“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” – Dr Sylvia Earle
Ocean conservation is life conservation.
From microscopic bacteria to blue whales, the largest animal ever to have lived, oceans are home to 80% of life on Earth.
They cover over 70% of Earth’s surface, produce over half our oxygen, regulate global climate and weather patterns, absorb nearly 1/3 of global carbon dioxide emissions and sustain roughly 3 billion people worldwide with protein.
They support livelihoods from a booming coastal tourism industry to the Jeju haenyeo (iconic female free divers of Korea), and provide inspiration, freedom, rejuvenation and connection for people from all walks of life.
Unfortunately, our oceans are under attack from overfishing, climate change (warming and acidification), pollution, unsustainable aquaculture, shipping, oil and gas development, invasive species and more. But with effects like coral bleaching and plastic pollution under the public spotlight, the impetus to conserve the blue planet has never been greater.
Marine Conservation Jobs
Marine conservation jobs are the single most in-demand job type 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.
Do you feel the call of the ocean but don’t know where to begin? Are you unsure whether you can ever compete? Or are you curious and just want to know what all the ‘commocean’ is about?
In this Ultimate Guide, we’ll walk you (ahem, paddle you…) through all the information about the marine conservation sector you need to find the right job for you and get hired in marine conservation.
So grab your mask, strap on your flippers, unfurl your sails and open your mind to an ocean of possibilities. Let’s dive in!
What is marine conservation?
“Once you get underwater, it’s inevitable … you’re going to love it and you’re going to want to conserve it” – Emily Daniels, WiseOceans.
Marine conservation means protecting, restoring and enhancing marine biodiversity – including species, habitats and ecosystems.
One of the most popular bases for marine conservation is marine biology, the study of marine organisms and their interactions with the environment (including humans). Marine biologists might specialise in anything from marine food chains or fish behaviour to how marine ecosystems are impacted by human activities.
Marine conservation job types
“Earth is 70% ocean so to be able to manage it you kind-of have to do everything. There’s room for a lot of different skillsets to have influence on a lot of different things.” – Samantha Craven, The Reef-World Foundation.
Before we do a deep dive into the conservation job market, let’s quickly touch on what we define as a marine conservation job. For Conservation Careers, a marine conservation job is any role where your activities aid the conservation or enhancement of marine biodiversity.
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 marine conservation efforts, it’s a marine conservation job.
Marine conservation is a broad theme of work, encompassing each of the 15 key conservation job types. But marine conservation is also uber-diverse, encompassing many sub-sectors / areas of focus – such as fisheries, pollution, endangered species, Marine Protected Areas, and more.
If you’re worried about whether your skillset is needed, you can put that fear to rest!
15 key conservation job types
- Animal Welfare Marine Conservation Jobs | Caring for animals.
Examples of early career job titles: Marine Stranding Network Coordinator, Veterinarian.
Examples of employers: working for a marine animal response centre or stranding network.
- Communications & Marketing Marine Conservation Jobs | Raising the profile of conservation
Examples of early career job titles: Communications Officer/Specialist, Marketing Officer, Social Media Assistant, Magazine Editor, TV Assistant, Writer, Wildlife Journalist, Presenter or Blogger.
Examples of employers: The world’s your oyster! Almost every organisation needs support with this.
Community-based Marine Conservation Jobs | Helping people to be part of the solution
Examples of early career job titles: Community Outreach Officer, Local Empowerment Officer
Examples of employers: Blue Ventures, Positive Change for Marine Life.
- Countryside Management, Warden & Ranger Marine Conservation Jobs | Saving key sites for nature
Examples of early career job titles: Assistant Warden, Assistant Ranger, Countryside Ranger, Park Ranger, Estate Worker, Reserves Officer.
Examples of employers: The Wildlife Trusts.
- Ecotourism Marine Conservation Jobs | Helping people experience the natural world
Examples of early career job titles: Scuba Instructor, Field Guide, Snorkel Guide, Certification Coach, Sales Manager.
