Do you ever wish you could read conservation employers’ minds to know exactly what they want? We spend lots of time thinking about what we want in our careers, and how we might get there. But what if we could gain insight into the top conservation skills that employers seek in their employees, those skills that the conservation sector desperately needs, to gain an unfair advantage and become more employable? 

At Conservation Careers, we analysed nearly 30,000 conservation jobs, from over 100 countries, to find out what skills employers want. Whether you’re a student, job seeker or career switcher, this Ultimate Guide can help you identify the skills that can fast track your career and create positive impact for wildlife.

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” – Robert Greene, Mastery

 

Table of Contents

What are conservation skills, and why do they matter?

Conservation skills come in many shapes and forms, including technical and analytical skills these students are using.

A skill, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is “a special ability to do something”, “a particular ability that you develop through training and experience and that is useful in a job.”

Conservation skills come in many shapes and forms (think of hard skills, soft skills, transferable skills, etc.) but each and every one helps make you unique, employable and impactful.

That’s why they often form the basis of conservation job advertisements, and why you might want to choose your next volunteer placement, course, internship or job based on the skills you can gain.

 

Top conservation skills employers want

Dr Fernando Mateos-González demonstrates excellent communication skills during a Conservation Careers live Q&A.

41% of all conservation jobs we analysed wanted people with communications skills or experience – like our Spanish Conservation Career Kick-Starter course leader Dr Fernando Mateos Gonzalez demonstrates here.

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 positions in three common themes: Communications, Fundraising and Project Management.

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

Communications roles

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

We found that 41% of all conservation jobs explicitly wanted people with communications skills or experience. Of these, 2,726 (11%) were communications specialist roles like Communications Officers. Marketing Managers or Social Media Officers.

If you want to work in conservation, chances are you’ll be significantly more employable if you can plan communications activities, write effectively, get press and media attention, engage audiences on social media, deliver campaigns, write blogs, produce podcasts and more.

You’ll also have much more impact in your work, if you can get your messages out into the world ​more ​clearly and effectively.

Dr Yemi Oloruntuyi, our Marine Stewardship Council podcast guest, speaking during a meeting

Dr Yemi Oloruntuyi of the Marine Stewardship Council demonstrates verbal communication skills. Credit: MSC.

Fundraising Officer related roles

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

Karen Mitchell, Relationships Manager for Trees for Life, uses fundraising skills to raise support for re-wilding in Scotland.

Karen Mitchell, Relationships Manager for Trees for Life, uses fundraising to raise support for re-wilding in Scotland.

Project Officer related roles

Scottish wildcats can benefit from conservationists with project management skills.

Scottish Wildcat Action is an example of a conservation project.

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

Requirements and Skills across all three themes

We also identified common skills and requirements that ran across communications, fundraising and project management. They are:

  • Organisational skills, Communication, Working with others (internal/external)
  • Microsoft Office, Databases, Negotiation

 

Examples of conservation skills in job descriptions

To help illustrate these skills even better, here are three job descriptions that represent (real) entry level jobs in communications, fundraising and project management.

Pay particular attention to the selection criteria to learn more about the specific skills these employers are looking for.

Communications and Outreach Officer, Global Coral Reef Conservation
Wildlife Conservation Society
Bronx, NY, USA

Coral reefs support nearly one quarter of the ocean’s biodiversity, provide for the livelihoods and protection of hundreds of millions of people and support numerous local and national economies through tourism, fisheries and other ecosystem services. The world’s reefs are severely threatened: half are estimated to be already lost in the last fifty years due to human activities, and scientists predict that climate change, overfishing, habitat loss, and poor water quality threaten up to 90 percent of the world’s remaining reefs. Ensuring a future for coral reefs is a high priority for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Our global strategy has identified a climate resilient portfolio of coral reef strongholds where site-based protection
strategies are essential. Supporting this work, WCS leads global strategies on coral reef science, monitoring and analysis, policy and conservation finance.

