Ten Short Course Ideas to Boost Your Career (UK)

Building a career in conservation can be as difficult and frustrating as it can be rewarding. Having ambition, an end goal to aim for, ideally a match of your passions and skills, is an excellent driver to get where you want to be in the future. From one stepping stone to another on short term contracts and laborious hours spent filling in job applications the formative years can be slow!

Looking at moving through the career ladder as a giant maze, what can help you take the most direct route to your goal? You will be pleased to know that a wealth of courses are available to acquire or begin to acquire new skills, find out what really enjoy doing and look great on a pro-active resume!


Conservation often involves working specifically with a site, habitat, project or species, so it is important to see the bigger picture when it comes to career development.

Don’t you just hate it when you just see a job description and lack just one or two of the key skills? This is about gaining an edge, the more boxes you tick the more likely you are to get the job, and excel in it once you do.

Financially, many short courses are relatively inexpensive and require a short time commitment, meaning they are easy to fit around your everyday life.  With increasingly expensive tuition fees and conservation being a hard industry to gain a foothold in after graduation, building up skills and some industry experience can be an attractive route to take, with returning to academia later on always an option. You can also gain a clearer vision of the area of conservation you want to specialise in to focus your future studies. Quite often the perception and reality of a job can be completely different, so refining that end goal is really important.

Five Top Ideas for Skills Courses

  1. Navigation – Although environments differ, many of the skills to travel accurately through them, such as using maps, a compass and, in modern times, a handheld GPS are transferrable. Many outdoor field centres offer such courses, often in mountainous environments, perfect for getting experience in those remote places and a grip on the old and new techniques of knowing where you are and where to go next.
  1. Off road driving. As many conservation projects across the globe are in remote places access can be difficult on rough tracks. Being able to drive vehicles in tough conditions is a skill which may come in handy and will stand out on your resume.  Here is an example of one such accredited course offered in the UK.
  1. Writing funding bids. Competition for conservation cash is tough, so preparing a funding bid to be effective as possible to demonstrate the benefits of giving you the money is all the more important. Luckily, courses are now offered in how to write such bids, with some specifically focused on the charity sector.
  1. First Aid. Ironically a qualification you want but one you never really want to have to put into practice! Courses range in level of detail and in the UK refresher training is required every three years to keep the qualification.
  1. Project Management. Having a theoretical idea of managing a project will be a good platform to build upon as you gain practical experience in the workplace. Check out this course from the Open University, which can be distance learned and taken as part of a postgraduate qualification or as a stand-alone module.

Conservation Focused Courses

A plethora of conservation focused short courses are available, to boost your identification skills and knowledge on a range of species, as well as targeted training in specific survey techniques. Here are three sources to go for:

  1. Camera trapping. Technology is a wonderful and it continues to revolutionise wildlife research and monitoring. As fun as it can be when results are going your way, it can also be incredibly frustrating. Nature spy run a variety courses, from a single day to earning a full accreditation in ‘Camera trapping for wildlife conservation and management’, taken over an eight day period. More here.
  1. The highly respected Durrell Conservation Academy run various courses and workshops, covering areas such as managing conservation projects and communications. More here.
  1. The Mammal Society, the UK’s dedicated mammal research and conservation, offer training often focused on specific species, with prices cheaper for members. More here.
  1. Bird ringing is a key part of ornithological field research, to get a job which involves handling birds then you will require, at minimum, a training licence. As you qualify, there are opportunities to gain experience and be licenced to handle more sensitive species. The British Trust for Ornithology coordinate all ringing in the UK, and have a listed directory of trainers with vacancies. More here.
  1. The Field Studies Council provides training courses on a wide range of subjects, based across eight residential field centres in the UK. A great way to learn about an unfamiliar group of species or habitat type. More here.

Hopefully, these ideas will provide some inspiration in building a solid set of skills and knowledge to be successful. Been on a course you recommend? Let us know!

Careers Advice, Top Tips