Thinking about a Career in Conservation?
Conservation work involves the protection and preservation of the environment. While conservation jobs are diverse, they all involve conserving natural resources for future generations. Let’s take a look at a few professions in the conservation field.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist checks on the progress of the threatened California red-legged frog in a small pond in Benicia, California. Scientists hatched the tadpoles in a special nursery, and the biologist released them into a protected area. This is called “translocation” and is a special tool in the conservation field.
In Arizona, a range resource area manager working for the State Land Department is talking to landowners who want to graze their cattle on state land. She is sharing her survey results to verify that native plants protected in Arizona will not be adversely impacted by the grazing.
In Pensacola, Florida, a marine scientist with the Nature Conservancy discusses plans with colleagues to restore an oyster reef. If successful, the reef will provide a nursery for the species, shoreline protection and foraging habitat for other aquatic life. By restoring the oyster’s habitat, the scientists are also providing a needed boost to the commercial oyster industry.
Each of these individuals work in the field of conservation. There are many types of conservation jobs depending on specific areas of specialty such as: biologists, botanists, landscape ecologists, marine biologists, conservation managers and planners, environmental education specialists and freshwater fisheries biologists.
If you think these jobs sound interesting and you would enjoy working outdoors or working with natural resources, then you should consider a career in conservation.
What Does a Conservationist Do?
A professional conservation job consists of a wide range of disciplines, mostly relating to environmental sciences and environmental related areas including biology, botany, ecology and much more.
For example, a wildlife technician for a state fish and wildlife agency could survey wildlife populations, collect and maintain scientific data, provide information and safety tips to local hunters, inform the public about wildlife, or develop wildlife management plans.
Most professionals entering into this career have three job choices within the conservation field.
They can work “on the ground” where they have direct contact with the resources that they protect. For example, plant conservationists will often work in urban, rural, and protected lands to manage the native flora, by studying the plants and working to remove non-native plant species that may impact the local ecosystem.
The second choice is to become a conservation scientist. These roles include research and development of conservation materials and methods in all fields (most often related to the sciences). Conservation scientists may find more career paths open to them and they can take a cross-disciplinary approach in their work.
The third choice is to work on policy and regulation. Federal and state agencies hire conservation scientists to develop rules and guidance to carryout resource conservation actions. In addition, the private sector, consulting firms and non-profits also hire individuals to develop and review policies and regulations. As a policy and regulation expert, you would most likely work in an office to study a particular conservation issue to come up with the best means to either regulate or manage a resource.
Where Does a Conservationist Work?
A “professional conservationist” can work in any field depending on their education background and discipline. Some of the largest employment opportunities are: ecology and landscape conservation with federal and state agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, the National Resources Conservation Service and many of the state natural resource agencies.
However, wildlife conservationists can work for states or federal agencies, as well as private companies. Consultants in private companies may advise developers on preservation of natural resources as they undertake development projects or how to take care of sensitive species or areas.
For further information about the types of work that conservationists are involved in, check out some of our videos with professionals in conservation careers here.
What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Conservationist?
Students who want a career in conservation should first obtain a bachelor’s degree in a field related to natural resources such as biology, ecology natural resource management, forestry, agriculture, chemistry, or other related disciplines.
Having a degree in any of these fields will likely make you qualified for most entry level conservation jobs. However, to specialize in a specific area of interest, most students will need to attend graduate school. PhDs are helpful for those who decide to work in advanced research or at universities.
Conservation Jobs & Job Description
The conservationist uses the best available science to preserve species and their habitats for future generations. The role varies widely but conservationists may:
- Apply theoretical information to practical problems in the environment
- Ensure that everyone enjoys the benefits of healthy environments
- Work with other individuals and agencies to develop conservation guidelines
- Provide technical assistance to individuals who are drafting conservation plans
- Perform evaluations of natural assets
- Prioritize the conservation of natural resources based on development for the area in question
- Work with landowners, developers, engineers, and planners to examine land treatment
- Write articles and reports
- Hold open discussions at meetings and public forums
To learn more about education requirements and degree programs visit our Resources for Students + Job Seekers page.