A core partnership to deliver on WCS’ global coral reef conservation is the Vibrant Oceans Initiative—a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies – focused on countries within the Coral Triangle, Melanesia, and the Western Indian Ocean. A robust communications and programmatic outreach strategy is a key component to the success of this initiative and the broader coral conservation efforts. Typically, there is a lack of awareness of the coral reef crisis among the public, policy makers and key partners; its connection to the ocean is not well recognized; and efforts to address the climate crisis are largely unknown. Traditional and social media are increasing their coverage and public attitudes are slowly shifting, however this must occur faster.

Position Description

This position will provide strategic communications and programmatic outreach support for WCS’ global coral reef conservation efforts, with a specific focus on the Vibrant Oceans Initiative. The primary objective is to develop and promote strategic communications and programmatic outreach across all platforms, highlighting the threats to, and hope for, the world’s coral reefs, through WCS’ multifaceted global coral reef conservation work, including research, monitoring, conservation
interventions, community engagement, policy and finance.

The position is based in the WCS headquarters within the Bronx Zoo, and reports to the Senior Program Manager, Global Coral Conservation. The position will coordinate closely with global coral reef staff, relevant WCS regional and country programs and the WCS communications team.

Major Responsibilities

  • Solicit, coordinate, curate and promote content on coral conservation from all relevant WCS global, regional and country programs, with a focus on research, activities, results and impacts, and accomplishments.
  • Ensure dissemination and distribution of content through various internal and external platforms using traditional and social media.
  • Support the web-based and social media presence and public face of Global Coral Conservation.
  • Prepare and edit reports, brochures, presentations, and other collateral, on WCS coral conservation efforts, for specific external audiences such as partners, donors, etc.
  • Coordinate and prepare regular communications for internal WCS audiences.
  • Manage the digital file system and image library for the coral conservation.
  • Support the Senior Program Manager in maintaining active and frequent communications between WCS programs and external partners, including regular calls, briefings,and updates with donors.

Qualification Requirements

Experience and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s Degree, preferably in communications or public affairs.
  • 2 or more years of relevant work experience, including communications and outreach.
  • Demonstrated portfolio of cutting-edge communications coordinated across multiple partners.
  • Relevant subject-matter expertise and experience.;
  • Strong writing skills required, with an ability to produce clear and concise communications.
  • Commitment to follow through and quality control; excellent attention to detail.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including an ability to work with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures and within a  dispersed team that includes both WCS and non-WCS staff.
  • Effective at both collaborative and independent work.
  • Ability to both take initiative and work as part of a global team.

Compensation and Benefits

Salary commensurate with experience. WCS offers a competitive compensation package including medical/dental insurance, 401(k) retirement plan, pension plan, life insurance,
disability insurance, paid sick leave and generous vacation.

Work Environment and Physical Demands

The physical demands and work environment described above are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform these essential functions.

Explore more Communications Conservation Jobs on our Job Board and Career Explorer database (you can search the full database with a Conservation Careers Academy membership).

Fundraising Officer
BirdLife International
Cambridge, UK

BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation partnership. Through our unique local-to-global approach, we deliver high impact and long-term conservation for the benefit of nature and people.

We are looking for someone to work as part of the institutional fundraising team, increasing the level of fundraising to meet the needs of the BirdLife Secretariat. Someone with the ability to develop relationships with Institutional donors such as Trusts, Foundations and Governments, who wishes to grow, hone and develop their fundraising skills and who will want to make a positive difference to nature conservation around the world.

Working within our institutional fundraising team, you will work as part of a team to:

  • Work with staff to develop innovative and effective projects and package our nature conservation work for a range of institutional donors
  • Inspire, engage and take care of current and prospect donors
  • Ensure donor reports are of good quality before they are sent to donors and requirements for reporting are met in a timely fashion; assist Partners and staff in this area if needed
  • Research and identify new funding opportunities
  • Design and develop donor engagement and management tools
  • Develop courses and tools that can be used to strengthen the fundraising capacity of BirdLife staff and our network of 120 nature conservation Partners.

