Key Conservation Roles

What roles exist in Conservation?

When you think of conservation jobs do you envisage someone in the field counting Sea Turtle hatchlings or observing Mountain Gorillas? Although these conservation jobs exist (and can be very attractive!), they represent just a tiny fraction of the conservation sector.

Much bigger than you might imagine, conservation is an expanding, diversifying professional industry offering a dizzying array of conservation job types for job seekers. For example, on Conservation Careers to date we’ve listed over 50,000 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? We’ve simplified the conservation sector into 11 Key Conservation Roles to help you understand where you might fit in… so you can kick-start your career journey!

Soils and decomposition are key to ecosystem health - but they're not quite as 'sexy' as charismatic Gorillas or Sea Turtles. Credit: Thomas Bormans / Unsplash.


Are you wondering if you need experience or a master’s degree? Are you curious what transferable skills conservation employers value most? Here are some surprising highlights from researching the 11 key conservation roles:

… of the key conservation roles require some relevant experience, and/or experience in a related role.
… of the key conservation roles usually require a master’s degree.
9 of 11
… key conservation roles don’t require a university degree, or will consider experience as a substitute.
… Organisation and Teamwork are the most-wanted transferable skills by conservation employers.
… and Initiative are the most-wanted behaviours by conservation employers.
5 of 11
… key conservation roles are based fully or partly outdoors.
Communication (verbal and written), organisation and teamwork are the most-wanted transferable skills by conservation employers.

What are the 11 key conservation roles?

On Conservation Careers to date we’ve listed over 50,000 conservation jobs which cover over 15,000 different job titles! With so many different roles available within conservation, we’ve simplified them into 11 key roles.

Click the links to dive deeper into learning about each role.


Any job focussed on communications and/or marketing, including photography and filmmaking. Examples include: Communications Officer, Social Media Manager, Photographer, Artist. Explore.


Any job focused on undertaking surveys or research to provide advice to clients (usually wishing to undertake developments). Examples include: Graduate/Junior/Senior/Consultant/Principal Ecologist, Wildlife Trapper. These roles often involve Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) or Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIAs). Explore.


Any job focussed on valuing nature economically. Examples include: Economics Programme Officer, Environmental Economist, Sustainable Finance Assistant, etc. Explore.


Any job focused on environmental education for children or adults, including events and visitor engagement. Examples include: environmental educator, teacher, interpreter, guide, volunteer coordinator, outreach etc. Explore.


Any job focused on raising money. Examples include: Fundraiser, Development Coordinator/Manager, Fundraising Campaigner, Donor Relations Manager, Partnership Management, etc. Explore.


Any job focussed on the practical conservation of sites (both habitat and visitors), including wardens and rangers. Examples include: Countryside Ranger, Park Ranger, Estate Worker, Reserves Officer, Land Manager, Countryside Ranger, Park Ranger, Reserves Warden, Community Ranger, etc. Explore.


Any job focussed on managing an organisation. Examples include: CEO, CFO, COO, Director, Entrepreneur, Office Manager, Head of Finance, HR Assistant, HR Officer, HR Manager, Administrative Assistant, Executive Assistant, Office Administrator, Business Development Manager, etc. Explore.


Any job focussed on policy and/or advocacy. Examples include: Campaigner, Policy Officer, Policy Analyst, etc. Explore.


Any job focused on project or programme management (i.e. management of a themed area of work). Examples include: Project Officer, Project Assistant, Project Manager, Programme Officer, Programme Assistant, Programme Manager. Explore.


Any job focussed on science and research (field and/or desk-based), including GIS and mapping and data analysis. Examples include: Researcher, Field Research Assistant, Science Officer, Scientist, PhD candidate, Postdoctoral Researcher, GIS Officer, Spatial Modeller, etc. Explore.


Any Job focused on caring for animals, often in captivity such as Zoos, Veterinary Clinics or Shelters. Examples include: Veterinary nurse, Zookeeper etc. Explore.

Becoming a Policy Advocate is an exciting way to give nature a voice in decision-making. Credit: Public Policy Forum / Flickr.

Education or experience: What do employers value most?

One of the most common questions aspiring conservationists ask us at Conservation Careers is, Do I need a master’s degree to work in conservation?

To help answer this, we’ve summarised the education and experience requirements for typical early-career key conservation roles.

