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Article: Environmental Work


This article covers the following jobs:

  • Biologist
  • Countryside Manager
  • Countryside Ranger/Warden
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Conservation Officer
  • Marine Biologist
  • Recycling Officer
  • Soil Scientist
  • Water Keeper/Water Bailiff.

The job descriptions are only a brief summary. You should find out more about the jobs that interest you.

Video: - Various: Environmental Work

Research and advice

Research means studying something to find out more about it and to reach conclusions.

Environmental research is a very large area. It includes looking into climate change, and what we can do to reduce damage to the environment.

Scientists are involved in laboratory research, as well as fieldwork to collect samples and carry out experiments.


Biologists study all living things, from plants and animals to micro-organisms, and how they relate to each other and to their environment.

They carry out laboratory research and fieldwork, using their findings to solve problems or develop new products and processes in a very wide range of areas.

In environmental work, biologists could be managing a conservation area; studying endangered species and advising on how best to protect them; monitoring the effects of pollution on rivers and wildlife; or predicting how a new road development might affect local ecosystems.

Most entrants have at least a first degree, either in a general biology subject (such as biological sciences or applied biology) or in one of the very many specialist areas, such as zoological science, biotechnology, biomedical science, ecology or botany.


Ecologists study how organisms relate to one another and to their environment. Human activity can damage the complex and delicate relationships between organisms.

Some ecologists provide advice to the government, landowners and the general public, on issues such as:

  • conservation
  • protecting species
  • pest control
  • urban and rural development.

For example, an ecologist working for a local authority might be involved in the planning of a new road, finding the route that will cause the least environmental damage.

Ecologists might have long-term responsibility for a conservation area, protecting against pollution and vandalism, and perhaps providing information to visitors.

In the laboratory, they identify and analyse samples collected in fieldwork, for example, finding the type, concentration and source of pollution in a river.

To become an ecologist, you usually need to complete a relevant degree or postgraduate qualification.

Soil Scientist

Soil scientists survey and map soils, and produce information on soil qualities and properties. They use their research to support the best use of available land.

Their work can be applied in a variety of areas, such as agriculture, forestry, land recovery, waste disposal and civil engineering.

They find out about the qualities and properties of soil by examining sites, taking soil samples for laboratory analysis, and using computers to make maps and models.

The direct route into this career is a degree in soil science, or one that includes a substantial element of soil science. Another route is to take a relevant first degree (such as biology, chemistry, physics, physical geography, geology or environmental science) followed by a postgraduate qualification in soil science.

Marine Biologist

Marine biologists study plants, animals and micro-organisms that live in the sea. They take and test samples of marine life to investigate species and to assess how they are affected by human activity.

Their findings help to manage and protect marine life, monitor environmental damage and explore ways to make safe use of the sea's resources.

For example, they study the life cycles of fish to make sure they are not 'over-fished'. This involves looking at factors such as migration patterns, breeding behaviour and the fish's natural predators. Marine biologists will study fish stocks at larval, immature and mature stages.

Marine biologists spend time both at sea and in the laboratory, where they test the samples they have collected. They must make careful notes, possibly writing up significant findings in scientific journals.

To become a marine biologist, you usually need to complete a relevant degree course, for example, marine biology, another biological science, oceanography or biochemistry.

Managing the environment

Some people have careers in managing, developing and protecting areas of the countryside. They conserve and encourage the wildlife and natural habitats within countryside areas.

This work can include practical conservation, scientific surveys and educating the public.

Countryside managers and environmental conservation officers need managerial skills such as planning, organising, decision making, recruiting and training.

There is intense competition for entry to jobs in this area, so it's very useful to first gain knowledge and skills through relevant work experience. This includes voluntary work.

Countryside Manager

Countryside managers develop, maintain and manage areas of the countryside for use by the public. They are concerned with the conservation and use of these areas.

Countryside managers are responsible for areas such as parks, nature reserves, woodlands, open-air museums and historical sites.

Managers plan and design countryside areas, negotiate with landowners and conservation bodies, and promote sites through leaflets, displays and events.

Day-to-day management involves recruiting, training and supervising staff, planning and monitoring budgets, solving problems and dealing with members of the public.

Countryside managers usually need a relevant degree, HND, foundation degree or equivalent.

Countryside Ranger/Warden

Countryside rangers/wardens manage and look after areas of the countryside for use by the public, while also protecting plant and animal life.

They are responsible for places such as nature reserves, country parks, coastal areas, heath and moor land, forests, National Parks and sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs).

Their duties include:

  • Talking to visitors and taking them on guided walks.
  • Practical conservation work, such as mending fences and clearing vegetation.
  • Making sure people obey by-laws to protect the environment.
  • Creating and maintaining habitats to encourage plants and animals.

There are no set entry requirements. However, many entrants have a relevant degree, foundation degree or HND. It is possible for people with lower-level qualifications to become rangers/wardens.

Environmental Conservation Officer

Environmental conservation officers (ECOs) manage and protect areas of land, and the wildlife within them.