Examples of employers: NATUCATE, Audley Travel.
- Ecological Consultancy Conservation Jobs | Ensuring ecologically-sensitive development
Examples of early career job titles: Ecologist, Assistant Ecologist, Graduate Ecologist.
Examples of employers: APEM, Atkins.
- Environmental Economics & Ecosystem Assessment Marine Conservation Jobs | Putting a value on nature
Examples of early career job titles: Economics Programme Officer, Junior Environmental Economist, Sustainable Finance Assistant.
Examples of employers: Ecologic Institute.
- Environmental Education Marine Conservation Jobs | Increasing awareness and support for nature
Examples of early career job titles: Learning Officer, Education Officer, Environmental Educator, Schools Outreach Officer, Learning Assistant, Schools Outreach Project Officer, Education Assistant.
Examples of employers: The Wildlife Trusts, Seal Rescue Ireland.
- Fundraising & Development Marine Conservation Jobs | Raising money to save nature
Examples of early career job titles: Membership Development Officer, Fundraising Officer, Membership Development Assistant, Development Officer.
Examples of employers: Any charity!
- Mapping & GIS Marine Conservation Jobs | Putting nature on the map
Examples of early career job titles: GIS Technical Support Officer, GIS Spatial Modeller, GIS Spatial Modeller, GIS / Ecology Graduate, GIS Technical Support Officer, GIS Officer.
Examples of employers: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- Marine Conservation Jobs | Protecting the blue planet. Congrats, you’re already here!
Photography and Film-making Marine Conservation Jobs | Storytelling for change
Examples of early career job titles: Freelance Photographers, Photo-journalists, Film-makers, Editors, Producers.Examples of employers: SeaLegacy.
- Policy & Advocacy Marine Conservation Jobs | Saving wildlife through law
Examples of early career job titles: Policy and Advocacy Officer, Policy Advisor, Campaigns and Policy Assistant.
Examples of employers: Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Greenpeace.
- Programme & Project Management Marine Conservation Jobs | Saving the world one project at a time
Examples of early career job titles: Project Officer, Project Assistant, Programme Officer and Programme Assistant, Project Manager, Programme Manager.
Examples of employers: National Geographic, Fauna & Flora International.
- Science & Research Marine Conservation Jobs | Answering the key questions to tackle biodiversity loss
Examples of early career job titles: Field Assistant, Research Assistant, Science Officer.
Examples of employers: University of Exeter Marine, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Sector-specific marine conservation jobs
Let’s dive into some of the sub sectors within marine conservation careers.
Divers are in-demand for their specialised skillset – which can be applied in many different ways, such as:
- The recreational dive industry – such as divemaster or dive instructor working with students, tourists, volunteers or interns in the ecotourism or conservation travel sector.
- Commercial diving – such as a diver for an ecological consultancy.
- The public service – such as a diver with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the USA, conducting marine patrols.
- Science and research – such as conducting scientific field surveys or monitoring protected sites, with universities, charities, government and government-sponsored agencies or aquariums.
- Underwater photography and videography, such as an Undersea Specialist with LindBlad Expeditions and National Geographic or Shark Girl Madison.
- Technology, such as operating remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).
Diving Jobs | Career Stories & Advice – Read the latest here.
- Podcast: Francesca Trotman | Love the Oceans
- Podcast: Emily Daniels | WiseOceans
- Seize the Day and Save Sharks With Shark Girl Madison
- Adventurer at heart: exploring the marine world with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic’s Alyssa Adler
Marine spatial planning
Despite covering 71% of Earth’s surface, we have protected less than 4% of the oceans (and enforced protection of even less). 2020 World Oceans Day called on world leaders to protect 30% of oceans by 2030 (‘30×30’) through a network of highly protected areas.
Marine spatial planning (MSP) is an inclusive and transparent process of managing human activities in marine areas in space and time. It brings together diverse ocean users – including government, local communities, industry, tourism, energy and others – aiming to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives. Discover which countries are using MSP.
