How to become a Conservation Volunteer? Part Two

If you want to be a conservation volunteer, there are many different types of experiences available for budding nature enthusiasts. Conservation Careers Blogger Sarashka King reveals some of the main types of voluntary work available in this second in a three-part topic…

Residential/working holiday

This is a good opportunity to have a holiday where you are trying something new or gaining some experience that can be transferred to your CV. You can spend a week or more on a reserve and you can do it alone or with a friend. You’ll be helping out with an area of conservation whilst having a holiday!

Example: The National Trust offers many different options. Click here for more information

Cost: Depends on how long you intend to go for but can be from £100 – £200 depending on your length of stay and the type of holiday chosen

Length: From one week to four

Skills Developed & Training Offered: Depends on the holiday chosen. Holidays can include:

Being active, coast & countryside, construction, event, gardening, rural skills, surveying or special interest

Qualifications offered: Usually qualifications are not offered


o    New skills and hopefully some great memories

o    If you don’t have much spare time in your working life this is a great opportunity to gain some experience in the only free time you may have

o    Can be a lot of fun!

o    Looks great on your CV

o    Gain invaluable experience as well as enjoying a part of the world you want to visit

o    Usually accommodation is provided


o    This is your holiday so make sure they’re not using you for cheap labour and you’ll get something out of it, whilst having fun!


There are many opportunities to work overseas and can vary from a week to months or even years. It all depends what you want out of it, whether that be just an amazing experience or to gain important skills, knowledge and qualifications. It should be noted to take care when looking for a company to volunteer with abroad. Some are purely commercial and can charge a lot of money for the experience for a profit! All fees should just be to cover costs. If you want serious conservation experience to benefit your CV it is important to  do your research; find out what the fees are for, what you’ll gain out of it, what other people have said about the organisation and the kinds of conditions you would be prepared to live and work in.

An example of a great organisation to volunteer for abroad is OuTrop (The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project) a research and conservation organisation based in the Sabangau rainforest in Indonesian Borneo, home to the world’s largest population of orangutans. They run two Volunteer Expeditions each year, during which volunteers assist with research in the field. Their programme is particularly suited to recent graduates or undergraduates wishing to gain fieldwork experience in a tropical forest environment.

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Orangutan in the Sabangau rainforest in Indonesian Borneo. Matt Adam Williams /OuTrop.

To find out more click here.

Cost: Can be free if it’s just a day visit orcan range from £200 (Elephant Nature Park Cambodia) per week to £1675 for seven weeks (OuTrop). Again these just cover costs such as travel, accommodation, food, equipment etc. Most conservation volunteering abroad does not include flights or such things as visas.

Length: From one day (if you’re already out there) to weeks, months or even years

Skills Developed & Training Offered: Can vary. Using the OuTrop example these can be navigation to field ecology and surveying techniques, to peat-swamp forest restoration approaches

Qualifications offered: Yes although depends on organisation


o    An unforgettable experience

o    Key skills and qualifications to be gained

o    Looks very good on your CV

o    Experience working in an environment you can’t get in the UK

o    Meeting like-minded people

o    A chance to explore another country


o    Can be expensive

o    Can be in rough conditions

o    Need to do lots of research to avoid being ripped off 

Internships/ Work Experience

During an internship or work experience you gain a placement on a project or specialist piece of work gaining valuable experience. This could be within an office, volunteering in a full-time position such as a ranger or in an office environment

Example: There are so many different conservation organisations that offer internships and work experience it is hard to single out one, however, I have come across some very good ones recently at the Woodland Trust; click here for more information.

Cost: There is not usually a cost although sometimes it can be at your own expense e.g. food and being out of paid work. However some internships will pay you or just cover your costs for travelling and food.

Length: Placements can last for three, six, nine or twelve months part-time or full-time. It can also be on-going for once or twice a week.

Skills Developed: Many different skills can be developed depending on the organisation and position you choose. If you gain a communications internship for example your copywriting and editing skills may be improved. Advice and support on writing your CV and application forms, as well as interview skills are also usually offered.

Training Offered: Again depends on the organisation and position.An example though is a previous position with the RSPB as a Turtle Dove Fieldwork Assistant which provided training in radio-tracking and other elements of fieldwork, and experience of whoosh netting, handling and fitting radio-tags to Turtle Doves.

Qualifications offered: Some may offer official qualification but mostly it is about gaining valuable experience


o    Invaluable experience in an area you are particularly interested in

o    Travel expenses to and from your placement, or accommodation may be provided if you do residential volunteering

o    Supervision, coaching and support throughout the internship will most likely be offered

o    Any appropriate training required shall be given

o    Advice and support on writing your CV and application forms, as well as interview skills

o    Access to internal vacancy list is often available

o    A reference on satisfactory completion of the volunteer internship

o    See whether this area of work is really what you want to do!

o    Great networking

o    Meet like-minded people


o    It can be time consuming

o    Can have travel and food costs


About the author

Sarashka King in Romania, credit Philip King

This post was written by Conservation Careers Blogger Sarashka King. Sarashka is passionate about nature and conservation. She used to work for the RSPB and is now waiting to start her Postgraduate Diploma in Ecology at the University of East Anglia to go along side her degree in Marketing and Advertising. She hopes to then take this forward to do a Masters in an area of interest. She also has a passion for travel and would love to combine the three elements of conservation, marketing/communications and the travel industry to concentrate on ecotourism in her future career.

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