What's your Conservation Job Type?

When you think of conservation jobs, do you envisage someone in the field watching turtle hatchlings or perhaps observing Mountain Gorillas? Although these conservation jobs exist, and are very attractive, the conservation industry is a large, expanding and diversifying sector.

Much bigger than you might imagine, it’s become a professional industry offering a dizzying array of conservation job types for job seekers. For example, on Conservation Careers to date we’ve listed over 48,000 conservation jobs which cover over 15,000 different job titles!

When finding your niche is so important to becoming competitive – and enjoying your career – where do you start?

This ultimate guide to conservation jobs cover the key conservation job types to kick-start you career journey. We’ll walk you through the key roles to help you understand where you might fit in. Enjoy!

What is a conservation job?

When you think of conservation jobs do you envisage someone in the field watching turtle hatchlings or perhaps observing Mountain Gorillas like Niall McCall of National Park Rescue?

Before we do a deep dive into the conservation job market, let’s quickly touch on what we define as a conservation job?

For Conservation Careers, a conservation job is any role where your activities aid the conservation or enhancement of wildlife.

This includes jobs which directly benefit wildlife conservation like a Project Officer for a marine protected area in Fiji. It also includes roles which indirectly benefit biodiversity conservation efforts, such as a Communications Manager role, whose job is it to raise the profile of a conservation organisation, so that staff such as their Project Officer can get to work protecting that Fijian marine reserve.

If the role aids conservation efforts, it’s a conservation job.

Ready for the full list? Let’s dive in – the water’s lovely…

What jobs exist in wildlife conservation?

Conservation careers are more diverse than you might imagine. We break down the sector into 11 Conservation Job Types and 10 Conservation Job Themes.

We can break down the conservation sector into Job Functions and Job Themes.

Job Functions are the roles people play within the sector, and usually require specific skills. They are:

  • Communicator | Raising the profile of conservation
  • Ecologist | Ensuring ecologically-sensitive development
  • Economist | Putting a value on nature
  • Educator | Increasing awareness and support for nature
  • Fundraiser | Raising money for nature
  • Land Manager | Saving key sites for nature
  • Organisational Manager | Running organisations that conserve nature
  • Policy Advocate | Saving wildlife through law
  • Project Manager | Saving the world one project at a time
  • Scientist | Answering the key questions to tackle biodiversity loss
  • Wildlife Carer | Caring for animals

Job Themes are the themes of work jobs relate to, and usually require specific knowledge. They are:

  • Climate Change
  • Community Conservation
  • Ecotourism
  • Fisheries
  • Marine Conservation
  • Restoration & Rewilding
  • Sustainability
  • Wildlife Welfare
  • Wildlife
  • Zoology
When you combine a Job Function with one or more Job Themes, you have a specific Job Type. In other words, you’ve found your ‘niche’ in the conservation sector!
 
Most conservation jobs consist of one Job Function and one or more Job Themes. However, some conservation jobs can be a combination of Job Functions. A few conservation jobs might not fit into these categories. If it aids conservation efforts, it’s still a conservation job!

Conservation Job Functions | Key roles & skills

Communicator Conservation Jobs | Raising the profile of conservation

Sir David Attenborough, arguably the single most influential conservationist of our time.

One could argue that the single most influential conservationist of our time works as a communicator. Sir David Attenborough has written and presented his knowledge and passion for the natural world and inspired scores of young people to love the natural world, and almost as many to seek to help it.

Working as a Communicator is a fast growing area of conservation. Your role is to identify, research and develop engaging stories for different audiences across multiple formats and channels.

Communicator roles

Communicators cover all aspects of communications and marketing, including:

  • Press – writing for and liaising with the press to gain press coverage.
  • Writing and blogging – writing news stories, blog posts and more.
  • Editing – revising and preparing written (or photographic, visual, audible or cinematic) material.
  • Digital marketing – using digital channels to promote products or services, and connect with potential customers or supporters.
  • Journalism – reporting conservation news.
  • Social Media – growing and engaging audiences on social media.
  • Photography – sharing conservation messages via photography.
  • Filmmaking – sharing conservation messages via film.
  • Presenting – presenting conservation messages to TV and other audiences.
  • Visual arts – from painting to collages, using art to tell conservation stories.
Communicator job titles

Examples of Communicator job titles include Communications Specialist, Marketing Officer, Storyteller, Social Media Manager, Magazine Editor, TV Assistant, Writer, Wildlife Journalist, Presenter, Blogger, Photographer, Filmmaker and Artist.

Communicator skills

We analysed 29,767 conservation jobs, from over 100 countries, to find out what skills employers want.

Using our Career Explorer database (a searchable database of all the conservation jobs ever posted on Conservation Careers, which is part of our Conservation Careers Academy membership), we focussed in on entry level Communicator positions.

We looked for repetitive requirements, skills and patterns in job advertisements. Here’s what we found:

Most wanted skills

  • Verbal and written communication
  • Organisational skills
  • Social media skills
  • Writing for diverse audiences
  • Editing video/photo

Specialist skills: Microsoft Office, WordPress, Adobe, Photoshop, Google analytics

Learn more about the skills employers want in our Top Conservation Skills Ultimate Guide.

Communicator job duties

Within Communicator roles your work may be varied and creative, involving activities such as:

  • Promoting the work of employers to attract support.
  • Communicating to internal and external audiences through growing range of channels – Press releases, news stories, newsletters, magazines, brochures, videos, film, podcasts, visual arts.
  • Using social media channels to grow and engage audiences.
  • Representing your organisation to a range of outside contacts such as politicians, civil society and the media.
  • Developing and running campaigns.
  • Plus, lots more..!
In the words of a Communicator

Alan Wright is the Senior Communications and Campaigns Officer with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust. “My role is to raise the profile of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust specifically and of the UK’s Wildlife Trust movement in general. That’s publicising our work, at regional and national levels, and driving forward relationships with partners and funders.

“I write press releases and news stories, make media appearances on TV and radio, and produce social media and other output. I write content for grant applications, organise events, and run public competitions. I also manage internal communications to ensure staff know what is going on and facilitate collaboration across our work areas”.