Marine Spatial Planning Jobs | Career Stories & Advice – Read the latest here.
- OpenChannels – Taking Marine Spatial Planning to the next level
- Decision making matters: career advice from multi award winning conservationist Hugh Possingham
If sustainable fishing is your passion, you’ll find no shortage of jobs in this diverse subsector of marine conservation careers. They include:
- Fisheries Biologists – scientists / wildlife biologists who study fish and their habitats / conduct basic or applied research – from understanding the health of fish populations to broader ecology. Includes everything from working at hatcheries for commercial production to mapping ocean fish stocks. They might even be called on as witnesses for “corporate negligence cases (oil spills etc)”!
- Fisheries Officers and Fisheries Observers – The ‘eyes on the water’, these independent specialists are deployed on fishing vessels or stationed in processing plants to collect data and report on fisheries operations to support science, conservation and management. Employed by government agencies or third party contractors, their data might be used to ensure compliance with regulations, assess fish populations, set fishing quotas and much more.
- Seafood sourcing and supply chain management – working with commercial organisations to support sustainable buying commitments and overseeing all steps in the supply chain from ocean to table – such as with the Marine Stewardship Council (International) or Ocean Wise seafood (national – Canada).
- Aquaculturist – responsible for farming/cultivating aquatic organisms such as freshwater and marine fish and shellfish, playing an important role in quality management and sustainability.
Fisheries Jobs | Career Stories & Advice – Read the latest here.
- Podcast: Ben Sullivan | Fishtek Marine
- Podcast: Dr Alasdair Harris | Blue Ventures
- What’s it like to work in European fisheries policy?
From ocean warming and acidification, to coral bleaching and coastal sea level rise, the need to combat the effects of climate change on our oceans and ecosystems (and the coastal communities who rely on them) has never been greater.
Did you know that ‘blue carbon’ – stored in coastal ecosystems like mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass beds – “store up to 10 times more carbon … per hectare than terrestrial forests.”
This subsector of marine conservation careers is its own theme of work – including all 15 key conservation job types.
Marine Climate Change Jobs | Career Stories & Advice – Read the latest here.
Aquariums are powerhouses for species conservation efforts and environmental education. They offer diverse employment opportunities including:
- Curator – Manage or Oversee part or all of an aquarium’s animal collection
- Veterinarian or Veterinary Technician – Responsible for the health of animal collections, or assisting the veterinarian in providing care to animals.
- Aquarist or Senior/Head Aquarist – Provide or supervise regular care to animals, such as diet preparation, cleaning, exhibit maintenance and record keeping.
- Registrar – maintains records of animal collections and handles permitting and licensing for holding or transporting animals.
- Director/Coordinator of Research – directs or coordinates scientific research projects and publications, liaising with the academic community.
- Director/Coordinator of Conservation – directs or coordinates the aquarium’s conservation initiatives (research and/or field), liaising with conservation organisations and government agencies.
- Conservation Biologist / Zoologist – Provides technical and/or scientific support for animal collection management and conservation projects.
- Director / Assistant Director / CEO – Lead an aquarium’s operation and future plans.
For a comprehensive list of aquarium jobs, see Types of Zoo and Aquarium Jobs by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and Zoo and Wildlife Career FAQs by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.
Marine conservation employer types
Understanding the main employer types can help you navigate a career in marine conservation. They are:
- Academia – Help create the research base that practitioners need to effectively conserve marine species and habitats. Employers are typically universities and colleges, such as the University of Exeter (UK) and James Cook University (Australia).
- Charity – Contribute to not-for-profit and non-governmental conservation activities with the Charity, NGO or ‘Third Sector.’ Examples include the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC – International), Love the Oceans (Mozambique) and SeaLegacy (Canada, USA).
- Business – Work with for-profit private companies or consulting firms that support marine conservation, such as Fishtek Marine and Ocean Science Consulting (OSC).
- Government – Help set regional, national or international policies, and enforce best practice with the public sector or civil service. Examples of government institutions and agencies include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CEFAS (UK) and CSIRO (Australia).