You will have the following skills and experience:

  • Degree level education in relevant field
  • Excellent communication and networking skills, able to influence and persuade and facilitate strong relationships
  • Ability to summarise and convey technical and scientific information
  • A proven track record in institutional fundraising and experience in soliciting substantial funding from EU, Trusts, Foundations and Corporations
  • High standard of computer literacy (Microsoft Word, Outlook, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, databases)
  • Good financial literacy (able to develop and understand realistic budgets)
  • Be able to prioritise and work with minimal supervision but also work well with our team (mainly remotely) and Partners’ teams of people from different cultures
  • Solid knowledge of Project Cycle Management (PCM), logframe and other project design frameworks
  • Good understanding of nature conservation issues
  • An international outlook with a working understanding of and respect for different cultures
  • The right to work in the UK

Explore more Fundraising Conservation Jobs on our Job Board and Career Explorer database! You can search the full database with a Conservation Careers Academy membership.

Project Officer
Ocean Watch Australia
Pyrmont NSW, Australia

Fantastic opportunity for an enthusiastic individual who is passionate about the environment to join a vibrant national charity working with the seafood and marine community.

About OceanWatch Australia:

OceanWatch Australia is a national not-for-profit environmental company that works to advance sustainability in the Australian seafood industry. OceanWatch key activities involve:

  • Enhancing fish habitats and improving water quality in estuaries and coastal environments
  • Working with industry and local communities to minimise environmental impacts
  • Introducing industry and communities to sustainable technologies and behaviours.

To achieve these positive outcomes, OceanWatch Australia works in partnership with the Australian seafood industry, federal and state governments, natural resource managers, private enterprise and local communities.In 2013, OceanWatch was recognised and supported as the marine Natural Resource Management organisation by the Australian Government.

About the Role:

Working from our Head Office based at the Sydney Fish Market, the Project Officer will support the OceanWatch Australia team. This will involve:

  • Managing the day to day administration of OceanWatch and projects being delivered
  • Assisting with project monitoring, evaluation and reporting
  • Helping project officers with the delivery of projects
  • Maintaining our stakeholder database
  • Contributing to the development and promotion of OceanWatch

Mangroves. Credit: OceanWatch Australia.

Selection Criteria:

Key Duties and Responsibilities:

Project & Company Administration:

  • Ability to manage day to day administration of projects
  • Demonstrated capacity to manage multiple priorities within tight deadlines;
  • Effective written and oral communication and interpersonal skills
  • Demonstrated organisational ability, problem solving skills and initiative….

Project Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting:

  • Broad understanding of environmental concepts and issues relevant to the seafood industry.
  • Ability to prepare and distribute written and graphic communications that require a high level of research, liaison, writing skills and collaboration with internal & external stakeholders.
  • Demonstrated ability in the use of relevant contemporary computer-based office applications.
  • A degree in social science/ science and/or a related field; or an equivalent combination of relevant experience and/or educational training.

Desirable:

  • Familiarity and appreciation for a cross-cultural working environment
  • Familiarity and appreciation for Marine environmental issues and/or Australian seafood;
  • Familiarity with environmental work, Interest in marine matters, Passion for seafood

Special Requirements:

  • A willingness to work outside of normal office hours to coordinate events and to represent OceanWatch Australia as required.

Personal Qualities:

  • Highly developed interpersonal and leadership skills;
  • A proven ability to be highly organised and self-managed, including a demonstrated capacity to establish work priorities, meet timelines and achieve project management priorities, work independently where required and accept responsibility for work tasks;
  • Demonstrated ability to exercise initiative, adaptability and creativity;
  • Demonstrated capacity to manage a range of complex issues simultaneously, plan and execute workflows and meet deadlines;
  • Ability to achieve both individual and team objectives.

How to apply:

If you are interested in this exciting opportunity or require further information, please submit a cover letter, your resume and a response to how you satisfy the key duties and responsibilities via email to jobs@oceanwatch.org.au by 5pm on Monday, 29th of July 2019.

Explore more Project Management Conservation Jobs on our Job Board and Career Explorer database! You can search the full database with a Conservation Careers Academy membership.

 

Conservation job types | Useful Stats

We’ve explored the themes of communications, fundraising and project management in depth, but what about the other conservation job types?

At Conservation Careers we identify 12 more conservation job types in our Ultimate Guide 15 Key Conservation Job Types.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular, abundant and hottest conservation jobs, using insights from our flagship online course, the Conservation Career Kick-Starter.

