Ecologists study the relationship between plants, animals and their environment. The aim of their work could range from balancing the needs of the environment to coming up with ideas for land management. If you are interested in the natural world and the environment, this job could be ideal for you.
- carrying out fieldwork - surveying and recording information on plants, animals and environmental conditions
- researching the impact of human activity, like housing and intensive agriculture, on the environment
- building computer models to predict the effects of development or climate change
- testing samples to investigate issues like the effects of air pollution on plant growth
- preparing reports and presenting research findings at conferences
- organising or supporting school, university and community education programmes
- restoring areas such as open-cast mines or quarries at the end of their industrial life
- monitoring pollution incidents, such as chemical spillages in waterways
- advising on and enforcing legal regulations, for example the laws on protected species
- acting as an expert witness during public enquiries
- managing wildlife conservation areas, woodland and meadows.
You may also help to assess planning proposals and make recommendations on sustainable land use for local authorities, government departments and companies. For example, nature reserves or waste management schemes.
- an interest in the natural environment
- a methodical approach to work
- the ability to gather and interpret data
- a knowledge of environmental policies and legislation
- an impartial approach
- good presentation and report writing skills
- project management skills
- good IT skills.
Average salary (2014):
United Kingdom: Starting salaries can be between £17,000 and £22,000 a year.
Qualifications and training required:
To become and ecologist you would normally need a degree. For some jobs like ecology consultancy or higher education teaching and research you may be expected to have, or be working towards a relevant postgraduate qualification such as a master’s or PhD. Degree and postgraduate courses are available in a wide range of subjects such as:
- conservation biology
- ecological science
- marine biology
- environmental science
- ecology and environmental sustainability.
To do a degree, you will usually need five GCSEs (A-C) including maths, English and science, plus three A levels. Some universities also offer a science foundation year to those who haven’t studied science subjects to the level needed. You should check with universities for exact entry requirements as other qualifications may also be accepted.
Volunteering is a great way of gaining more experience and may improve your chances of finding work. It could offer you the chance to learn new skills and help you build up a group of contacts within the industry. Knowing people who already work in ecology may help you to find longer term paid work. Approach places you would like to volunteer for or visit the websites of voluntary organisations like The Conservation Volunteers, The Wildlife Trusts and The National Trust.
If you are studying towards a degree and thinking about a career as an ecologist then take a look at the British Ecological Society Undergraduate Fellowship Scheme. Benefits of the scheme include mentoring from experienced ecologists, opportunities to write for the British Ecological Society bulletin, access to careers advice, and education and job search support.
You can find more details about careers in ecology on the British Ecological Society, and the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management websites.