Advice for ecology students
Conservation is an exciting, constantly changing and challenging field of work. It is a competitive area but there are ways to boost your chances of getting a job.
There are 3 main areas of ecological work outside of academia:
Ecological or environmental consultancy
Companies that provide ecological services for developers and government organisations. Work includes surveys and problem solving to ensure developers comply with current policy and law whilst still being able to develop their project.
Local Authorities, Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Government all have ecology departments. These organisations have duties to conserve biodiversity as part of their work, so work is varied and can include: policy development, survey work, practical site management, public awareness raising and advising developers/general public.
Mainly charities such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust. These concentrate mostly on management of areas of land to conserve its wildlife and habitats, awareness raising and policy development.
Top 10 Tips
The more experience you have the better. The best way to get this is to volunteer. Most of the voluntary sector organisations have volunteering days or groups that you can join, long term volunteer placements or volunteer holidays.
Final Year Project
Working with British wildlife or habitats as part of your final year project will make you more employable in the British market than if you studied abroad.
If you can afford it, join a professional institute such as the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. This will give you access to advice, jobs and will keep you up to date on recent legislation/policy changes and research.
Your degree may not train you in identification skills. So take every chance to develop such skills by attending courses run by conservation organisations.
Certain protected species require licences from the Welsh Government or Natural Resources Wales to allow you to survey/handle them, e.g. Great crested newts, bats, dormice. So if you can go on any courses that could lead to a licence it will make you more employable, particularly to ecological consultancies. In respect to bats you need to be trained by a mentor and it can take several years, so the sooner you start the better. Contact the Bat Conservation Trust for further information. Licensed bat workers are few and far between so putting on your CV that you are currently undertaking training towards a bat licence will be a bonus.
MSc study can often help to fill gaps in undergraduate study. Make sure your project will be relevant and helpful to the sector and look for projects based with environmental/biodiversity related organisations as you will be ideally situated if any jobs come up whilst you are there.
Be prepared to work short–term contracts and move around the country to get work. In this field of work graduates often take up short-term contracts over a summer, for example, to help in survey or relocation projects for consultancies. Also, many organisations rely on grant money which is often short term. But this is all good experience that will certainly help you get a permanent job or a job closer to home in coming years.
Not many people are good in interviews. The key to any interview is not to panic. There is plenty of advice on the internet on how to handle interviews. Always look at the employing organisation's website to see what plans / projects they're involved in. Also, don’t read too much into the questions – always state the obvious as this may be all that is required. If you haven’t got experience in a certain area of work just try to be enthusiastic about learning new things and try and give examples of other skills or experience that may be related or shows that you can tackle new things.
Get any job
If you have a job already you have proven that you are employable, turn up for work on time, etc. So employers will look at this favourably. If you can’t get an ecology job straight away any job will do as long as you keep up your volunteer work in your spare time.
Don’t give up
Once you get into an ecology job doors do open. You will find it easier to get a job that you want.