Walter Carlson was born in Port Kells and raised in Newlands, BC. He received a BSA from UBC in 1964, specializing in animal nutrition. After obtaining an MSA degree in 1966, he pursued doctoral studies in swine nutrition at the University of Guelph and received a PhD in 1970.
Dr Carlson then joined Celanese Canada Ltd. in Edmonton as a research nutritionist. He coordinated research projects across Canada, supplied research chemicals and conducted educational seminars. In 1973 Dr Carlson left Celanese to manage his own beef ranch outside Prince George. In addition he served as a Lecturer in the UBC Interior Program from 1980-84, responsible for courses, seminars and symposia presented in the Prince George area.