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Job Photographs

  • A man is using a measuring stick to measure a road.

    Ecologists often do fieldwork to collect data.

  • A man and several small children are looking carefully into a pond.

    Ecologists need good communication skills to tell people about wildlife and conservation.

  • A man is erecting a pole, in the countryside.

    Some ecologists manage and protect conservation areas.

  • A man and two children are looking at a fish tank.

    Showing a small group of children around the visitors' centre.

  • Ecologist

Ecologist

Introduction

Ecologists study the complex and delicate relationships between animals, plants, people and their environment. Some areas of their work include managing conservation areas, advising on environmental protection, taking part in projects to restore contaminated land, and doing fieldwork to monitor wildlife.

Video: - Richard: Ecologist

Video: - Amy: Ecologist

Work Activities

Conservation work

Some Ecologists help the government to identify natural habitats that need protection, for example, as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSi) and nature reserves.

Others are involved in practical conservation, working as Rangers/Wardens and Countryside Managers. For example, you might train volunteers to take part in activities such as hedge laying, pond digging and woodland management.

You are responsible for protecting the site from pollution and vandalism. You might be in charge of footpath planning, ensuring that the public can access protected areas. You often have an educational role, through talks, lectures and guided walks. You might also produce and display information in a visitors' centre.

Conservation areas range from ancient woodlands, country parks and recreation areas to gravel pits. Local authorities, central government agencies, national agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as charities can be responsible for conservation work.

Field surveys and impact assessment

Ecologists carry out field survey work for government agencies, research institutes, local authorities, NGOs and ecological consultancies. For example, you survey and monitor wildlife and natural habitats, analyse river pollution and map animal populations. Your findings help to build up a local and national picture of our wildlife, identifying species that are endangered.

Impact assessment makes up a large part of consultancy work. For example, you can investigate plans to build new roads. You visit the site of proposed roads to identify and note the wildlife and habitats that could be affected, including any rare or endangered species. You note whether trees would have to be cut down or marshland drained. Ecologists identify direct impact, such as loss of habitat, and indirect impact, such as the possible release of pollutants into surrounding areas.

Your findings help:

  • Civil engineering companies
  • Planning departments
  • Conservation organisations
  • Public inquiries

For example, local authorities might use an impact assessment to choose which road route will cause least environmental damage.

Business and industry

In land and water restoration, you advise on and supervise restoration projects for land that has been disturbed or contaminated, for example, the site of a disused quarry or land that was once used for industry.

You help industry to follow environmental regulations and to meet standards, including in waste management and energy use. For example, agrochemical companies employ you to test and monitor the effects of pesticides on wildlife.

Ecologists give advice to horticultural companies on things like water and wetland gardens, wild flower gardening and the best methods to attract birds and butterflies.

You are increasingly involved in eco-tourism, for example, managing ecological projects such as specifically designed eco-houses.

Research

Ecological research takes place in settings such as universities and research centres, often involving work for countryside agencies, government departments and industrial companies.

You are involved in pure research, for example, in museums, zoos, botanical gardens and large companies. Applied research attempts to solve problems in areas such as agriculture, industry and environmental science. You investigate the impact of agricultural policy, climate change and genetically modified crops.

Other areas of work

NGOs use evidence gathered by you to persuade the government, companies, farmers and landowners to act on conservation issues.

You are also involved in journalism, public relations, teaching and lecturing.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To be an Ecologist, you'll need:

  • An inquisitive mind.
  • A desire to protect the environment (with a balanced approach to the issues).
  • To be patient, accurate and methodical in doing experiments.
  • Communication skills, for example, to inform the public about wildlife and conservation areas.
  • The ability to keep accurate notes and write clear, concise reports.
  • Teamwork skills, as well as the ability to manage your own work.
  • The ability to use lab equipment and technology.
  • Familiarity with computers.
  • Willingness to do fieldwork in any weather.

Negotiating skills are an advantage, for example, in protecting a wildlife area from development.

Ecologists need to keep up to date with laws and regulations on the environment.

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Inexperienced Ecologists could earn £17,000
  • Experienced Ecologists can earn £30,000
  • Senior Ecologists might earn more than £40,000

Hours of work

Ecologists usually work 35-39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, you might have early starts, late finishes and weekend work, especially during fieldwork.

Where could I work?