“Individual media pieces fit within communications plans and campaigns. Communications plans are about how projects communicate with their various audiences. Campaigns are broader programmes to raise awareness, typically focused on a charismatic species, and help maximise the support we can get for connected projects and activities. It’s important to coordinate and make sure everything is done “on brand” for recognisable quality output that builds the Trust’s standing”.

“Underpinning everything is getting out and meeting people, building up my knowledge of what we do, and developing relationships. That’s brilliant as I get involved with conservation activities too – whether shearing sheep on one of our reserves or going pond dipping with British TV naturalist Nick Baker”, said Alan.

Careers Advice for aspiring Conservation Communicators

“Communicating with one another is important. Other like-minded people are not competition, they are a support network. A career in wildlife conservation is a team sport – you have to be willing to work with others if you’re to make a difference and reach your full potential. Especially with social media where your reputation will precede you and you want to be open and helpful to others”, suggested Wildlife Communications Manager Lucy McRobert.

Communicator Conservation Career Stories – Read the latest here:
Communicator Conservation Jobs

To date we have published [XXXX] communicator conservation jobs on Conservation Careers. Discover the latest communicator conservation jobs.

Ecologist Conservation Jobs | Ensuring ecologically-sensitive development

Robbie Hawkins, a senior ecological consultant who helps create new habitats for biodiversity.

With increasing environmental legislation comes the need for skilled ecologists who can interpret law, understand ecosystems and advise clients.

Ecological and Environmental Consultants undertake surveys – often for protected species and habitats – to provide advice to clients wishing to undertake developments.

An important area of work is the undertaking of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) – of which ecology is one aspect. Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIAs) cover scoping out potential issues to survey within a development, undertaking the survey, and providing advice to avoid or mitigate for any issues – all within the framework of the latest planning advice and laws.

Within the context of conservation, ecologists are relatively well paid, often have a clear professional career progression and may specialise in a specific area.

The skills learnt as an ecologist – such as project, budget and staff management – can be very transferrable into other sectors, such as charities.

Ecologist roles

XXX – Confirm if we’re just focussing on ecological consultancy, or all ecologist roles.

Ecologist job titles

Typical early and mid-career Ecologist job titles include Assistant Ecologist, Graduate Ecologist, Ecologist and Consultant Ecologist.

Ecologist skills

XXX – Confirm if we’re just focussing on ecological consultancy, or all ecologist roles.

Ecologist job duties

Ecologist roles often include the following duties:

  • Undertaking a wide range of ecological surveys including extended Phase 1 Habitat Surveys and more specialist work such as protected species surveys and mitigation.
  • Carrying out desk studies, consultations, research, data management and analysis, and report writing.
  • Liaising with clients and statutory bodies.
  • Inputting into ecological sections of Environmental Impact Assessments.
  • Supporting sales activities by assisting with drafting proposals and quotes
In the words of an Ecologist

“I really like working with the people in my team, and also I enjoy the problem solving aspect of my role. Modern EIAs are complicated, and very often we have to work with clients to address difficult issues. This involves me using my scientific background to generate sometimes fairly complex ways of analysing data to inform and address these issues. That’s exciting”, said Dr Mark Rehfisch – Head of Ornithology at APEM.

Careers Advice for aspiring Ecologists

“Be persistently proactive. It sounds very cheesy, but it’s the most fundamental advice which I give people day-in day-out. Getting a good job is never easy, regardless of the level you are at in your career. To really maximise your chances you need to actively network, attend conferences, volunteer and even just approach people who may have authored a report you find interesting”.

“But it’s not just being proactive like this it’s being persistently proactive. The more avenues you try the higher your likelihood of success. A lot of people do get dispirited, and that is natural, but the best ones are those who can push through that and reap the rewards which come further down the line. If it takes six months to find the right job, over the course of a whole career or 40 or 50 years it’s small fish really. So persist” – Simon Bangs – Conservation Recruitment Consultant for Allen & York.

Ecologist Conservation Career Stories – Read the latest here:

Ecologist Conservation Jobs

To date we have published [XXXX] ecologist conservation jobs on Conservation Careers. Discover the latest ecologist conservation jobs.

How to become an Ecologist

Would you like a more in-depth understanding of what ecologists do, and how you could become one? Check out our ultimate guide, How to become an ecologist.
 

Economist Conservation Jobs | Putting a value on nature

Private finance and ocean health meet in 'blue finance', just one emerging example of sustainable finance.

An increasingly popular way of conserving the planet is through ecosystem assessments – literally putting a price on the value nature provides to us for free. Still in its infancy, there will be more focus on these methods looking forwards.

Putting a value on the natural world is an effective way to influence business leaders and politicians and has become a fast-growing field within conservation.

If you have a passion for the natural world and an aptitude for numbers (or specialism in economics) this could be the field for you!

Economist roles

  • Ecological assessment / environmental economics
  • Sustainable finance?
  • Enterprise?
Economist job titles

Typical job titles in this area are Economics Programme Officer, Junior Environmental Economist, Sustainable Finance Assistant, Sustainable Finance Specialist. Other examples include Climate Finance Specialist and Enterprise Specialist.

Economist skills and experience

  • An understanding of sustainable and/or conservation finance.
  • Experience at the interface of finance and conservation. Examples include working with the private sector and/or finance sector on sustainable finance, conservation finance, corporate sustainability, and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) analysis. More specialised roles might require experience in specific areas, such as climate finance, voluntary carbon markets, REDD+, blue finance, payments for ecosystem services, conservation trust funds, enterprise development, etc.
  • Experience working with diverse stakeholders across different sectors, geographies and cultural backgrounds – such as project teams, (potential) investors, NGO and private sector partners, entrepreneurs, and local communities.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills, including communicating complex ideas to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  • Experience working in consultancy and providing services to clients.
  • Knowledge of (conservation) business planning and/or sustainable finance / enterprise development.
  • Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or equivalent experience in a finance or conservation-related field.
  • Experience undertaking research and developing financial models.
  • Strong analytical, technical, quantitative and/or statistical skills.
  • Experience with developing countries and/or cultural sensitivity.
  • Knowledge of relevant conservation issues and approaches, and related funding mechanisms and trends.
  • Knowledge of relevant national and/or international conservation-related policies.
  • An understanding of conservation enterprises and/or enterprise development.
  • Strong interpersonal skills.
  • Ability to meet deadlines.
  • Self-motivation.
  • Fluency in English.

