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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



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, ecologists might train volunteers to take part in activities such as hedge laying, pond digging and woodland management.

Ecologists are responsible for protecting the site from pollution and vandalism. They might be in charge of footpath planning, ensuring that the public can access protected areas. They often have an educational role, through talks, lectures and guided walks. They 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, they survey and monitor wildlife and natural habitats, analyse river pollution and map animal populations. Their 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, ecologists investigate plans to build new roads. They visit the site of proposed roads to identify and note the wildlife and habitats that could be affected, including any rare or endangered species. They 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.

Their findings help civil engineering companies, planning departments, conservation organisations and others, particularly during 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, ecologists 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.

Ecologists help industry to follow environmental regulations and to meet standards, including in waste management and energy use. For example, agrochemical companies employ ecologists 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.

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


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

Some ecologists 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. Ecologists investigate the impact of agricultural policy, climate change and genetically modified crops.

Other areas of work

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

There are also ecologists 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


Salaries for ecologists vary with the industry, employer and level of responsibility. The pay rates given below are approximate.

Ecologists earn in the range of £23,000 - £29,000 a year, rising to £37,000 - £45,000 with experience. Higher salaries are possible, depending on employer, role and responsibilities.

Hours of work

Ecologists usually work 35-39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, they 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 and the Forestry Commission. Scientific bodies such as the Natural Environment Research Council also employ ecologists. 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.


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

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

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

An Advanced Level Apprenticeship is a great place to start.

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.


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.


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.


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, or
  • Science and Additional Applied Science.

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

Relevant BTEC qualifications include:

  • Level 3 - Conservation and Improvement of British Habitat
  • Level 2 - Ecological Surveys and Techniques
  • Level 2 - Environmental and Land-based Business
  • Level 3 - Environmental Sustainability
  • Level 3 - Wildlife and Conservation.

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.


Some entrants have developed skills during relevant environmental fieldwork.


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.


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).


  • 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


Local government vacancies


myjobscotland: Scottish local government vacancies

Scottish enquiries


Civil Service Jobs



Skills for land-based and environmental industries

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

Tel: 02476 696996




New Scientist

Publisher: Reed Business Information Ltd


Open University (OU)

Tel: 0845 3006090


Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

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

Tel: 01793 411500



Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)

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

Tel: 0845 9335577



Society of Biology

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

Tel: 020 7685 2550


Institute of Horticulture (IoH)

Tel: 01992 707025




Horticulture careers

Tel: 0845 7078007


Natural England

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

Tel: 0845 6003078



Countryside Jobs Service (CJS)

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

Tel: 01947 896007



Countryside Management Association (CMA)

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

Tel: 01245 424116



Natural Resources Wales

Welsh enquiries

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

Tel: 0300 0653000



National Trust (NT)


National Trust for Scotland (NTS)

Scottish enquiries



Sea Vision UK



Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

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

Tel: 01767 680551


Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)

Scottish enquiries

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

Tel: 01463 725000


Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST)

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

Tel: 020 7382 2600


Marine Scientist

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


Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI)



Field Studies Council

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

Tel: 0845 3454071



Ptyxis Ecology

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

Tel: 01434 321199



Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM)

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

Tel: 01962 868626



Environment Agency

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

Tel: 0370 8506506



Environmental Jobs



Publisher: Working Planet

Tel: 01392 491578



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



Society for the Environment (SocEnv)

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

Tel: 0845 3372951



Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844


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