Conservation is a wide and varied field and understanding what skills you might need to improve your chances of getting a job can be hard when you are faced with the overwhelming number of articles you find on Google. Here, we have tried to simplify the searching process for you by compiling a list of resources we have found helpful as conservationists. This selection is not comprehensive, but may help to focus your efforts when searching for a job in conservation. Although many of the resources presented here will be useful for undergraduate and MSc students, early-career conservationists or aspiring conservationists without a degree may also find this of use.
We are always looking to improve and expand this resource so suggestions are welcome! If you have anything you’d like us to add or something you want us to cover, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conservation job opportunities
So, you’ve decided you want to work in conservation! Where can you find a job though? Below, we have compiled some of the best websites where you can find job opportunities, internships or volunteer work specifically in the field of ecology and conservation.
This is probably the most comprehensive career advice resource specifically for aspiring conservationists with a wealth of information on how to change careers, get into conservation or gain experience, in addition to advertising training courses and jobs. Conservation Careers also offers training courses (that you need to pay for) for those wishing to get into conservation or to accelarate their conservation career.
2. Scottish Natural Heritage Vacancies
Formerly known as Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), NatureScot is Scotland’s nature agency involved in protecting the natural environment and biodiversity. NatureScot is directly involved in informing policy and is linked to the Scottish government. There are a range of opportunities advertised throughout the year, including graduate placements advertised in the spring.
The Wildlife Trusts are composed of many different independent charities that believe wildlife is important for humans and we have a duty to protect it. If you want to be involved in saving rare species, education, fundraising, working at a visitor centre or in community engagement, there are a wealth of opportunities advertised year-round all over the UK.
The RSPB prides itself on being the largest nature conservation charity in the UK and has many opportunities nationwide. Although they focus on birds, there are opportunities that involve working with other species, protecting important habitats or working with people. Have a look and see if anything sparks joy!
5. Environment job portal
Environment jobs is probably one of the best resources to have in your arsenal when looking for a job in conservation. They compile job opportunities for the UK (and further afield!) from many different websites so if you only look at one place, look here! You can even tailor your search to your qualification level, what region you want to work in, whether you want temporary, part-time or full-time work and what sector you want to work in. Not only that, but they also advertise training courses to help maximise your chances of getting a position.
6. Indeed.com – set your search terms, e.g. ecology, conservation, ecologist
If you’ve ever searched for jobs, chances are you’ve come across indeed.com, which is one of the best ways to find advertised positions since it is free to post jobs and apply for them. Make sure to refine your search by using terms like ‘ecology’, ‘conservation’ or ‘ecologist’. You’ll find a range of positions available from zookeeper to conservation officer to principal ecologist.
Note for students! If you are at university, check to see if there any job opportunities posted in your career hub. This can be a particularly good way of finding jobs, internships and graduate opportunities within your university.
Gaining experience and volunteering
Sometimes, it may seem tricky to find the ‘right’ kind of conservation experience and maybe you don’t know where to start. It doesn’t have to be complicated and here we will discuss the different ways you can gain experience. While there are many volunteering opportunities abroad to gain experience, we have chosen not to list these here since many require high fees, which makes them quite inaccessible. Instead, you can try and find opportunities local to you. Be creative! It doesn’t necessarily have to be strictly related to conservation, but even running events, or volunteering for a university society gives you great transferable skills. Here are some UK-wide ideas to get you started:
- RSPB Volunteering Opportunities
Although quite quiet at the moment, there are usually many opportunities to get involved with the RSPB. While focused on birds, they also help wildlife in general.
- The Conservation Volunteers
The Conservation Volunteers are a great option for anyone looking to get outdoors and gain some hands-on, practical experience. Activities include tree-planting, building footpaths, gardening etc. This is also a great way to connect with a greater community.
- The Wildlife Trusts Volunteers
Although all volunteering opportunities are on hold at the moment, this should open up again soon. You can get involved in ecological surveying, nature reserve care, GPS mapping, community gardening as well as more desk-based administrative tasks.
- Nature Volunteers
Here you can search for suitable volunteer projects. There is not that much at the moment, but maybe this will pick up soon.
- Environment Job Portal – Volunteering
Great website for finding conservation jobs, volunteering opportunities and courses. User-friendly and a great range of options.
- NatureScot Volunteering Opportunities
NatureScot is one of the main organisations helping to conserve the natural heritage and biodiversity of Scotland. You can fill in a form to find out more about volunteering.
If you aren’t having any luck with finding open opportunities or positions online, it’s worth a shot to send out some emails to groups and people who are doing things you are interested in. This could be a wildlife shelter, a PhD student or professor who is doing some fieldwork or a nature reserve manager or ranger. They are usually very happy to help and if they don’t have any opportunities, will usually point you in the right direction or forward your email to someone else.
In an email, make sure to include:
- Why you are interested and what you think you might gain from working with them.
- What skills and experience you have that may be of benefit to them.
- Updated CV- it doesn’t hurt to attach this. The worst that can happen is they won’t read it if they are not interested.
- Make sure you don’t just copy and paste the same email to a bunch of different organisations. Make it personalised to the person you are reaching out to and show you have done at least some research.
One of the trickier parts of gaining conservation or research experience is having the funds to do it.
Some organisations will fund an independent research project of yours through grants.
- British Ecological Society Training and Travel Grants
The BES offers a travel grant for PhD students or postgraduate researchers seeking additional funding for specialist training courses. Check back in July to apply!
- Next Generation Bursary scheme:
Scholarships from the BES offered to support aspiring ecologists without the finances to pursue this.
- Royal Society of Biology List of scholarships:
Here is an excellent resource for scholarships available to aspiring ecologists and conservationists put together by the Royal Society of Biology. Many applications close before May to allow a summer internship for undergraduates.