Economist job duties

Economist roles often include the following duties:

  • Providing expertise at the intersection of economics and finance, development and the environment.
  • Supporting the development and application of economic tools and analysis – e.g. ecosystem service valuation, cost benefit analysis, opportunity cost analysis, bio-economic modelling.
  • Developing and evaluating economic incentives and financing mechanisms for biodiversity conservation and restoration.
  • Building a compelling business case for investment in conservation programmes.

In the words of an Economist

XXX

Careers Advice for aspiring Economists

XXX

Economist Career Stories – Read the latest here:

  • XXX
Economist Conservation Jobs

To date we have published [XXXX] economist conservation jobs on Conservation Careers. Discover the latest economist conservation jobs.

Educator Conservation Jobs | Increasing awareness and support for conservation

Credit: Bureau of Land Management / Flickr.

Changing attitudes and educating people (children and adults) is fast becoming more important in conservation as we strive to reach new audiences and increase our efforts. If you love working with people this might be where your impact is waiting for you.

Environmental education can be teaching anyone from toddlers to adults about the natural world. There are a growing number of roles within local charities (like the Wildlife Trusts or Zoos) for educators. At the other end of the spectrum, you might be interested in becoming a lecturer or teaching fellow at a college or university. Other examples of educators include naturalists, guides, and expedition leaders.

As an educator, you might find yourself working in a classroom setting, at a university campus or online. Or you might find yourself working out in nature, such as at a forest school, park or remote field site. You might even find yourself teaching on an expedition vessel, or from a raft or canoe!

If you have passion and knowledge to share, and enjoying working with others, this could be the role for you.

Educator job titles

Examples of Early Career Educator job titles include: Learning Officer, Education Officer, Environmental Educator, Schools Outreach Officer, Learning Assistant, Education Assistant, Education and Training Officer, Naturalist, Field Guide, Field Instructor.

Examples of Mid Career and Senior Educator job titles include: Education Manager, Lecturer, Assistant Professor, Professor.

Educator skills

Typical skills for educators are:

  • A degree level qualification in (conservation) education, communication and/or science, or in a related field. In many cases this can be substituted by relevant experience.
  • Experience in environmental education or interpretation in formal and/or non-formal settings.
  • Ability to develop, deliver and evaluate education (e.g. education programmes, curriculum, lesson plans, materials and/or activities).
  • Excellent public speaking and/or presentation abilities.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Strong organisational skills.
  • Strong interpersonal skills.
  • Ability to work independently using own initiative, and work positively in a team.
  • Conservation knowledge relevant to the role (e.g. marine biology, environmental ecology, local natural history knowledge, etc.)
  • Experience working with relevant groups (e.g. children, adults, volunteers, etc.)
  • Flexibility and adaptability.
  • Ability to multi-task.
  • Ability to communicate with diverse groups, and collaborate with people of varying backgrounds.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint, as well as other software or technology.
  • Passion, motivation and commitment related to the organisation’s mission. Note: This is true for most conservation job functions, but particularly emphasised in educator roles.

Some roles may also require:

  • A valid driver’s license and clean driving record.
  • Able to pass criminal history checks.
  • The ability to work outdoors in all weather conditions.
  • CPR and First Aid certification.
  • Physical fitness.
  • Flexibility to work some nights and weekends.
  • Familiarity with relevant educational standards.
  • Mentoring experience.
  • Commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Specific Educator roles

Academic teaching roles (e.g. lecturers and (assistant) professors) may require a relevant PhD, and experience supervising undergraduate and postgraduate projects.

Educator job duties

As an Educator your work may involve activities such as:

  • Leading a wide variety of environmental education sessions for school groups and families.
  • Delivering community events to promote conservation work.
  • Delivering interpretation and training programmes.
  • Promoting membership schemes.
In the words of an Educator

“I oversee all of the education programs including formal school programs (called Zoo Adventure Programs) and informal programs for general zoo guests. Zoo Adventure Programs are science standard aligned classes. Informal programs are held at animal exhibits in collaboration with the zookeepers.”

“We strive to build a connection between our guests and the animals, to create a feeling of empathy to inspire people to make changes in their lives to help wildlife. I also spearhead many of our conservation initiatives such as our stand on the palm oil crisis” – Rick LoBello, Education Curator at the El Paso Zoo.

“I’m communicating science in layman’s terms. I’m telling people about limpets or sea stars or kelp and I can’t say, ‘As everyone knows, the holdfast connects to the stipe and that’s how they photosynthesize. But it’s amazing how relatable scientific information is once you explain it in simple language.”

“It’s really rewarding when you get people excited about things that it’s not easy to get people excited about – like small crustaceans” – Alyssa Adler, Undersea Specialist with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic.

Careers Advice for aspiring Conservation Educators

“Contact your local Wildlife Trust and see what volunteering opportunities they have. Our education team depends on our fantastic volunteers (and most of our staff used to be volunteers!) so there are definitely openings out there”.

“Have a look around in books and online to find out more about Forest Schools. It’s a broad movement and there are lots of different groups doing lots of different things. Expensive training is available and that might be something you consider – but do get some experience of what Forest Schools are in practice first so you know whether it is right for you”, said Kathryn Phillips – Education Officers for The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside.

Educator Conservation Career Stories – Read the latest here:
Educator Conservation Jobs

To date we have published [XXXX] educator conservation jobs on Conservation Careers. Discover the latest educator conservation job

Fundraiser Conservation Jobs | Raising money to save nature

“The best moments in the job are when we secure significant funding”, said Dr Nick Askew, Pacific Fundraising Manager for BirdLife International.

One way to have an impact in your career is to raise the vital funds needed to make things happen. Often termed ‘development’, fundraising can mean many different things – from running a stand at a country fair, to writing multi-million dollar proposals to governments. One thing’s for sure, if you’re a good fundraiser then you’ll be in demand as every conservation charity wants to raise more money. Always. 

