Share this page

Select an icon:

Job Photographs

  • A woman is sitting at a desk, using a computer.

    Using a computer for administration purposes.

  • A man and a woman are standing in a workshop, talking.  They are looking at a bird box that the man is holding.  Other bird boxes are laid out on a table in front of them.

    Buying bird boxes for a conservation project.

  • A woman is standing next to an area of brown wasteland.  She is writing on a sheet of paper.

    Carrying out a survey of wasteland.

  • A woman is sitting at a desk, writing on a sheet of paper.

    Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) are involved in educational and publicity work. Here the ECO is writing a draft for a leaflet.

  • A woman is arranging a series of display boards, featuring maps and photographs.

    Putting together boards for an exhibition.

  • A woman is standing on a country path.  She is looking at a signpost.

    Checking public rights of way.

  • A woman is standing in the countryside, next to the ruins of a house.  She is standing next to the remains of a brick fireplace.

    All unusual and interesting features need to be noted for the survey.

  • Environmental Conservation Officer

Environmental Conservation Officer

Introduction

Environmental conservation officers manage and protect areas of land, and the plants and animals within them. They identify, monitor and survey species, recording their habits and distribution. They enforce regulations to protect the environment, and advise local authorities and private companies on the likely impact of development, for example, the building of a new road or dam.

Also known as

  • Conservation Officer, Environmental
  • Nature Conservationist
  • Nature Conservation Officer
  • Wildlife Conservation Officer
  • Countryside Officer

Video: - Mark: Environmental Conservation Officer

Video: - Manna: Environmental Officer

Work Activities

Environmental Conservation Officers manage and protect important wildlife areas, such as nature reserves, woodlands, heaths and moors, and sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs).

You will organise surveys of the wildlife, habitats and landscape features within these areas. You identify plant and animal species, map their habitats, analyse their behaviour and record numbers. You can be helped in this work by other Environmental Specialists and Scientists, for example, Botanists and Ecologists.

Your findings help to build up a national picture of our wildlife, and to identify species in need of protection. You'll maintain computer databases to organise your findings, and write up reports.

You plan and put into practice policies to protect wildlife and the environment. This could mean educating local people, including through giving talks, setting up displays and exhibitions, and writing leaflets and newsletters. You might, for example, raise awareness of how to prevent pollution.

You might also highlight trends and talk about your work in interviews with the media.

You'll consider the impact of human activity and new developments on the environment. You are involved in discussions with residents, Landowners and local authorities, for example, on the environmental impact of planned new roads and buildings. You will advise local authorities and private companies of the likely consequences of the new development, through presentations, written reports and discussions.

You can gather evidence of pollution, for example, by taking samples of polluted water or photographs of dumped or illegally burnt rubbish. You might be able to use this evidence to prosecute the individuals or organisations that cause pollution. This process can include receiving and responding to complaints from members of the public.

You will plan and supervise long-term environmental projects, such as establishing and managing heath and woodland. You are involved in the planning and design of new conservation areas, and negotiating with Landowners to ensure safe, responsible public access.

Increasingly, you try to get local community groups involved with conservation projects, helping to attract funding, for example.

Within conservation areas, you might also plan, design and supervise the building of facilities for the public, including pathways and parking areas.

As Managers, you would recruit, train and supervise staff, including teams of volunteers. You would plan and control budgets, and are responsible for setting up maintenance programmes such as to repair fences and weed ponds.

You also work with Rangers/Wardens who enforce by-laws and regulations to protect the conservation area, such as patrolling to make sure anglers have permits.

You will combine office-based administrative and organisational work with outdoor site visits, and often travel between sites.

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 become an Environmental Conservation Officer, you'll need:

  • physical fitness for fieldwork
  • willingness to work outside in all types of weather
  • a thorough, analytical approach to research
  • observation skills
  • the ability to interpret and keep up to date with environmental legislation and guidelines
  • communication skills to give advice and explain findings clearly and concisely, including in written reports
  • confidence to give talks and presentations
  • the ability to get on with a wide range of people, including Scientists, Landowners, Local Authority Officers, representatives of private companies and conservation bodies, and members of the public
  • firmness when enforcing legislation to protect the environment
  • negotiating skills
  • organisational and planning skills to make the best use of resources
  • the ability to train and supervise people, and lead teams of conservation specialists, Rangers/Wardens and volunteers

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £27,000 - £29,000
  • With experience: £32,500 - £36,500
  • Senior Environmental Conservation Officers earn £39,500

Hours of work

You usually work 40 hours a week. However, irregular hours, early starts, late finishes and weekend work may be required.

Where could I work?

Employers include Natural England, the Countryside Council for Wales, the 14 National Park Authorities, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and local authorities.

Other major landholding organisations, such as the water companies and a few private companies Environmental Conservation Officers.

There are also opportunities with voluntary sector employers, such as the National Trust, and conservation bodies such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Other non-governmental organisations, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the World Wide Fund for Nature, provide a small number of openings for managerial, scientific, educational and research specialists.

