Countryside/Nature Conservation Officer

hat work is involved?

  As a countryside/nature conservation officer, you would be an environmental specialist responsible for advising on issues concerned with protecting and conserving the countryside. You would ensure that conservation laws are being observed and would take steps to enforce them if necessary; you could be responsible for managing a site of special scientific interest or for designating a new one; or you may assess the environmental impact of proposed major construction developments. While you might spend some time outside on site surveys, you would be largely office-based, reading and writing reports, consulting maps and charts, preparing talks or checking details of legislation.

pportunities for training

  Although there is no set training route, you would be unlikely to secure a post without a relevant degree and even a postgraduate qualification. Possible degree subjects would include ecology, environmental science, geology, geography, conservation and countryside management, biology or estate management. There is fierce competition for jobs, so part-time and voluntary experience is very important. You should take every opportunity to show your commitment by undertaking voluntary projects and you should check degree courses for the amount of fieldwork and other practical experience they offer. A postgraduate qualification at MSc or PhD level in conservation, ecology or land management would also be advisable.
  Joining a professional body such as the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) would give you both professional recognition and access to training and networking opportunities.

equirements for entry

  Degree entry requirements would vary depending on your choice of both subject and university. However, you would normally need a minimum of two A level/Advanced Higher, three Higher or equivalent qualifications and five GCSE/S Grade passes at 9-4/A*-C/1-3. In order to be accepted for postgraduate study, you are likely to need first class or upper second honours in your first degree.
  A full driving licence would almost always be essential.

ind of person

  You may find yourself having to negotiate with people who are opposed to your ideas, so you would need to show diplomacy and tact in your approach to them. At the same time, you would have to have confidence in your point of view and powers of persuasion to make your case clear. This may involve communicating complex scientific or technical information to non-specialists. You could be required to write reports and to speak at public meetings. You would need to be prepared for criticism of your work from people who do not understand your point of view or your recommendations. You would find yourself working as part of a team but you would need to be able to work unsupervised and to manage your own time. A real commitment to, and knowledge of, preserving the environment would be essential.

road outlook for the future

  There are jobs for countryside conservation officers with government agencies such as Natural England or Scottish National Heritage, with local government and with organisations such as The National Trust. However, there is very strong competition for jobs and each advertised post often has a large number of applicants. You may well need to move around the country and to apply for a large number of jobs in order to secure a suitable post. Some positions are on short-term contracts or are purely seasonal, and you may have to gain experience with one or more of these before finding a full-time position. There would be opportunities to progress to managing a team of conservation officers or to pursue a specific interest, which could lead you into research, lecturing or specialist consultancy work.

elated occupations

  You might also consider: countryside ranger/warden, ecologist, environmental consultant, forest/woodland manager, town planner, landscape architect, rural practice surveyor, marine biologist/marine scientist, recycling officer, research biologist/bioscientist, cartographer, geologist/geoscientist, microbiologist or zoologist.

mpact on lifestyle

  You would nominally work a normal week of around 40 hours, Monday to Friday. You may, however, have to attend evening and weekend meetings and you would have to work whatever hours it takes to write up a report in the required time.

arnings potential

  As a countryside conservation officer working for a government agency, you would be likely to have a starting salary of around £20,000, rising with experience to around £30,000. Senior positions may command salaries of around £34,000. Local government salaries are likely to be similar but charitable organisations often start at lower levels, perhaps around £15,000.

urther information/valuable websites

  Land Based and Environmental Careers
  Conservation Volunteers
  Countryside Jobs Service
  Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
  Natural England
  Natural Resources Wales
  Scottish Natural Heritage
  Northern Ireland Environment Link
  Field Studies Council
  Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dublin