Fundraiser roles

Fundraisers can raise money from a variety of sources, including:

  • Grants / Institutional giving / Trusts & Foundations
  • Individual donors / Major gifts
  • Sales & services

…using methods such as:

  • Grant writing
  • Donor engagement
  • Events / Campaigns / Crowdfunding
Fundraiser job titles

Examples of early career Fundraiser job titles include Membership Development Officer, Fundraising Officer, Membership Development Assistant, Development Officer, and Fundraising Campaigner.

Fundraiser skills

We analysed 29,767 conservation jobs, from over 100 countries, to find out what skills employers want.

Using our Career Explorer database (a searchable database of all the conservation jobs ever posted on Conservation Careers, which is part of our Conservation Careers Academy membership), we focussed in on entry level Fundraiser positions.

We looked for repetitive requirements, skills and patterns in job advertisements. Here’s what we found:

Most wanted skills

  • Fundraising
  • Relationship management
  • Budget management
  • Organisational skills
  • Research new opportunities
  • Proposal development
  • Course development

Specialist skills: Microsoft Office, Database management, Budgeting, Negotiating

Learn more about the skills employers want in our Top Conservation Skills Ultimate Guide.

Fundraiser job duties

Fundraiser roles often include the following duties

  • Writing grant applications and reports
  • Supporting members and donors
  • Organising appeals, campaigns and fundraising drives
  • Developing projects and programmes
In the words of a Fundraiser

“The best moments in the job are when we secure significant funding, and I can see that I’ve been an important part of a team who have started a project which will help to save a species from extinction”, Dr Nick Askew, Pacific Fundraising Manager for BirdLife International.

“I find fundraising uplifting and energising, as it involves experiencing, every day, how much people care about the natural environment and how much they want to help out, both financially and in other ways”.

“I feel like I have been tremendously lucky because my job is my calling. I love every single day. Before I moved to work in nature conservation I used to have that horrible Sunday evening feeling of not wanting to go in to work on Monday – I haven’t had that feeling in years,” she concluded”, said Karen Mitchell – Relationships Manager for Trees for Life.

Careers Advice for aspiring Conservation Fundraisers

… your typical conservationist 20 years ago would probably tell you if he was trying to or she was trying to fundraise for something, that I need this money because it’s important because of X, Y, Z. I find the focus is very much on why this project needs funding not what you would get out of supporting it.”

“…you need to tell people why it’s important, how they can help and what they will get from it. And that might just be, you know, a warm, fuzzy feeling, or it might be well, actually, [you] can help protect this entire landscape and in five years’ time, this is what we think it will look like and these are the species that are here that you could help protect…. you have to be a bit more creative with it”, said Nick Bubb, Business Development Director at Fauna & Flora International.

Fundraiser Conservation Career Stories – Read the latest here:

Fundraiser Conservation Jobs

To date we have published [XXXX] fundraiser conservation jobs on Conservation Careers. Discover the latest fundraiser conservation jobs.

Project Manager Conservation Jobs | Saving the world one project at a time

Dr Yemi Oloruntuyi.

A programme is a themed area of work, often made up of specific projects which work together towards a defined goal. Conservation jobs in this area require strong organisational skills and an ability to work in teams to manage and coordinate tasks, deadlines and budgets.

It’s a BIG area of work (we’ve listed 3,093 jobs so far!) and often requires a mix of project management skills (which can be transferred from non-conservation jobs) and some specific knowledge for the project in question.

Consequently, it’s an interesting area for career switchers to look at; many of your work experiences to date provide you transferrable or soft-skills which many graduates don’t have when they leave university.

Project Manager roles

There are two main roles: Project Managers and Programme Managers.

Project Manager job titles

Early career Project Manager job titles include Project Officer, Project Assistant, Programme Officer and Programme Assistant, Project Manager and Programme Manager.

Project Manager skills

We analysed 29,767 conservation jobs, from over 100 countries, to find out what skills employers want.

Using our Career Explorer database (a searchable database of all the conservation jobs ever posted on Conservation Careers, which is part of our Conservation Careers Academy membership), we focussed in on entry level Fundraiser positions.

We looked for repetitive requirements, skills and patterns in job advertisements. Here’s what we found:

Most wanted skills

  • Organisational skills
  • Communication skills
  • Team collaboration
  • Leadership
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Organising meetings and events
  • Grant and finance management
  • Providing of training

Specialist skills: Analytical, Microsoft Office, Monitoring & Evaluation, Negotiating, Database management, Contract Management, Presentation

Learn more about the skills employers want in our Top Conservation Skills Ultimate Guide.

Project Manager job duties

Project Manager roles often include the following duties:

  • Coordinating project activities to deliver on budget and to time.
  • Organising and running workshops and meetings, including budgets, travel, accommodation and other meeting requirements.
  • Supporting the Monitoring and Evaluation work of projects.
  • Managing communications for the projects (email-lists, newsletters, social media, donor reports etc.)
In the words of a Project Manager

“…I get to share and learn in-depth information about specific conservation strategy from different organisations, as well as different projects successes and failures. I have realised from the places I have worked how much regions and even governments can depend on NGOs (non-governmental organisations) for resources, guidance and science due to lack of funding, manpower or resources of their own”, said Victoria Gehrke, Programme Director at the Gunung Palung Orangutan Project.

“What I really like about this job is that I’m in a position to meet lots of people at different levels. I meet internally with my bosses in the office, I meet the field staff in the field, I meet the government agency FDA, I meet the communities, I meet the local authorities and when we are having external guests, I get to meet them too. The interaction with different groups is really what I love about this job” said Emmanuel G. Smith, Project Coordinator for the Society for Conservation of Nature in Liberia.

Careers Advice for aspiring Conservation Project Managers

“…I also think it’s quite arrogant to assume that one person can make a difference or whether you should expect them too! Key to successful conservation is creating and developing partnerships, with communities, local stakeholders and other NGOs. Developing links with people who you probably never thought you would as a conservationist  such as businesses, private partners, lawyers – all of these people can have key roles in conservation programmes.”