Opportunities for Environmental Conservation Officers occur in rural areas, towns and cities throughout the UK.

There are opportunities for you to work in research/advisory posts in other countries, especially in developing countries.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on general job boards and those that specialise in environmental, countryside and land-based jobs. They also appear in local/national newspapers, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Find a Job website.

EnvironmentalJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in environmental careers:

www.environmentaljobsuk.com/

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

Many entrants are graduates, although it can be possible to enter with a HND or foundation degree. With strong competition for entry, a postgraduate qualification can be an advantage.

Relevant subjects include:

  • environmental conservation
  • environmental science
  • biological sciences including ecology, plant science and zoology
  • earth sciences including geography

An Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship is also a great place to start. You may be able to a NVQ as part of your apprenticeship. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.

Most employers will look for evidence of an interest in, and commitment to, environmental conservation. For entry, it's very useful to have developed knowledge and skills through relevant work experience.

You could gain experience with a wildlife trust, local conservation group or National Park Authority. You could also gain experience as part of a sandwich degree course.

Some entrants are already qualified professionals in areas such as countryside recreation, land management and teaching.

Some people start in related careers, for example, as Rangers/Wardens, to gain experience and qualifications, and then apply for Environmental Conservation Officer posts.

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

Training

Employers might organise further training, including in management subjects and techniques, and health and safety. You might be able to take short courses at field study centres, or study a college course part-time.

Progression

You could progress to a supervisory or management-level post, or specialise in a particular area of conservation.

Work Experience

For entry, it's very useful to have gained knowledge and skills through relevant work experience, including voluntary work, such as in an environmental or conservation role, or land management.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Some posts involve working with children or vulnerable adults, for example, when they are taking part in conservation projects.

These posts are exceptions to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.

This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.

Qualifications

Entrants are usually graduates; entry can be possible for people with HNDs or foundation degrees, or sometimes with A levels or equivalent qualifications.

The usual entry requirements for degree courses will vary depending on the university and the subject. For example:

  • 2/3 A levels where you might need a science subject, depending on the degree subject
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 and above in your intended A level subjects
  • a further 2/3 GCSEs (A*-C or 9-4)

Equivalent qualifications, such as a BTEC or City & Guilds  level 3 qualification and the International Baccalaureate Diploma, might be acceptable for entry - please check college/university websites carefully.

To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

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

For entry, it's very useful to have gained knowledge and skills through relevant work experience, including voluntary work, such as in an environmental or conservation role, or land management.

Courses

If you don't have the qualifications you need to enter a degree, foundation degree or HND course, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course. You don't usually need any qualifications to start an Access course, although you should check individual course details.

The Open University offers distance learning, with a BSc degree in Environmental Studies, plus diplomas in Environment and Development/Policy.

Statistics

  • 13% of people in occupations such as environmental conservation officer work part-time.
  • 22% have flexible hours.

Further Information

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

City & Guilds Land Based Services

Address: Building 500, Abbey Park, Stareton, Warwickshire CV8 2LY

Tel: 02476 857300

Email: information@cityandguilds.com

Website: www.nptc.org.uk

GreenJobs

Email: info@greenjobs.co.uk

Website: www.greenjobs.co.uk

Open University (OU)

Tel: 0845 3006090

Website: www.open.ac.uk

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

Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)

Address: 15 John Street, London WC1N 2EB

Tel: 020 7831 3110

Email: frontofhouse@ciwem.org

Website: www.ciwem.org

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

Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)

Address: Burgate Manor, Fordingbridge, Hampshire SP6 1EF

Tel: 01425 652381

Email: info@gwct.org.uk

Website: www.gwct.org.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

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

Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM)

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

Tel: 01962 868626

Email: enquiries@ieem.net

Website: www.ieem.net

Wildlife Trusts

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

Tel: 01636 677711

Email: enquiry@wildlifetrusts.org

Website: www.wildlifetrusts.org

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

Scottish Wildlife Trust

Scottish enquiries

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

Tel: 0131 3127765

Email: enquiries@swt.org.uk

Website: scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Address: 2 Lochside View, Edinburgh Park, Edinburgh EH12 9DH

Tel: 0131 3174100

Email: membership@rspb.org.uk

Website: www.rspb.org.uk/scotland

Scotland's National Nature Reserves

Scottish enquiries

Email: information@nts.org.uk

Website: www.nnr-scotland.org.uk

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

Scottish enquiries

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

Tel: 01786 457700

Website: www.sepa.org.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/

RSPB Wales

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

Tel: 029 2035 3000

Email: cymru@rspb.org.uk

Website: www.rspb.org.uk

Wildlife Trusts Wales

Address: Baltic House, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff, CF10 5FH

Tel: 029 2048 0070

Email: info@wtwales.org

Website: www.wtwales.org

Croeso i Gyrfa Cymru

Dewiswch iaith

Cymraeg

Welcome to Careers Wales

Please select your language

English