Most popular Conservation Jobs

A graph of the most popular conservation job types, from the Conservation Career Kick-Starter online course.

Which are the most popular conservation jobs on Conservation Careers? We’ve looked at the average number of pageviews for our 15 key conservation job types. This is from nearly 20,000 jobs and over 2,000,000 visitors in six years. And the most popular job types are … drum roll …

  1. Marine Conservation Jobs
  2. Science and Research Conservation Jobs
  3. Ecological Consultancy Conservation Jobs
  4. Animal Welfare Conservation Jobs
  5. Photography & film-making Conservation Jobs
  6. Warden and Ranger Conservation Jobs

So there are more people looking for Marine Conservation Jobs than any other job type.

Most abundant Conservation Jobs

A graph of the most abundant conservation job types, from the Conservation Career Kick-Starter online course.

It’s also important to ask which conservation job types are most abundant, or most frequently posted on our site. This gives you an idea of where most of the opportunities are in the sector…

  1. Project & Programme Management Conservation Jobs
  2. Science and Research Conservation Jobs
  3. Warden and Ranger Conservation Jobs
  4. Environmental Education Conservation Jobs
  5. Communications & Marketing Conservation Jobs

Hottest Conservation Jobs

A graph of the hottest conservation job types, from the Conservation Career Kick-Starter online course.

Finally, the most useful analysis of all is to take into account a combination of the popularity and abundance – to find the hottest jobs where competition might be lowest. When we run the figures we see the following as hot conservation jobs…

  1. Science and Research Conservation Jobs
  2. Communications & Marketing Conservation Jobs
  3. Warden and Ranger Conservation Jobs
  4. Project & Programme Management Conservation Jobs
  5. Environmental Education Conservation Jobs
  6. Fundraising and Development Conservation Jobs

It’s interesting to note that Science and Research comes out first, and this is because although it’s very popular, there are also relatively many vacancies in this area.

Then we see some less popular roles – like Communications & Marketing, Environmental Education, and Fundraising & Development – being overlooked by conservation job seekers. If you want to increase your chances of success, it might be worth targeting your efforts towards these relatively less-competitive jobs.

Want to know more about job stats and how you can use them in your career? Check out these insights and more in our flagship online course, the Conservation Career Kick-Starter, a proven step-by-step system to get clear, get ready, and get hired in the conservation sector.

 

What skills do you need to be a conservationist?

Now that you know what skills employers want, and what some of the hottest conservation job types are, how do you know which skills are most valuable to you?

If you had unlimited resources and all the time in the world, you could start picking up all the skills employers want.

But we’re guessing you don’t, and you’d rather save as much time and money as possible to get employed quickly and start enjoying your career.

So let’s start with what question we’re asking: What skills do I need? Can we know what skills we need, without knowing where we’re going? It’s a bit like packing your suitcase for a holiday, without knowing whether you’ll be going snorkelling or skiing in the mountains.

A much better question is, What skills do I need for my target role? First we narrow down the destination, and then we can start packing our suitcases (i.e. our arsenal of skills).

The answer begins with identifying your ‘niche’ in conservation, something we do in our Conservation Career Kick-Starter online course, and that’s summarised in this free video series, How to get a Conservation Job.

The Conservation Career Kick-Starter course helps conservationists connect their skills with opportunities in the conservation sector.

If communication, fundraising or project officer related roles appeal to you, great! You can easily see which skills or skills might help make you more competitive when applying to these types of roles.

But if not, you might want to research the skills needed for your own niche. A great place to start is by exploring the 15 key conservation job types.

You might also want to invest in skills that are relevant or transferable across job types, like Organisational skills, Communication and Working with others, as well as Microsoft Office, Databases or Negotiation.

 

Where can I gain conservation skills?

Many conservationists have self-taught conservation skills, like field skills.

From formal training to self-taught skills, the options for gaining new skills are almost infinite!

Now that you have a better idea of what skills are most in demand for your target role(s), you’ll probably want to gain them as quickly and easily as possible. Here are a few great places to start:

Training courses and programmes

Training is the ‘classic route’. From short online courses to multi-year degrees or master’s, training is often specifically designed to give you skills that boost your employability.