It would be great to have more people with a passion for, or background in, conservation working in alternative careers so the sector wasn’t seen so separately. The objectives of most conservationists (put most simply as trying to improve the state of the environment without damaging livelihoods) are probably shared by a lot of people and could easily infiltrate through all businesses and sectors”, said Frances Humber, Conservation Programmes Manager, Blue Ventures.

Project Manager Conservation Career Stories – Read the latest here:

Project Manager Conservation Jobs

To date we have published [XXXX] project manager conservation jobs on Conservation Careers. Discover the latest project manager conservation jobs.

Wildlife Carer | Caring for wildlife

Credit: Fabiola Quesada.

While we often aim to keep wildlife wild, sometimes effective conservation requires hands-on intervention. Wildlife Carers are the people who take care of the health and welfare of wildlife.

If your blood boils when you see an animal suffer, or you’re passionate about animal welfare, this could be the job function for you.

Wildlife Carer roles

Zoos, sanctuaries, aquariums and rehabilitation centres are playing an increasingly important role in conservation and education programmes. These include captive breeding programmes, education programmes and reintroduction/rewilding programmes.

Wildlife Carer roles include working in conservation as a Veterinarian (Vet), including as a Wildlife Vet, Zoo Vet or Research Vet.

Wildlife Vet

As a wildlife veterinarian you rarely treat the animals themselves. Instead, your focus is on keeping their habitat safe for them and safe for the humans living there.

The main part of the job is educating people living with or around wildlife on how to act if they ever encounter it and how they have to treat their environment. It starts with simple things, like wildlife-safe dustbins so the animals aren’t attracted to our food and therefore don’t get used to us and won’t do any harm.

Zoo Veterinarian

The role of zoo veterinarians in conservation has expanded significantly over the past few decades. It is often assumed that a zoo veterinarian is only responsible for treating a zoo animal when it gets ill and keeping the overall collection of animals healthy.

However, this is only a fraction of the work they do, as they are now involved in the more traditional ex situ conservation projects and education, but also in rehabilitation and reintroduction projects. Of course, not every zoo veterinarian does all of these things, but conservation is becoming an ever-growing part of the job in many institutions.

Research Vets

The veterinarians that are truly invaluable to conservation are those that have dedicated their lives to specialising in subjects essential for the work with endangered species and wildlife in general.

This includes anaesthesiology of wildlife/marine mammals/fish and molluscs (and so on), reproduction physiology of endangered species and options to aid their breeding processes, setting markers to assess the wellbeing of populations in the wild (and individuals in an ex situ setting) and so many other fields that are vital to conservation efforts being successful.

Wildlife Carer Job Titles

Examples of Animal Carer job titles include Veterinarian, Assistant Veterinarian, Keeper, Zoo-keeper, Breeding Officer, Animal Warden, Zoo Ranger, Animal Care Assistant, Animal Care Manager, Animal Caregiver, Wildlife Assistant, and Assistant Animal Supervisor.

Wildlife Carer Skills, Qualifications and Knowledge

Here are some common Wildlife Carer skills from our Career Explorer database:

  • Practical experience of animal husbandry (with relevant species/groups)
  • Knowledge of husbandry techniques
  • Knowledge and experience of animal handling
  • Written and verbal communication (including the ability to speak to staff and the public).
  • Time management
  • Ability to work independently and on a team
  • Ability to follow protocols and policy.
  • Reliable, responsible and professional.
  • Self-motivation
  • Attention to detail
  • Observation skills.
  • Physical fitness and able to work in outdoor conditions.
  • Able to remain calm and make decisions in a crisis situations
  • Driver’s License
  • Computer literacy 

Here are some common Veterinarian skills from our Career Explorer database:

  • A veterinary qualification, such as a veterinary technician degree, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) or VMD from an AVMA accredited institution.
  • ACZM board certification.
  • Licensed to practice.
  • Data entry / recordkeeping.
  • Working independently and collaborating in a team.
  • Verbal and written communication.
  • Building and maintaining relationships.
  • Following protocols effectively
  • Organisational skills.
  • Self motivation.
  • Reliability and responsibility.
  • Giving instruction, delegating and teaching.
  • Budgeting.
  • Understanding of natural history; applying taxon-specific veterinary principles, practices and techniques.
  • Physical fitness.
  • Technological and/or computer literacy.

Wildlife Carer Duties

Animal Carers in zoo or aquarium environments typically undertake the following duties:

  • All aspects of animal husbandry (care, raising and breeding) and welfare.
  • Assisting with the cleaning of animal areas.
  • Regular inspections of the animals.
  • Assisting with the preparation of approved diets and carrying out the correct feeding procedures.
  • Assisting with medical treatments.
  • Maintaining courteous and helpful relations with visitors, including educating visitors.
  • Assisting with animal enrichment programmes.
  • Following procedures to ensure wildlife welfare, and health and safety of staff and visitors.
  • Collecting data and/or maintaining accurate records.
  • Understanding of relevant natural history. 

Veterinarians typically undertake the following duties:

  • Performing and/or overseeing all aspects of veterinary care, including diagnostic techniques (e.g. radiology), treatment techniques, surgery, emergency response, and (in some cases) euthanasia.
  • Preventive care, such as routine examinations, vaccinations, parasite management, quarantine, etc.
  • Maintaining medical records.
  • Developing and implementing medical treatment protocols and policies.
  • Training and supervising support staff, interns, and/or volunteers in medical-related activities.
  • Maintaining medical equipment and a safe, effective working environment.
  • Capture, transport, tagging and release.
  • Following international best practice for animal welfare.
  • Communication with staff, partners and/or the public.
In the words of an Wildlife Carer

“Recently we had a confiscation of over 100 native birds which we worked with the Laos government to confiscate from the illegal wildlife trade. Then within a week we had managed to release all but 5 of those birds back out into species specific safe areas. It was a great but exhausting week!” – Eve Mansfield, a zoo-keeper in the UK who became Director of the Laos Conservation Trust for Wildlife (a rescue centre). 

