toad surveying, monarch tagging, and exploring beautiful and unique landscapes.
  • Regional field trips feature zoos, museums and wildlife refuges.
  • Gain summer on-the-job work experiences with conservation agencies for a practical application of your ECC coursework.
  • Meet many Iowa conservation professionals, who will help you develop a resume and cover letter and practice your interviewing skills.
  • Participate in social and outdoor activities through ECC’s Conservation Club. Includes regular meetings, pizza parties and picnics, field trips, and community service projects (building bird houses, planting trees, assisting Hardin and Franklin County Conservation Boards with special events).

There’s more …

  • ECC currently has the 17th highest student success rate (graduation rate + transfer rate) of any community college in the nation.
  • The College offers generous scholarships and financial aid packages, which is why our graduates have one of the lowest average student debt loads of any college in Iowa, public or private, two-year or four year!
  • What students appreciate about ECC is our smaller class sizes, which results in more one-on-one attention from the instructor and greater classroom success.
  • Professor Nancy Slife is a proud ECC alumni with a genuine love of nature that is quickly conveyed to her students. Once you’ve met Nancy, you’re hooked!

Degree(s) Awarded