CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JUN. 18, 2014
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How to Become an Ecologist

Ecologists are scientist who study and maintain the various ecosystems around the world. If you have a love for nature and plants, are interested in climate change or natural sciences, perhaps this is the right career path for you.

What do Ecologists do?

Ecologists study, maintain and try to preserve the many ecosystems around the world. They are primarily interested in different organisms and how they interact with different environments. Entry level ecologists will usually do more field work such as carrying out surveys, identifying new species and their interactions with the environment. More experienced ecologist will usually spend most of their time in the office dealing with policy, bureaucratic issues and management tasks.

Ecologists usually specialise in an area such as:

  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
  • Flora
  • Fauna 

Typical daily activities could include:

  • Carrying out surveys and recording information on plants, animals and environmental conditions
  • Using advanced computer programs to build models to predict the effects of climate change.
  • Checking the effect that air pollution is having organisms and plant life by testing samples
  • Carrying out impact assessment surveys to discover the impact that human activity, construction, and agriculture are having on the environment.
  • Conducting research or teaching at universities
  • Giving presentations at academic conferences
  • Helping to educate children and parents about the positive and negative effects that they can have on the environment
  • Managing and helping the restoration of areas that have been environmentally damaged such as old mines.
  • Ensuring that pollution such as waste spillages does not endanger the public or the environment.
  • Advising on and enforcing legal regulations, with regards to the environment
  • Being an expert witness on environmental issues.

Salary

Ecology is not the best paid job in the world, but it is reasonably well paid and as with many jobs the pay is usually better in the private sector. That is especially true if you are acting as a consultant.

Entry Level

£17,000 - £22,000

Experienced

£22,000 - £30,000

Senior

£30,000 or more

Consultant

£45,000 or more

Source: National Careers Service

Skills Required

  • Natural ability in math and science subjects, especially biology and chemistry
  • To be a logical and methodical thinker
  • Great communication and teamwork skills
  • Excellent problem solving skills
  • A keen attention to detail
  • Research Skills
  • An interest in the environment and ecosystems
  • Good IT Skills

Qualifications Required

The minimum requirement is a Bachelor’s Degree in an environmental science or biological science subject such as:

  • Ecology
  • Environmental biology
  • Environmental management
  • Conservation biology
  • Applied life sciences
  • Biology (specialising in ecology)
  • Botany/plant science
  • Marine biology
  • Zoology
  • Geography

If you are thinking of teaching Ecology, research or carrying out consultancy work then studying for either an MSc or PhD in Ecology is usually a requirement.

It can be extremely hard to secure your first job so it is highly recommended that you carry out some type of work experience either paid or voluntary. All of these organisations offer schemes or opportunities to gain experience as an ecologist.

The Conservation Volunteers

National Trust

Wildlife Trusts

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Career Prospects and Development:

Continual professional development is extremely important and it is vital that you keep your knowledge up to date. All of these organisations provide continual professional development and show employers that you are serious about your career:

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management also offers you the option of working towards chartered status once you have sufficient experience.

Career prospects for ecologists in the UK are relatively good. It is an extremely specialised area so there are not that many applicants. The UK job market for the Science and Engineering sector is expected to grow from roughly 1440000 jobs in 2014 to 1562000 in 2020.

This career path is certainly not for everyone and it is not the highest paid job in the world. But if you are good at science, really interested in the environment and want to make a difference then this may well be the right career path for you.

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