“…my favourite part is seeing the animals get up after we have removed the wire from the snare. Some animals just run off, but a lot of the giraffe get up and then look back at you as if to say, “what just happened?” Often before the wire is removed the giraffe are lame but immediately you can see they are walking better and feeling less pain once that wire has been removed. When you get to an animal before the wire has caused any long-term damage, you know you have just saved that animal. Seeing the animal pain free and knowing without the team’s efforts that animal would have just continued to suffer is the best feeling.” – Sara Ferguson, Veterinarian and Uganda Conservation Coordinator for the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

“Seeing [wolves and wolf dogs] in the wild is an emotional and awe-inspiring experience. Seeing them up close in a zoo or sanctuary is cool, but caring for them is where I fell in love. Everyday I get to learn a little bit more about these amazing creatures both as a whole and as individuals. I get to help save their lives and watch as many of them go from being terrified, abused animals to calm and more confident individuals. I get to see how their personalities bloom and develop over time. I find them vastly entertaining, extremely frustrating and amazingly forgiving. There is never a dull moment at the Sanctuary.” – Michelle Proulx, Director of Animal Care and Educational Programmes at W.O.L.F Sanctuary, Colorado, USA.

Careers advice for aspiring Wildlife Carers
Eve Mansfield’s role as Director of the Laos Conservation Trust for Wildlife is very varied, and flexibility is key. At any one time she could be tasked with implementing a rescue, planning the future of the centre, assisting with veterinary care or even looking into finance and human resources. During her career, Eve gained valuable experiences in as many facilities as she could. “It’s been useful to be able to see how all of these facilities are run and being able to compare and learn from the good and the bad.”
 

“The best advice I can give anyone looking to get into the animal care field, especially if they are considering a zoo, aquarium or sanctuary, is to volunteer or intern with those organisations. In my experience, these types of organisations are less impressed with academic achievements and more focused on hands-on experience. If there is an organisation that someone is interested in working for, I would highly recommend they start there as a volunteer or sign up for internships with that group (multiple if possible!). If the organisation is already familiar with a person and appreciates the help they have already been giving, that individual will have a much better chance of landing a job with them.” – Michelle Proulx – Director of animal care and educational programmes at W.O.L.F Sanctuary, Colorado, USA.

Wildlife Carer Conservation Career Stories – Read the latest here:

Wildlife Carer Conservation Jobs

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Conservation Job Themes | Key themes & knowledge

Job Themes are the themes of work jobs relate to, and usually require specific knowledge. They are:

  • Animal Welfare
  • Climate Change
  • Community Conservation
  • Ecotourism
  • Fisheries
  • Marine Conservation
  • Restoration & Rewilding
  • Sustainability
  • Wildlife
  • Zoology
Within a Conservation Job Theme, it’s usually possible to find all of the Conservation Job Functions.

Community Conservation Jobs | Helping people to be part of the solution

A community meeting with local warriors in Ruaha, Tanzania. Credit: Amy Dickman.

More organisations are seeing local people as key stakeholders in the process of conservation. There is a need for people to work effectively within different cultural settings and languages to deliver benefits for people and the planet.

People often get into conservation to work with animals, and then realise conservation is all about working with people. Increasingly conservation organisations are engaging in activities and projects which put local people at the heart of their work – seeing them as part of the solution to the problems in the natural world.

If you enjoy working with people, work well in different cultural settings and enjoy finding solutions for people and the planet then community-based conservation might be for you.

Community Conservation areas of focus (duties?)

Community Conservation is a broad theme of work, encompassing each of the 11 Job Functions. Here are some particularly common areas of focus:

  • Capacity building – enhancing an individual, group or organisation’s ability to achieve their mission now and into the future. For example: providing technical support to local staff or communities.
  • Community outreach – providing services to communities that might not otherwise have access, or engaging communities through awareness activities.
  • Building and developing collaboration and partnerships

Community Conservation Skills

Some of the most important skills for Community Conservation are ‘people skills’:

  • Strong verbal and written communication skills, including active listening
  • Interpersonal skills, including building relationships
  • Diplomatic skills, including negotiating and mediating
  • Training, mentoring and/or supporting individuals and/or organisations to develop
  • Ability to work sensitively across diverse cultures, perspectives, values and levels of education

Community Conservation knowledge

  • Local language(s)
  • Local, national or regional contexts – environmental, social, cultural, political, and/or economic
  • Rural livelihoods
In the words of a Community Conservationist

“I get to speak to many different people every day – from project managers in the field in Madagascar to the Digital Media Assistant in the UK. Speaking to so many different people in different teams, all working on different projects, to work towards a common goal is exciting and I learn something new (or lots of things) every day”, said Jenny Maltby is the Conservation Programmes Assistant at Blue Ventures.

“The best thing about my job is the diversity of my work. No day is like the other. I’ve found myself snorkelling on a remote island surveying seagrass, conducting focus groups on family planning, facilitating a training session on theories of change, supporting partners to analyse data and write reports, and meeting with government officials in the capitol. Who knows what tomorrow will bring!” said Urszula Stankiewicz People- Health-Environment (PHE) Support Officer at Blue Ventures.

Careers Advice for aspiring Community Conservationists

“I have spent a lot of time reading articles, journals, books and online blogs. I feel that a good background knowledge of all conservation issues is extremely useful in my current role. As conservation is such a competitive sector and is difficult to get into, it is important to stand out”.

“Volunteering for free is something that most conservationists have done at some point in their career. It shows passion, dedication and employers will see that you are willing to go above and beyond to work in this field”, added Jenny.

“Whilst on your journey to save the planet, don’t forget about people. If you really want to make a positive impact, you must involve the people who are most affected by degrading ecosystems. Communities, often in remote areas, are on the front lines of conservation. Engage them at every level to find solutions that work for them. I believe this is the only way conservation can work” – Urszula Stankiewicz People- Health-Environment (PHE) Support Officer at Blue Ventures.

“I just wish we could drop the idea that you need a Biology degree to be a good conservationist. I’ve got three biology-related degrees and I’ve never used them … Bringing different skills is so important.”

“It’s important to understand that this is a field that has a lot of complexities and expertise, and that expertise comes in different forms. For example, community leaders have huge amounts of expertise and that shouldn’t be devalued compared to a western scientist” – Professor Amy Dickman, University of Oxford.

