Conservation Officer

    If you are wondering how to become a conservation officer, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of environmental science, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Countryside/conservation officers are involved in the management, protection and improvement of the local environment. They encourage visitors to the countryside and promote understanding of the need to protect the natural environment and plant and wildlife habitats.

    Typical responsibilities:

    advising landowners on how to manage their land in ways that will protect the countryside and wildlife
    conducting surveys, carrying out research, analysing data and writing reports
    dealing with complaints about issues such as overgrown rights of way
    organising the upkeep of country parks and woodlands
    trying to prevent damage to the countryside by making sure footpaths are clearly marked, and litter bins and car parking are provided
    advising on planning applications – for example assessing the effects on the countryside of a new road or housing development
    advising people who want to organise conservation projects
    giving talks to local groups
    producing resources like leaflets and information boards to inform the public on how to look after the countryside
    organising or supporting environmental activities and projects to involve the local community
    preparing applications for funding and assessing applications for funding from other organisations.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good countryside officers include:

    enthusiasm for the countryside and conservation issues
    confidence and assertiveness
    the ability to explain technical and scientific issues to a variety of audiences
    effecitive communication skills, with individuals and in talks, presentations and meetings
    tact and diplomacy
    good IT skills.

    How to become a conservation / countryside officer
    You do not need any set qualifications to be a countryside/conservation officer, but many have degrees or HNDS, so you may find it an advantage to have this type of qualification. Relevant degree subjects include countryside/environmental management, environmental sciences, biology, ecology and geography.

    To search for colleges and universities offering HNDs, foundation degrees and degrees see Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

    Employers will expect you to have practical experience. You could get this by volunteering with organisations such as the National Trust, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and Groundwork. You should contact them for information about local opportunities – see Further Information for contact details. Some of these organisations offer training for their volunteers.

    Another option could be to start in a lower-level practical job and work your way up.

    Training and Development
    When you are employed as a conservation officer you can add to your skills and knowledge by taking courses such as those offered by the Field Studies Council and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. You can find details are on the organisations’ websites (in Further Information).

    You can work towards NVQ in levels 2 and 3 in Environmental Conservation.

    Some employers may support you in continuous professional development (CPD), such as studying for a postgraduate qualification, which is often a requirement for senior posts.

    You may find it useful to join professional bodies such as the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM), as this will give you professional recognition, and opportunities for CPD and networking.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries are likely to be around £16,000 a year
    Experienced officers may earn over £30,000.

    Job Prospects
    Countryside / conservation officers are often employed by local authorities, but there are also opportunities with government agencies such as English Nature, charitable trusts such as the National Trust and the Woodland Trust, and environmental consultancies.

    There is a lot of competition for jobs, so the more practical experience you can gain the better.

    With experience and further qualifications you may be able to progress to become senior officer or countryside manager.

    Useful environmental resources:
    Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM)
    45 Southgate Street
    SO23 9EH
    Tel: 01962 868626

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