Environmental protection and conservation
Working directly to preserve biodiversity in a range of settings from scientific labs to nature reserves.
Recognition of the part that biodiversity can play in addressing climate change, and enhanced public appreciation of the natural environment, keep the profile of roles in this sector high. Nature restoration is a key priority, with over £30 million of funding from the Scottish Government invested in projects across Scotland since 2021. This Nature Restoration Fund, administered by NatureScot, aims to restore species and habitats and address biodiversity loss and climate change.
Jobs in this field range from working in a nature reserve, national park or site of special scientific interest, to undertaking scientific research in the field or in a laboratory.
Employers can include public bodies such as NatureScot, charitable organisations such as the National Trust or the RSPB, research institutes, universities and education and research bodies. There is also scope to work in independent ecological consultancies, or as part of the ecology team in large civil engineering firms or local authorities.
A degree in a relevant subject will be necessary for most of these roles - but there will be opportunities to work for these organisations, and so contribute to their goals, in other, office-based, roles.
What's it like?
These links to profiles of common occupations in this sector give insight into roles and working conditions. For all these roles, a large proportion of your time is likely to be spent in the field - both rural and urban areas.
For a great overview of the variety of roles and some inspiring case studies, take a look at the Green Jobs for Nature site, created by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM).
Relevant work experience is very important. This will often be volunteering in a field-based role, demonstrating your commitment and showing that you understand what it's like to work outdoors in all weathers.
There are also some opportunities to volunteer remotely, for example working with data or by taking part in surveys, to supplement field-based volunteering.
How to get conservation experience YouTube; 1 minute; Conservation Careers
Find local activities, and get involved in relevant Students' Association societies for example Dirty Weekenders - check for others.
The Conservation Volunteers website shows local communities and volunteering opportunities.
Countryside Jobs Service (CJS) - advertises volunteering opportunities and vacancies in the countryside, conservation and environmental fields, some of them part-time or short-term.
Watch this recording, from Countryside Jobs Service:
Environmentjob – volunteering opportunities and vacancies
NatureScot - information and volunteering opportunities
Also see the organisations listed below in Getting a graduate job. Many of these offer volunteering opportunities as well as paid employment. Volunteering for an organisation can give you access to some vacancies which aren't widely advertised.
A postgraduate qualification may be required, especially for some specialist roles, and may help you to stand out in what is a competitive sector. This would need to be in combination with work experience. Speak to people working in the sector you are targeting and research job descriptions to explore the potential benefits of pursuing postgraduate study.
Getting a graduate job
A genuine interest in the environment is essential, evidenced by substantial work experience. If this closely relates to the area you are applying for, for example in the same location or with a focus on the same species, so much the better. Moving into your first paid role can take time and it’s not uncommon for new graduates to spend some time after graduation building up their experience by volunteering.
Some ecologist roles require knowledge of specific survey techniques and species identification. See the training courses advertised on Countryside Jobs Service and Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) to get an idea of what they cover.
Some roles will have other specific requirements such as GIS skills.
You should also check for vacancy listings in many of the sites above, especially Countryside Jobs Service and Environmentjob.
MyCareerHub lists current vacancies and relevant organisations.
ENDS (Environmental Data Services) Directory - use this to find ecological consultancies. Includes small consultancies which are less likely to advertise on major job sites. A good way to find consultancies to target with speculative applications.
NatureScot - Scotland's Nature Agency; offers graduate placements and practical placements
Natural England - jobs are advertised on the Civil Service job site.
Green Jobs - vacancy website with of all kinds environmental jobs.
Membership of a relevant professional body gives access to resources and networking opportunities.
Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) - is the professional institute supporting professionals in the fields of ecology and environmental management.
British Ecological Society is one example of an organisation which offers grants to postgraduate students to develop their skills by attending field training courses or conferences.