“It’s vital to be aware of the environment you work in, for example, local legislation policies and community cultures. We have different approaches for certain projects in different communities and must have the people skills to deal with these.

“Our staff may have different beliefs to those within a community and must be open minded and understanding of other views. Social dynamics and issues can be hard to predict; therefore, an analytical mind is helpful to adapt to changing challenges and anticipate future potential conflicts” – Moses Muthoki, Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Community Conservation Career Stories – Read the latest here:

Community Conservation Jobs

To date we have published [XXXX] community conservation jobs on Conservation Careers. Discover the latest community conservation jobs

Webinar | Community-based Conservation

Hear from Tom Graham, Co-Founder of MAD Travel, Author of “The Genius of the Poor” and TEDx Speaker, about helping local Filipino communities flourish through promoting authentic travel. experiences.

Ecotourism Conservation Jobs | Your conservation adventure awaits

Ecotourism can give participants the opportunity to see conservation research and projects first hand – such as mist-netting to monitor bird species. Credit: Andy Young / Wildimages.org.

A leading definition of ecotourism is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. That last bit is for both guests and staff.

Another useful way to think about ecotourism is sustainable tourism (which strives for social, cultural, economic and environmental sustainability), which takes place in natural areas and focuses on providing benefits for conservation and local communities.

In many ways, careers in ecotourism have it all: the opportunity to make a difference for wildlife, habitats and local communities; the adventure and excitement of travel; meaningful global connections; and perhaps even a chance to explore your entrepreneurial side. 

Careers in ecotourism can also offer more opportunities (and pay) than other highly-competitive Conservation Job Types that rely primarily on donor funding.

Ecotourism sub-themes / areas of focus

Ecotourism is a broad theme of work, encompassing each of the 11 Job Functions. But ecotourism is also uber-diverse, encompassing many sub-themes / areas of focus. These include:

  • Certification

In practice, it’s very common to find ecotourism jobs that combine several different Job Functions and Job Themes – such as Scientist, Educator and Community Conservation.

Sector-specific ecotourism conservation jobs

Ecotourism also includes some sector-specific Job Functions, such as: 

  • Consulting
  • Guiding
  • Lodge / Base Camp / Research Station Manager 
  • Consulting/Certification
  • Destination Manager
  • Business Owner

Ecotourism knowledge

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In the words of a Conservationist working in Ecotourism

“With the idea in mind to establish a marine protected area that could be funded by ecotourism and support education, I … became a social entrepreneur.”

“Worldwide, many government-run parks are what can be called ‘paper parks’: protected on paper, but with no effective management on the ground to protect the biodiversity from exploitation and destruction. One major reason for this is that the funds generated are rarely made available for on-site management.”

“In contrast, Privately Protected Areas run by passionate conservationists have a very different formula. In the case of Chumbe, 100% of the income from ecotourism goes into park management and our education programs” said Sibylle Riedmiller, founder of Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP) – the world’s first privately managed marine protected area (MPA) fully funded by ecotourism.

“Every day is like an adventure. You never know what you’ll find. The other day we saw a hammerhead! Last week there was a pod of three humpback whales sleeping right next to our boat. There are so many great surprises.”

“Customers leave feeling uplifted and happy. It’s a nice feeling. Generally, you’re dealing with happy people which is great. You’re dealing with people who are out to have fun!” said Mark Ferguson, co-owner of Exmouth Dive & Whalesharks in Western Australia.

Careers Advice for aspiring Ecotourism Conservationists

“Be patient. Make sure you take the time to gain the experience you need. Get the relevant qualifications. Spend the time and the money on doing it properly.”

“Get everything you need, then the job! If you’re a carpenter you get a saw, then you get a job. If you want to do it, get the tools – get your Divemaster or Instructor qualification, and get your insurance.”

“Try to be multi-talented – it’s not just about being on the boat. You have to do the other stuff too! Be proficient on a computer, and at other things that can be helpful. Like dealing with people. Thinking outside the box to deal with situations. Being reliable, honest and on time is key. If you have a marine biology degree that’s great, but you need the other tools too!” said Mark Ferguson, co-owner of Exmouth Dive & Whalesharks in Western Australia.

Ecotourism Conservation Career Stories – Read the latest here:

Ecotourism Conservation Jobs

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Marine Conservation Jobs | Protecting the blue planet

A marine conservation job is any role where your activities aid the conservation or enhancement of marine biodiversity.

Marine conservation jobs are the single most in-demand job theme on Conservation Careers. This popularity makes competition high for individual job seekers, but it’s not all bad news. The marine conservation sector is also growing rapidly – with more and more jobs created each year – and an enormous opportunity for both job seekers and the marine conservation movement.

Marine Conservation areas of focus

Marine conservation is a broad theme of work, encompassing each of the 11 Job Functions. But marine conservation is also uber-diverse, encompassing many sub-themes / areas of focus. These include:

  • Aquarium jobs
  • Climate change
  • Endangered species
  • Fisheries
  • Pollution
  • Protected areas
Sector-specific marine conservation jobs

Marine conservation also includes some sector-specific Job Functions, such as: 

  • Diving
  • Marine spatial planning

Marine Conservation knowledge

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In the words of a Marine Conservationist

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Careers Advice for aspiring Marine Conservationists

“We all suffer from impostor syndrome … Even the most successful people have self-doubts and so don’t let that self-doubt eat you up.”

“…you don’t have to win the race, you don’t have to be first, you just have to stay running … keep learning new things, keep meeting new people, keep thinking about where you are best suited to deliver your talents in the world…” said Brendan Godley, Professor of Conservation Science at the University of Exeter.

“There are many different paths into marine conservation. Studying marine biology is just one way. Someone may have a law background and we’re crying out for environmental lawyers! There aren’t many people with a specialism in marine conservation law.”

“It’s never too late to change direction too. For AMCS and many organisations in the charity sector, we often end up employing people who have volunteered. You get your foot in the door and can prove yourself which is a great advantage!” said Darren Kindleysides, CEO of the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

“People feel like there’s a certain mould they have to fit to be a conservationist, but actually, what we need is people who are different. Instead of trying to follow what others have done, my advice would be to think about how to find your niche, and how to make yourself stand out for the right reasons.”

