pics of students in field

Prospective Undergraduate Students

Ranked one of the top programs in the nation, the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation offers educational and research programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. All students completing undergraduate degree requirements receive a Bachelor of Science in Fish and Wildlife Conservation with majors in Fish Conservation or Wildlife Conservation.

Fish Conservation Major

The Fish Conservation Major is for students interested in research and management of aquatic animals and ecosystems, including shellfish, endangered species, sport fish, and aquaculture systems.  Most graduates work for state or federal conservation agencies, environmental consulting firms, or public utilities. Options are offered for both freshwater fisheries conservation and marine fisheries conservation. Because many jobs in this field require a master’s degree, the program emphasizes preparation for graduate school.

Wildlife Conservation Major

The Wildlife Conservation Major is for students interested in research, management and conservation of terrestrial species and their habitats, including game birds and non-game birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Most graduates work for state or federal conservation agencies, environmental consulting firms, or private land management companies. Because many jobs in this field require a master’s degree, the program emphasizes preparation for graduate school.


The comprehensive curriculum covers the principles and practices of individual disciplines, along with advanced skills in communications and data analysis. Faculty specialties include endangered species management, stream ecology and management, conservation genetics, reservoir ecology, recirculating aquaculture systems, wildlife physiology and ecotoxicology, habitat analysis and management, geographic information systems, human dimensions and natural resources policy and administration.

Course Offerings

Hands-on Learning

Numerous opportunities exist for undergraduate students to gain hands-on experience through cooperative education, internships, directed research, and volunteer positions. Exchange programs exist with both American and foreign universities. The department also hosts cooperative units with the U.S. Geological Survey (Biological Resources Division), U.S. Forest Service, and works closely with a related National Park Service unit. These cooperatives provide students access to lands, waters, animals, facilities, and equipment throughout the nation.

  • First-Year Experience. This First Year Experience Course, NR 1114, provides students with the opportunity to explore a variety of career pathways from diverse programs while adjusting to and benefiting from campus life. With a focus on encouraging the engagement of the students in the work of the disciplines in the College, it helps students develop their sense of identity, relate to the College as their home, and encourage their involvement in undergraduate research, internships, study-abroad, and other relevant programs [Learn More].

  • Experiential Learning. Experiential learning can prove transformational in the development of a student. The Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation requires students to participate in an experiential learning experience within the context of an internship, undergraduate research, independent study, or study abroad course during their junior or senior year [Learn More].

  • Study Abroad. The CNRE Study Abroad Program offers students the opportunity to gain international experience through courses taught in a wide variety of countries.

  • Student Research. Most student research is conducted in field locations in Virginia and adjacent states, but current projects also occur in Mexico, Belize, Brazil, Indonesia, Botswana, Ghana, and Madagascar.

Career Opportunities

The majority of graduates go on to internships or entry-level permanent positions with state or federal government agencies that practice fish and wildlife management. Our fisheries graduates most often have been recruited by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Forest Service, and wildlife students by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • State fisheries and wildlife management agencies, especially the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and sister agencies of adjoining states,

  • Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources Division, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildilfe Services, and the National Marine Fisheries Service,

  • State agencies with environmental missions, such as the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality,

  • The private sector, including environmental consultants, forest land management companies, and aquaculture companies, and

  • Public schools, teaching environmental science, biology, or natural resources.

    Jobs held by fisheries and wildlife professionals are varied.  Following are examples, but not an exhaustive list, of options for our graduates. 

  • Fisheries and wildlife managers work with fish and wildlife populations, habitat, and people to meet societal goals for fish and wildlife conservation
  • Fisheries and wildlife scientists perform research in support of fish and wildlife conservation, often by expanding our knowledge of individual physiology or ecology, population ecology or genetics, or landscape ecology.
  • Imperiled species recovery specialists perform research to promote understanding of factors driving species declines, manage processes driving such declines, or produce captive-bred individuals to augment imperiled populations.
  • Aquaculturists propagate aquatic species for purposes of human food production, supplementing fished populations, augmenting imperiled populations, or public display in aquariums.
  • Environmental consultants perform a range of tasks for clients including private landowners, public utilities, and government agencies, ranging from water quality monitoring, to land and population management, to development of environmental impact statements for proposed major projects. 
  • Wildlife control specialists at various private-sector entities contribute expertise to animal damage control, and nuisance animal removal.
  • Environmental educators transmit knowledge and encourage intellectual growth on environmental and natural resources-related issues, not just in young people, but also in a range of life-long learners. An undergraduate degree in fisheries or wildlife conservation is well targeted for teaching environmental science, as well as general biology and ecology, to the general public.
  • A subpopulation of our students takes a degree in fisheries or wildlife conservation in order to prepare for graduate education or a career not in our own field, but rather in environmental protection, law, medicine or veterinary medicine, genetics, physiology, or nutrition, or the military.

High School Students

For more information on Virginia Tech's admission requirements & to apply, please visit The Office of Undergraduate Admission.

Transfer Students

Are you taking classes from a community college? Learn what classes will transfer by exploring the below resources.

Changing Majors?

Virginia Tech students considering changing majors should speak with an academic advisor in the Academic Program Office(RM 138), before submitting a change of major/minor form.

Student Life

What is Virginia Tech really like? Learn about campus life and explore Blacksburg.

Get Involved

The Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation has active student chapters of both the American Fisheries Society and The Wildlife Society. Student organizations provide students with opportunities for community outreach, connecting with fellow classmates, networking, and serving in leadership roles. Find out more:


There are a number of scholarships available for students within the department and college. Most scholarships have need-based and/or merit-based restrictions with varying award amounts.

Visit Us

Visiting the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation

The College of Natural Resources and Environment offers information sessions on Monday through Friday at 11:15 a.m. in 138 Cheatham Hall. These sessions are designed to give parents and students a brief overview of the college and departments.

Information Sessions Location

Cheatham Hall, RM 138, Virginia Tech
310 West Campus Drive
Blacksburg, VA, 24061
(540) 231-3486

Arranging a VT Campus Tour—Virginia Tech Admissions offers an array of information and services to help you get the most out a visit to campus.

Campus Guide—Directions to Virginia Tech, accommodations, dining, and more.

VT Parking Services—Parking rules and regulations, updates on lot availability and universal access maps and information

About Blacksburg—Virginia Tech’s Guide to Blacksburg, Virginia



Dana Keith
Assistant to Department Head
Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Cheatham Hall, RM100, Virginia Tech
310 West Campus Drive (MC0321)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Phone: (540) 231-5573
Fax: (540) 231-7580


Dr. Sarah Karpanty 
Graduate Program Coordinator 

Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Cheatham Hall, RM150, Virginia Tech
310 West Campus Drive (MC0321)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Phone: (540) 231-4586
Fax: (540) 231-7580


Stephanie Lang, Director
The Advising Center
Cheatham Hall, RM138, Virginia Tech
310 West Campus Drive (MC0321)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Phone: (540) 231-5482 Email:

An introduction to the activities that go on in the College of Natural Resources and Environment.

Student Perspective: Undergraduate Research on bears