Ecologists work in a wide variety of places. These include government and statutory bodies such as:

  • The Department for Environment
  • Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • The Environment Agency
  • Natural England
  • The Forestry Commission
  • The Natural Environment Research Council

Other opportunities are with charities such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the National Trust, and in areas such as business, industry, education and the media.

Opportunities for Ecologists occur in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK.

Self-employment

You could become a self-employed consultant, for example, carrying out field survey and impact assessment work for businesses and industry.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in national/local newspapers and in science magazines such as New Scientist (which also has job vacancies on its website). Jobs also appear on the Civil Service Jobs website, in online publications such as The Environment Post and on environmental job boards such as environmentjob.co.uk.

GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:

www.greenjobs.co.uk/browse-jobs/ecology-jobs/

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

An Advanced Level Apprenticeship is a great place to start. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.

You can get in however, with a first (undergraduate) degree or postgraduate qualification in a biological or environmental subject.

Specialist first degree and postgraduate courses in Ecology are available at a number of universities.

Some universities offer degree courses with a foundation year. This is an extra year for students who don't have the specified science A levels for entry.

You might be able to enter with an HND or foundation degree, although these are likely to lead into technical-level posts.

For research posts such as in a university, research organisation or government department, a postgraduate qualification is often essential.

Competition for entry into ecological jobs is fierce. Before entry, you can develop skills and knowledge by gaining some practical work experience. This can be voluntary, for example, during university holidays or a gap year. It could include field survey work, habitat management and practical conservation.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

Training

You might have training on-the-job, for example, to develop your field study and laboratory skills. Some employers enable Ecologists to take postgraduate courses while in employment.

You can gain a Field Identification Skills Certificate (FISC), which measures your botanical survey skills in real-life situations. The FISC is provided by the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) and takes around a day to complete.

You can also take short (one- or two-day) professional training courses to develop survey skills. Organisations such as the Field Studies Council and Ptyxis Ecology provide identification courses.

The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) runs a wide range of training workshops and conferences.

Work Experience

Some entrants have developed skills during relevant environmental fieldwork.

Progression

Progression routes and opportunities depend on the area you work in. In conservation work, you could progress to a countryside manager/officer post. Ecologists in industry might be promoted to supervisory or management positions.

You could become a self-employed consultant, for example, carrying out field survey and impact assessment work for businesses and industry.

University lecturers might progress to Senior Lecturer and Principal Lecturer positions.

Full Membership of the IEEM is possible with an honours degree in a relevant subject plus at least four years' post-qualification experience. Entry is possible with other qualifications and varying amounts of post-qualification experience. For full requirements, please see the IEEM website.

Full members can then become Chartered Environmentalists (CEnv) through the Society for the Environment.

Qualifications

To get onto an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including English and Maths, or to have completed an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.

For entry to a degree in Ecology, the usual minimum requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels. Biology is usually essential, and you might also need another science subject, preferably Chemistry. Geography and Environmental Studies can also be useful.
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in your A level subjects.
  • A further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 and above, including English and Maths.

Alternatives to separate science GCSEs (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) are:

  • Science and Additional Science
  • Science and Additional Applied Science.

Alternatives to A levels include BTEC level 3 qualifications and the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

However, course requirements vary, so please check college/university websites very carefully.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Skills/experience

Some entrants have developed skills during relevant environmental fieldwork.

Courses

If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter a degree, foundation degree or HND course, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course, for example, Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to enter an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.

A foundation year before the start of a science degree is available at some universities and colleges of higher education for students who don't have the science A levels (or equivalent) usually needed for entry.

The Open University provides a number of degrees in environmental subjects.

Funding

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funds postgraduate (PhD and MSc) students. This is through studentships, funded through university departments and NERC research councils (NERC does not deal directly with students).

Statistics

  • 5% of people in occupations such as ecology work part-time.
  • 24% have flexible hours.
  • 9% of employees work on a temporary basis.