Keep in mind that even if you’re at university, not all programmes will give you all the skills you need to succeed after graduation. In some cases you might benefit from picking up extra training in communications, fundraising and/or project management, to help you hit the ground running when you graduate.

A great place to start exploring training options is our Conservation Training Board.

Volunteering and internships

Volunteering and internships can be an excellent way to fill skills gaps, and both have the added advantage of allowing you to apply skills to real-life conservation efforts.

For an overview, check out our Ultimate Guide How to Find the Best Conservation Internships & Volunteering Opportunities.

If you want to volunteer or intern without any fees, check out our Ultimate Guide Top Conservation Internships | PAID or FREE Opportunities and the webinar Conservation Internships & Volunteering that Won’t Break the Bank.

Stepping stone roles

Combining what you know about your target role with the top skills employers want, you might find there are one or more skills gaps you need to fill to become employable in your ideal job.

That’s where stepping stone roles can help. These are roles that you can move into relatively quickly, and that can help you move into your target role.

In some cases you can choose jobs that will help you develop specific skills. For example, you might look for a role that focusses on one aspect of your target role – such as a Social Media Officer if your goal is to work in Communications & Marketing.

Or, you might want to focus on a key gap you’ve identified for your target role – such as fundraising for project management. For example a Fundraising Officer role might be a stepping stone to move into Project Management.

Another approach is to look for a role that provides solid transferrable skills – skills that you can apply to many different conservation jobs in your career. For example, Ecological Consultancy might give you skills in project and people management, as well as ecological surveys.

Stepping stone roles are particularly important for career switchers, who have been doing work that may provide useful transferable skills.

Besides being practical and fast-tracking your career steps, stepping stone roles are also an exciting way to approach your job search – by focussing what you can learn and how you can grow while you’re helping wildlife!

Self-taught skills

While we often gravitate to more ‘formal’ types of training, many successful conservationists are self-taught. For example, a birding expert may have taught himself bird ID skills in his own spare time in the field, or a photographer may have perfected her trade through practice, and published her work on her own blog.

Today there are also many free, online resources that can help you gain new skills – from apps like iNaturalist to editing programmes like Grammarly.

 

Transferable conservation skills and switching careers

If you’re switching careers into conservation from another sector, or coming back to conservation after a career break, chances are you already have some great skills to offer.

Transferable skills are skills used in one job or career that can also be used in another.

Gain a better understanding of the conservation job landscape and where you and your transferable skills might fit in our Ultimate Guide How to switch careers into conservation | Top ten questions answered.

Learn more about what types of jobs are available for career switchers, and some of the career switcher skills that are in demand in our Ultimate Guide Switching careers into conservation | A snapshot of jobs.

 

Top Conservation Skills | Take-home messages

If you enjoy skimming to the bottom of posts, or sharing what you’ve learnt with your friends and loved ones, here’s a summary in six bullet points:

  • We analysed 29,767 conservation jobs, from over 100 countries and identified the top requirements and skills in the themes of communications, fundraising and project management.
  • There are some requirements and skills that run across communication, fundraising and project management roles. They include organisational skills, communication, working with others, as well as Microsoft Office, databases and negotiation.
  • The best approach to career success is to first identify your target role, and then identify the skills you need to help make you employable.
  • Great ways to gain skills include training programmes and courses, volunteering and interning, stepping stone roles and even self-taught skills.
  • Career switchers often already have great transferable skills, and can especially benefit from stepping stone roles, or simply transferring their skills straight into conservation.

 

Need some help finding a conservation job?

If things get overwhelming, or you need some extra clarity or support, we’re here to help!

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, form a plan of action, and secure your dream job.

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

 

Useful links and free stuff

Get a jump-start in your conservation career with these resources!

This application guide can help applicants switching careers into conservationTo 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.
  • You need answers to top questions about working in conservation? Check out our free Ultimate Guides covering topics like the 15 Key Conservation Job TypesTop Conservation Internships | Paid or Free and Marine Conservation Jobs, and answering questions like How to Switch Careers into ConservationDo I need a Master’s Degree? and much more!
  • 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 8,000 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 KindleEPUB and PDF. 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.