Conservation Job Applications | Key Stats
Are you feeling alone in your conservation job hunt?
Does it seem like the job applications you’ve poured time, energy and passion into disappear into an abyss, only leading to rejection?
Are you lacking support, guidance or even simple feedback from employers to know what might be going wrong?
We bet that, like 85% of conservationists, you’re feeling burnt out. It might seem like you need to be a superstar in order to work in wildlife conservation – even at the entry level.
In 2021, we asked nearly 200 conservationists, graduates, students and career switchers about their experience applying for conservation jobs.
The results show that struggling to apply for conservation jobs is the norm – but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s what conservationists had to say, and how you can go from struggling to success.
Conservation job applications | Key stats from conservationists
How many jobs do conservation job-seekers typically apply for? 39 per year on average (sometimes hundreds).
What is a typical success rate? Only a small percentage (<10%) of job seekers have high success rates with applications. The majority experience high rejection rates as follows.
Have you received enough support to know how to successfully apply for jobs? Seven in ten applicants (70%) felt they didn’t get enough support.
How many conservationists experience application burnout? 84%
What is the most difficult or frustrating part about applying for conservation jobs?
Some of the top challenges are:
- Lack of communication or feedback from employers
“Lack of communication – what are they looking for? How can I improve my chances?”
“Not knowing the status of my application. Has anyone even seen it, is it rejected?”
“[I] rarely even get an email just acknowledging they have received my application – who knows if it went to spam by mistake?”
“Being qualified, having worked so hard to gain so much great experience and then not knowing what I am doing wrong with applications.”
- The catch-22 of needing work experience in order to get work experience
“…they need people with experience while we are graduates with no job experience.”
“Trying to gain experience but not having enough experience to even gain the experience… I frequently volunteer, register in classes and always try to improve my skillsets, but so many job applications hold such high requirements for entry level positions.”
“Competitive and very hard to get a job without multiple years of relevant professional experience. Yet no one will hire you as a new graduate, so it’s a catch 22.”
“Entry level jobs asking for high levels of experience that can only be obtained from working in the sector in the first place. Also volunteer positions that require high levels of skill, experience, qualifications, and financial and time commitment that in any other sector would be a paid role and not volunteer.”
- High expectations for early-career roles, including requirements for volunteer experience
“The paradox of needing experience to get a job, needing a job to get experience, and not being able to afford to volunteer regularly.”
“…often, you’re expected to have a degree (sometimes a masters degree too) in addition to 2-5 years experience for an entry level position.”
“…feeling like I should go to grad school just so I can get jobs I’m interested in that “prefer” Master’s Degrees even though I’m not ready for grad school yet.”
“…no amount of experience or volunteering seems to be enough or the right experience.”
“It’s discouraging and insulting when entry level positions pay minimum wage. It makes you resentful acquiring a large student loan debt and then seeing that many of the positions pay so poorly.”
“It’s extremely frustrating seeing jobs require [a Bachelor’s/Master’s] without offering decent salaries or health insurance packages; do some places think conservationists/wildlife scientists don’t have homes and families to support?”
- Perceived unfairness in hiring
“…feeling like without a personal connection or “in” there’s no way to get hired in ecology.”
“In many cases someone gets the job based on who the person knows and not how suitable he/she is for the position. Nepotism is really present in conservation science.”
“It feels like it does not matter how good you are and what your academic degrees are. It’s all about who you know snd what’s your relationship with the persons.”
“Going through a long application process and sometimes interviewing only to hear that the organization/agency hired from within or a current employee.”
- Lack of confidence and self-doubt
- Lack of jobs and high competition
“Many jobs I apply for have hundreds of applications so it’s hard to remain motivated when applying for them.”
“Opportunities are few and far between and competition is very high.”
“Rejection for jobs I’m overqualified for.”
“Lowering your standards and applying for jobs you don’t even want or that are not right for you and then still not getting them.”
“…wasting hours on jobs you don’t even want that bad (no benefits, low pay) because this field is so competitive [and] any job is better than nothing.”
“I applied to well over 100 jobs between graduating in 2019 and finally getting hired full time in 2021, had 7 interviews over that time, and only 2 offers.”
“It’s way harder to get a conservation job than I thought it would be when I was a student!”
- Switching into [or re-entering] the conservation sector
“Being a switcher so not given a chance”.
“…being [outside of] the science field I might not be enough.”
“Feeling like my work experience is not directly transferable to a conservation job & not ‘speaking the lingo’.”
“I fear my conservation work was so long ago that I am no longer a viable candidate, and thus relegated myself to a career path I do not want.”
- Lack of accessibility for diverse conservationists
“Lack of conservation job postings for my country, Brazil. This arises from: 1 – lack of conservation jobs available in Brazil, 2 – lack of a job posting board like Conservation Careers, but directed to Brazil or Latin America at least.”
“Most of the conservation jobs and internships do not speak to the realities of graduate student in West Africa; we are always asked to pay for flight tickets to the respective job post. Others ask that you know how to drive, etc . On average, West African students do not even have a bank account [let alone enough] to pay for flights. We are missing out on such great opportunities, which is very sad because we can not fully participate in the protection of our own biodiversity.”
Is job shortage the problem?
A very common misconception in the conservation sector is that there are few job opportunities available.
But chances are there are also far more opportunities available in the sector than you realise.
We estimate that there are 36,500 conservation jobs available annually worldwide. At Conservation Careers, we post 250 new jobs every week, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s available.
The conservation employer’s perspective
We also spoke to conservation employers like Conservation International, RSPB and others about their experience recruiting for conservation jobs:
How many applications do REALLY popular jobs receive? 250 (on rare occasions 500+)
What % of applications are good quality? Often less than 10%. In other words, 90% of applications are not good enough – and conservation employers are struggling to receive quality applicants.
How many applications do specialised jobs receive? 10-100. Conservation employers like Conservation International, WWF, RSPB and ZSL often struggle to find qualified candidates for less popular roles.
How long do applicants have to grab an employer’s attention? 3 minutes (sometimes less than 6 seconds)
Who’s landing conservation jobs?
Want to know how to make it into that 10% of quality applications, and get back to helping the planet?
What is YOUR application baseline?
Take a moment to reflect on your own applications, and how you might like things to change.
Note down the following (quick estimates are fine):
- Your application rate. How many applications are you submitting per week, month or year?
- Your success rate.
- What % of applications have resulted in an interview?
- What % of applications have resulted in a job offer?
- Your energy/motivation level. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest), how would you rate your current energy and motivation when applying for jobs?
- Your best application to date. How confident are you about your best application?
Now think about how you might like things to change in the coming months.
How to apply to any conservation job
If you’re struggling applying for conservation jobs, you’re definitely not alone. But there IS a better way.
We’ve combined everything we’ve learnt over the past 7 years’ at Conservation Careers – from talking to top conservation employers, interviewing 500+ professional conservationists, training 1,500+ students and coaching 100+ job applicants – into a formula for success.
Bring your burning questions about applications – we can’t wait to help answer them!