I was browsing job announcements a week or so ago and one caught my eye: the state is looking for a wildlife biologist. Well over a decade ago, I worked as a wildlife biologist. It didn’t pay much but I loved the job and had to move on as we expanded our family. Work was no picnic; you had long hours in bad weather conditions (especially when caring for animals) and had expansive duties (vehicle and equipment maintenance, chemical management, computer systems administration etc. etc.) but we enjoyed the work despite often eating overtime (we frequently didn’t have a budget to pay overtime, so we wouldn’t claim it).
Any way back to the job posting. I was shocked when I saw the pay for the job: $16.31 an hour. In all these years the pay has barely budged – it has only increased about 8.7%. That certainly doesn’t keep up with inflation over all that time. Wildlife biologist jobs are highly competitive – you need a minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree plus several years of experience (in the job announcement they want five years direct experience, it used to be only two). Often the Bachelor’s degree isn’t enough and you need the Master’s degree for an entry-level position…earning $16.30/hr. It’s so competitive that I remember being beat out by a PhD for such an entry level job!
As I said, despite very tight finances, I loved the job but I have no idea how anyone can do it now – especially with the housing bubble we see now. They don’t give you a vehicle outside of work duties and they no longer let your family come out with you during field surveys etc. (hopefully that has changed but I doubt the liability lawyers will allow it – it was one of the few benefits that helped compensate for the lack of compensation). No one has taken notice of this and I bet the jobs are highly competitive. I suppose biologist still scrape by (more so now then ever) and find happiness in the job. When I was in, people didn’t complain as we all knew the low pay when we were earning our degree and gaining experience – we just found happiness in the job and if pay wasn’t enough, I moved on without begrudging anyone.
Compare that to the teachers’ lobby. Politicians cater to them, they have a huge political machine and they certainly don’t go unnoticed. I hear constant complaining and protests (plus strike threats). Yet they come out of school and get a $40k/year job but work 9.5 months for it. It would be nice if someone would take notice of the biologists who knowingly go into a low paying, competitive field and don’t gripe constantly about what they knew they were getting into.