“If you see an issue affecting our planet, don’t assume that someone else is fixing it. Tackle it yourself instead. Put yourself forward by joining a campaign, or starting your own, and then shout about it. There’s nothing more attractive to an employer than someone who puts their money where their mouth is.” said UK marine conservationist Emily Cunningham.

Marine Conservation Career Stories – Read the latest here:

Marine Conservation Jobs

To date we have published [XXXX] marine conservation jobs on Conservation Careers. Discover the latest marine conservation jobs.

Conservation Career Stories and Careers Advice

We’ve spoken to over 400 professional conservationists and shared their career stories, advice, tips and much more in our career advice article and in our Conservation Careers podcast. These include conservation leaders such as:

Finding YOUR Job Type

The conservation sector can seem vast and daunting, until you find your niche.

We’ve explored 11 job functions and ten job themes. Are you curious about where you might fit?

When you combine a Job Function with one or more Job Theme, you can begin to discover your ideal conservation job. A job where you can use skills you enjoy, contribute to a cause you care about, in an environment where you thrive.

A niche that fits you like a glove, makes you super happy and therefore highly motivated and competitive. This is where the magic happens.

Example conservation career ‘niches’

Here are just a few examples of how Job Functions and Job Themes can be combined to create a conservation career niche:

  • Restoration Ecologist – An ecologist who helps ecosystems and landscapes recover after they’ve been degraded, damaged or destroyed by human activities.
  • Fisheries Scientist – A scientist or biologist who studies areas where humans interact with fish.
  • Climate Change Policy Advocate – A conservationist who advocates for action to address climate change.
  • Community Educator – An educator, trainer or outreach specialist who helps local communities understand and value wildlife, or builds their capacity to conserve wildlife.
  • Ecotourism Organisational Manager – A manager who leads an ecotourism business or venture, such as an ecolodge and/or ecotours.
  • Marine Economist – An economist who conducts economic analysis related to protection and use of the marine environment, to understand the benefits, costs, incentives and impacts of different options.
  • Rewilding Project Manager – A project manager who develops and/or implements rewilding projects. 
From these few examples, you can begin to see how combining a specific job function and job theme(s) defines a ‘niche’ within the conservation sector. The possibilities are endless!
 
Specialist versus generalist jobs
 

Are you a person who loves to specialist and become an expert in a particular area? Or does the idea of focussing on only one thing put you off?

Job functions and job themes can also help us understand ‘generalist’ versus ‘specialist’ careers. For example, an ecologist might niche down until they specialise in restoration ecology, and eventually in restoring wetland ecosystems. Or a biologist might specialise in studying a specific species of dung beetle in the Neotropics. Both of these are highly specialised conservation careers.

On the other hand, a communicator might work for an ecotourism venture, helping promote their tours and conservation initiatives to potential guests, or that same communicator might apply their skills to disseminating climate change research. Job functions like communicator, fundraiser, project manager and many more may choose to specialise, or they may enjoy applying their specialised set of skills across many different themes.

Starting out in conservation using job functions and job themes

Job functions and job themes are great tools to use at the beginning of your career, to guide your career steps. For example, let’s say your dream career is combating the illegal wildlife trade of pangolins. It’s unlikely that you’ll land a role focussing on pangolins right out of the gate, but you might start your career in a less-specific policy advocate role, building relevant skills as you move towards your ideal job. By starting broad, and then ‘niching down’, you’ll have access to more job opportunities early in your career.

Not sure where you’re headed? That’s completely normal! We recommend focussing first on a job function, then exploring how you might apply those skills across different themes.

 

FAQs

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Need some help securing your dream conservation job?

Phew! That was a lot of information and well done if you made it this far. And hello those who skim to the bottom of blog posts. 

Understanding the job market is so important in your quest to become a professional conservationist. Unless you fully understand all your options, you won’t be able to find your niche, and without that you’re far less likely to be happy, impactful and competitive.

A big part of this also is to understand yourself. What do you love doing? What are you great at? What are your biggest needs right now?

At Conservation Careers we’ve helped hundreds of people just like you to get clarity on your career options, to form an actionable plan of action, and to get secure your dream job.

If you need our help, we’re here for you.

Useful links & free stuff

A group of aspiring botanists stand in a field in the Peruvian Amazon.
Photo by the Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon.
The cover of The Step-by-Step System to Get Hired as a Wildlife ConservationistTo help you navigate your options, please select which best describes you:
  • You want to work in conservation but you’re feeling lost, disillusioned or confused?!? Check out our Kick-Starter training designed to help you understand the job market, to navigate your career options, and to get hired more quickly. It’s designed for students, graduates, job-seekers and career-switchers. We’re proud to say it also has 100% satisfaction and recommendation ratings. We know you’ll love it. Find out more about our Kick-Starter – Online Course.
  • You need answers to top questions about working in conservation? Check out our free Ultimate Guides covering topics like the 15 Key Conservation Job Types, Top Conservation Internships | Paid or Free and Marine Conservation Jobs, and answering questions like How to Switch Careers into Conservation, Do I need a Master’s Degree? and much more! Or download our free guides to keep and read later!
  • You feel ready to be applying for jobs in conservation? Check out our membership packages for job seekers which provide access to the world’s biggest conservation job board – with over 10,000 conservation jobs shared each year – plus a range of other benefits. Check out our monthly memberships here.
  • You’re submitting applications, but failing to get many interviews? Check out our FREE eBook Conservation Jobs: The Step-by-Step System to Get Hired as a Wildlife Conservationist – available on Kindle, EPUB and PDF. We can also review your applications, and provide 1:1 advice on how to improve them. Check out our application support here.
  • You’ve got an interview (well done!) and would like our help to prepare for it? We know what employers want, and have helped many people prepare for and deliver successful interviews. Check out our interview preparation here.
  • You’re feeling stuck, struggling with a career decision or something’s holding you back from pursuing the career of your dreams? Our 1:1 career coaching can help you gain clarity about your next steps and form a plan of action. Check out our career coaching here