Together with other environmental specialists, they organise surveys of important wildlife areas, including sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) and nature reserves.

They identify plant and animal species, map their habitats and set up conservation plans to keep those habitats safe.

They encourage people to learn about and enjoy the natural environment without causing damage to it, and they try to ensure that everyone has access to green areas. For example, they write leaflets, give talks and set up displays and exhibitions.

ECOs plan and supervise long-term environmental projects, for example, establishing and managing heath or woodland. As managers, they recruit, train and supervise staff, including volunteers. They manage budgets and enforce regulations to protect the environment.

To enter this career, it's usual to have a degree in a relevant subject. For entry, it's very useful to have developed knowledge and skills through relevant work experience, including voluntary work.

Water Keeper/Water Bailiff

Water keepers and water bailiffs make sure that rivers and lakes are of a suitable environmental standard to be used for recreation. They also encourage the growth and development of wildlife, and protect the water environment.

Typical duties include checking fish for disease, restocking lakes and rivers with fish for angling, and taking water samples to test for pollution. They also enforce the laws that protect rivers and lakes, and issue licences to anglers.

The work involves contact with people such as scientists, farmers, landowners and members of the public.

You don't usually need any qualifications to enter this job. It's useful to have gained skills and knowledge through relevant experience, for example, of fish farming, other farm work, gamekeeping or environmental conservation.

Recycling Officer

Recycling officers organise the recycling of waste such as paper and glass. They are responsible for making sure that people have suitable recycling containers.

Recycling officers also have an educational role, promoting recycling. This may involve giving talks to schoolchildren and other groups interested in environmental issues. They may also arrange visits to recycling centres and produce educational leaflets.

Recycling officers aim to increase the number of recycling sites and the amount of material being recycled. This involves planning and controlling budgets.

There are no formal minimum entry requirements to this type of work; however, those who go into recycling officer posts from full-time education tend to be science graduates.

Further Information

Maritime UK Careers

Tel: 020 7417 2837



Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)

Address: Burgate Manor, Fordingbridge, Hampshire SP6 1EF

Tel: 01425 652381



Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM)

Address: PO Box 679, Hull HU5 9AX

Tel: 0845 3887012



Wildlife Trusts

Address: The Kiln, Waterside, Mather Road, Newark, Nottinghamshire NG24 1WT

Tel: 01636 677711



Scottish Wildlife Trust

Scottish enquiries

Address: Harbourside House, 110 Commercial Street, Edinburgh EH6 6NF

Tel: 0131 3127765



British Ecological Society (BES)

Address: Charles Darwin House, 12 Roger Street, London WC1N 2JU

Tel: 020 7685 2500



The Conservation Volunteers (TCV)

Address: Sedum House, Mallard Way, Doncaster DN4 8DB

Tel: 01302 388883



Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)


Royal Society of Biology

Address: Charles Darwin House, 12 Roger Street, London WC1N 2JU

Tel: 020 7685 2550



Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM)

Address: 9 Saxon Court, St Peter's Gardens, Marefair, Northampton NN1 1SX

Tel: 01604 620426




Skills for land-based and environmental industries

Address: Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG

Tel: 02476 696996



Marine Conservation Society (MCS)

Address: Unit 3, Wolf Business Park, Alton Road, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire HR9 5NB

Tel: 01989 566017


Natural England

Address: Foundry House, 3 Millsands, Riverside Exchange, Sheffield S3 8NH

Tel: 0845 6003078



Marine Biological Association (MBA)

Address: The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth, Devon PL1 2PB

Tel: 01752 633207



Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)

Address: 15 John Street, London WC1N 2EB

Tel: 020 7831 3110



Field Studies Council

Address: Head Office, Preston Montford, Montford Bridge, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY4 1HW

Tel: 0845 3454071



Society for the Environment (SocEnv)

Address: Denham House, 120 Long Street, Atherstone, Warwickshire CV9 1AF

Tel: 0845 3372951



Scotland's National Nature Reserves

Scottish enquiries



Scottish Countryside Rangers' Association (SCRA)

Scottish enquiries



Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)

Scottish enquiries

Address: Great Glen House, Leachkin Road, Inverness IV3 8NW

Tel: 01463 725000


Natural Resources Wales

Welsh enquiries

Address: Ty Cambria, 29 Newport Road, Cardiff CF24 0TP

Tel: 0300 0653000



Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

Scottish enquiries

Address: Erskine Court, Castle Business Park, Stirling FK9 4TR

Tel: 01786 457700


Environmental Jobs

Tel: 01268 450024



Publisher: Working Planet

Tel: 01392 491578



Materials Recycling World (MRW)

Publisher: EMAP



Natural Resources Wales (Welsh Enquiries)

Address: Ty Cambria, 29 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 0TP

Tel: 0300 065 3000



SPB Wales (Welsh Enquiries)

Address: Sutherland House, Castlebridge, Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff, CF11 9AB

Tel: 029 2035 3000



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