Further Information

LGjobs

Local government vacancies

Website: www.lgjobs.com

myjobscotland: Scottish local government vacancies

Scottish enquiries

Email: myjobscotland@cosla.gov.uk

Website: www.myjobscotland.gov.uk

Civil Service Jobs

Website: www.civilservice.gov.uk/jobs

Lantra

Skills for land-based and environmental industries

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

Tel: 02476 696996

Email: reception@lantra.co.uk

Website: www.lantra.co.uk

GreenJobs

Email: info@greenjobs.co.uk

Website: www.greenjobs.co.uk

New Scientist

Publisher: Reed Business Information Ltd

Email: ns.subs@quadrantsubs.com

Website: www.newscientist.com

Open University (OU)

Tel: 0845 3006090

Website: www.open.ac.uk

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1EU

Tel: 01793 411500

Website: www.nerc.ac.uk

Earthworks-jobs.com

Website: www.earthworks-jobs.com

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)

Address: Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR

Tel: 0845 9335577

Email: defra.helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk

Website: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-environment-food-rural-affairs

Society of Biology

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

Tel: 020 7685 2550

Email: info@rsb.org.uk

Website: www.societyofbiology.org

Institute of Horticulture (IoH)

Tel: 01992 707025

Email: ioh@horticulture.org.uk

Website: www.horticulture.org.uk

Grow

Horticulture careers

Tel: 0845 7078007

Website: www.growcareers.info

Natural England

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

Tel: 0845 6003078

Email: enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk

Website: www.naturalengland.org.uk

Countryside Jobs Service (CJS)

Address: The Moorlands, Goathland, Whitby, North Yorkshire YO22 5LZ

Tel: 01947 896007

Email: ranger@countryside-jobs.com

Website: www.countryside-jobs.com

Countryside Management Association (CMA)

Address: Writtle College, Lordship Road, Writtle, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 3RR

Tel: 01245 424116

Email: cma@writtle.ac.uk

Website: www.countrysidemanagement.org.uk

Natural Resources Wales

Welsh enquiries

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

Tel: 0300 0653000

Email: enquiries@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

Website: naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

National Trust (NT)

Website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk

National Trust for Scotland (NTS)

Scottish enquiries

Email: information@nts.org.uk

Website: www.nts.org.uk

Maritime UK Careers

Tel: 020 7417 2837

Email: enquiries@seavision.org.uk

Website: www.seavision.org.uk

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

Address: The Lodge, Potton Road, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL

Tel: 01767 680551

Website: www.rspb.org.uk

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)

Scottish enquiries

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

Tel: 01463 725000

Website: www.snh.gov.uk

Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST)

Address: Aldgate House, 33 Aldgate High Street, London EC3N 1EN

Tel: 020 7382 2600

Email: info@imarest.org

Website: www.imarest.org

Marine Scientist

Publisher: Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST)

Website: www.imarest.org/Publications/MarineScientist.aspx

Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI)

Tel: 07725 862 957

Email: coordinator@bsbi.org.uk

Website: www.bsbi.org.uk

Field Studies Council

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

Tel: 0845 3454071

Email: enquiries@field-studies-council.org

Website: www.field-studies-council.org

Ptyxis Ecology

Address: 3 Railway Cottages, Lambley, Northumberland CA8 7LL

Tel: 01434 321199

Email: enquiries@ptyxis.com

Website: www.ptyxis.com

Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM)

Address: 43 Southgate Street, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9EH

Tel: 01962 868626

Email: enquiries@ieem.net

Website: www.ieem.net

Environment Agency

Address: National Customer Contact Centre, PO Box 544, Rotherham S60 1BY

Tel: 0370 8506506

Email: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk

Website: www.environment-agency.gov.uk

Environmental Jobs

Tel: 01268 450024

Email: jobs@environmentjobs.co.uk

Website: www.environmentpost.co.uk

environmentjob.co.uk

Publisher: Working Planet

Tel: 01392 491578

Email: admin@environmentjob.co.uk

Website: www.environmentjob.co.uk

British Ecological Society (BES)

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

Tel: 020 7685 2500

Email: info@britishecologicalsociety.org

Website: www.britishecologicalsociety.org

The Conservation Volunteers (TCV)

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

Tel: 01302 388883

Email: information@tcv.org.uk

Website: www.tcv.org.uk

Society for the Environment (SocEnv)

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

Tel: 0845 3372951

Email: enquiries@socenv.org.uk

Website: www.socenv.org.uk

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

People Exchange Cymru (PEC)

Public sector recruitment portal for Wales

Email: peopleexchangecymru@gov.wales

Website: www.peopleexchangecymru.org.uk/home

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