Breaking Into a Career in Nature Conservation; Advice from the Professionals

All employers need a diverse range of skills”  ¦ “Make yourself known” ¦“Employers look for species identification skills”

Whether you have just completed your University degree in Ecology or Environmental Science, or simply have a passion for nature and the environment, it can often be a struggle to find paid work in nature conservation. Here, wildlife professionals in the conservation sector give words of encouragement and advice, to help you take the necessary steps to break into a career in nature conservation.

SIMON ROPER, DIRECTOR OF AMBIOS LTD

“You can work in nature conservation whatever you’re interested in studying.  All employers need a diverse range of skills.  From leadership to project management to public engagement (communication) to volunteer management to finances to human resources to photography to media liaison to teaching and learning … and more – whatever you want to do, gain at least some experience of nature (a species or a habitat) and tell that story at application and interview stages.”

PHIL BURTON, ECOLOGIST AND MEMBER OF THE AMBIOS TEAM

“Employers look for species identification skills.  Seek out local naturalists via your county biological records centre and join them during their many different forays … you’ll learn unforgettable species identification skills across a range of taxa while getting yourself known to a connected network of nature conservationists and potential employers.  These skills will underpin any application you make and will show a commitment and eagerness to get involved and learn.  Find a taxon that you are interested in and learn all there is to know … that way, you’ll always be sought after as the ‘Go to Specialist’.”

AKOS KLEIN, THE BARN OWL FOUNDATION (HUNGARY)

“A sound local wildlife knowledge and a broad global awareness of our world makes us able to follow the classic advice: Act locally, think globally. Employers are and will be seeking employees who have a good understanding of global economic, social, political and environmental issues. Keep your eyes on these subjects and you will be able to better prioritise what is essential and effective in your local everyday conservation work. This approach will prove your holistic view!”

JACK SEWELL, MARINE BIOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION

“Make yourself known to the people you want to work with/ for – Attend events, conferences, workshops and volunteer. Take these opportunities to talk to people and demonstrate your abilities and passion. When they read your job applications they will associate it with you – a real person. Think about your other skills and qualifications and how they can help put you above and beyond other applicants. Develop your ability to ‘sell’ these skills to the kind of organisations you want to work with. For example, do you have artistic skills or experience as a speaker, first aider or computer whizz? These skills can make you a valuable asset, especially in a small organisation.”

FRASER RUSH, TRAINER WITH AMBIOS LTD

“Don’t rely on your formal education alone. Degree ? MSc ? PhD? not enough; you still need to prove to a potential employer that you have commitment, knowledge and enthusiasm; qualities which you won’t get from academia. If you haven’t spent a huge chunk of your spare time volunteering on nature reserves or developing a fanatical interest in a particular taxon or helping your local biodiversity records centre with surveys or maybe even just answering the phone and making the tea at your local wildlife charity, your application will look worse than that of someone who has.”