You might be surprised to see that all 11 roles typically require relevant experience, while only some require formal education. Master’s degrees aren’t usually a requirement for entry-level roles.

*Can sometimes be substituted with relevant experience.
**Can occasionally be substituted with relevant experience or a combination of experience and training.

Keep in mind: education and experience requirements can differ for mid- to senior-level roles, and also with sub roles (e.g. veterinarian). Having a degree or master’s may still be an advantage even when not required.

Ready to get your feathers dirty? Real-life experience is highly valued by conservation employers. Credit: David Clode / Unsplash.

What types of conservation employers exist?

Within the conservation sector, there are five main employer types:

  • Academic: Higher education institutions awarding academic degrees, and research-focussed organisations.
  • Business: Companies which are for-profit. AKA: private, corporate.
  • Charity: Not-for-profit and non-governmental organisations. AKA: Third sector, NGOs.
  • Government: Part of an economy that is controlled by the government. AKA: Public, civil service.
  • Social Enterprise: Organisations that apply commercial strategies to maximise improvements in human and environmental wellbeing. AKA: Start-ups, innovation.

Each type of conservation employer offers different key conservation roles:

Which employer type(s) would suit you best? Check out our Conservation Pathway Programme for career switchers and Conservation Career Kick-Starter training to uncover your top needs and which employers might best support them!

Conservation jobs tracking charismatic mammals like Lynx exist, but they're just a small fraction of the sector (and come with their own challenges too!) Credit: Zdeněk Macháček / Unsplash.

Which conservation roles offer your favourite contexts?

Do you thrive outdoors, in an office, or a mix of both? Do you prefer creative or process-driven tasks? Do you thrive in a team, alone, or some of each?
We’re all unique and thrive in different contexts, so we’ve summarised typical contexts for the key conservation roles. Find out where you might be happiest.
Do you enjoy being outdoors, being creative and working with people? Conservation Educator could be a role for you! Credit: BLM Oregon and Washington / Flickr.

Conservation salaries & key stats

Have you heard that conservation doesn’t pay much and is highly competitive? In reality, both salary and competition vary widely across the industry.

Here’s how the 11 key roles compare with one another. We’ve considered pay, popularity (how many applicants roles receive) and availability (how many jobs are available at a given time). Keep in mind that this is a general guide, and that pay, popularity and availability can vary widely with employer type, location and job level.

*Pay for senior-level Organisational Manager roles can reach a 5.
**Pay for veterinary sub roles can reach a 4.
To research salaries for general roles in your region, we recommend searching the Economic Research Institute’s Compensation HubTo research salaries and availability for Conservation roles in your region, we recommend searching our Conservation Job Archive as a Conservation Careers Academy member.
As a Conservation Project Manager, you might find yourself engaging with local farmers or agricultural organisations, like this cocoa farmer in Peru. Credit: cocoa / Flickr

What transferable skills and behaviours do employers value most?

We looked across the requirements for all 11 key conservation roles to uncover the most-wanted transferable skills and behaviours employers ask for.

You might be surprised to learn that none of the top skills and behaviours require specialised training, but can be built in any experience, personally or professionally.

The most-wanted transferable skills are:

The most-wanted behaviours are:

Communication (verbal and written), organisation and teamwork are the most-wanted transferable skills by conservation employers. Credit: Paul Carroll / Flickr.

How can I find an outdoor conservation job?

Are you looking to get out from behind a screen, and spend some or most of your working hours outdoors? Five of the 11 key conservation roles are usually based partly or fully outdoors. They are:

Fire management is just one example of the types of activities Conservation Land Managers can do. Credit: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington / Flickr.

How can I find a remote conservation job?

Are you looking for more flexibility – whether it’s to take care of your family, have the option of travel or simply do your best work in your own space? Nine of the 11 key conservation roles have the potential to be based partly or fully remotely. They are:

Keep in mind that opportunities for remote or home-based work vary considerably from employer to employer, so always check job descriptions or speak to employers to be sure remote work is possible.

Are you ready to take off in your career? A Yellow-throated Toucan in flight in Costa Rica. Credit: Zdeněk Macháček / Unsplash.

Discover your career path

Useful links & free stuff

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 Top Conservation Skills, 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 15,000 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 works with you to unlock your full personal and professional potential, so you can uncover new paths to fulfilment, happiness and impact. Check out our career coaching here.