- Enterprise – Join the start-up, social enterprise or innovation movement, applying commercial strategies to maximise improvements in environmental and human well-being. Examples are Blue Ventures and GVI.
Want to discover more great marine conservation employers? Check out our list of Marine Conservation Jobs – Top Graduate Employers.
How to start a career in marine conservation?
Are you fascinated by the blue frontier and ready to start your career in marine conservation? Here are our top advice and resources to get started:
- You want to know if you need a master’s degree to work in marine conservation? Check out our Ultimate Guide Do I need a master’s degree? Plus, check out Emily Daniels’ story. She started out as a dive instructor and began working in marine conservation!
- You want to hear career insights and advice from professional marine conservationists? Check out our Careers Advice Blog and Podcast.
- You want to gain training to boost your employability in the marine conservation sector? Check out our Conservation Training Board.
“One thing that’s very popular [and productive]… is gaining experience through volunteer routes [to gain qualifications and get to more senior positions].” – Emily Daniels, WiseOceans.
- You want to find a marine conservation volunteering opportunity, internship or expedition? Read our Ultimate Guide How to Find the Best Conservation Internships and Volunteering Opportunities and check out our Conservation Experiences Board.
- You need financial support to pursue training or experiences? See our list of Top Conservation Scholarships.
- You want to help save sea turtles while getting a head start in the marine conservation sector? Check out our Top turtle conservation internships and volunteering Ultimate Guide.
- You’re looking for your next marine conservation job? Search our Conservation Job Board for daily updates.
- You found an exciting marine conservation opportunity you’d like to apply for? Download our free guide How to apply for a conservation job or check our 1-on-1 application and interview support.
How to switch careers to marine conservation?
“…there’s a real need for non-marine science skillsets within the industry, especially when we’re trying to push behaviour change…” Samantha Craven.
Do you want to switch into a marine conservation career but worry that it could take years of time, money and/or training to become competitive?
Your transferable skills might be your biggest asset and your ticket into a new career – either by applying them directly in a new field, or using them to gain experience in the sector.
“You could be a social media specialist moving into the space. We have pro-bono fundraisers that help out, who don’t have any experience in marine conservation but are getting into the marine conservation space through fundraising,” explains Francesca Trotman of Love The Oceans.
“We had a software designer join us once at one point designing apps to help [log ocean trash] – absolutely insane. We had an engineer join us that designed a whole hydrophone for whale research. Technology’s coming a long way in the marine conservation space at the moment and there’s room for so many different people with so many different skillsets.”
Dive shops, ecotourism ventures and conservation travel organisations may need scuba instructors, SUP instructors or even yoga instructors.
“If you take other jobs and really show how you’ve managed projects, how you’ve managed customers… as long as you can demonstrate that you’ve stayed in tune with the industry but you’ve been developing these other skills [you can make a switch without spending lots of money].” – Samantha Craven.
Learn more in our Ultimate Guide ‘How to switch careers into conservation.’
Need some help securing your dream marine 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.
The marine conservation sector urgently needs our support. It is also incredibly diverse, with opportunities for all unique skillsets and interests. We hope that this Ultimate Guide has helped open your eyes to an ocean of opportunities and given you the information and resources you need to take your next step to becoming a professional marine conservationist.
Understanding the job market is so important in your quest to become a professional marine 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, form a plan of action, and secure your dream job.
The ocean knows no bounds and nor should you! If you need our help, we’re here for you.
To 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 and Kick-Starter – UK Workshop.
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- You’re submitting applications, but failing to get many interviews? Check out our FREE eBook – How to Apply for a Conservation Job? This is a complete guide to producing successful CVs, Resumes and Cover Letters by Conservation Careers. Download your copy for free here. We can also review your applications, and provide 1:1 advice on how to improve them (and we don’t cost the earth). 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 practice interviews here.
- You’ve got a question and want to contact a human being! Send us an email to [email protected] and one of our team will be back in touch soon.