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A bachelor's degree, at a minimum, usually is required to become a naturalist, and there might be more specific requirements for particular jobs within this field. Some naturalists focus on observation and study of nature to develop new understanding of the natural environment. Others work as environmental educators and convey information about nature to members of the public. Depending on what kind of naturalist a person wants to be, the steps for entering this career can be quite different.
In either case, someone who wants to become a naturalist needs a bachelor's degree in natural science, environmental studies, biology or a related field. High school students can get a head start on college by taking as many electives as possible and pursuing jobs or internships with naturalists in their area. Many nature camps use high school students as counselors, for instance, and this can provide learning opportunities as well as experience.
While in college to become a naturalist, a student might want to consider applying for internships. The department office might have information about various job offerings. A naturalist internship might offer work for parks and other recreation areas as an educator, and another might provide a chance to participate in ongoing research. More advanced students can also start their own research projects. For a student who intends to go to graduate school, it also is important to develop research plans, because these will determine where he or she should apply.
A college graduate who has an interest in public outreach and education can become a naturalist at an educational facility. This work might require passing a background check, because environmental educators work with children and other vulnerable populations. Basic first aid training is beneficial, as are skills in a second language, because a bilingual naturalist can reach more populations. It helps to have good communication skills and a passion for nature to work in facilities such as parks, museums and educational camps.
Someone who has become a naturalist to participate in research might be able to find work with private organizations, government agencies and educational institutions such as colleges and universities. Research often includes fieldwork, because naturalists tend to focus heavily on observation to collect information, rather than experimental research. Some lab work can also play a role, because naturalists might need to dissect and analyze samples as part of their work. It can help to join a scientific organization to keep up with developments in the field and access professional networking opportunities such as conferences.