The environmental sector is very broad and it's likely to become even larger and more diverse in the future. Working in the environmental sector means different things to different people, and covers the natural, built, and human environment. The job opportunities within it are incredibly diverse, but competition can be fierce – so perseverance and passion are important qualities to have.
Where do I start?
Within the environmental sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):
- Emergency planning/management officer
- Energy manager
- Environmental consultant
- Environmental education officer
- Environmental engineering
- Environmental manager
- Geographical information systems officer
- Geophysicist/field seismologist
- Hydrographic surveyor
- Land/geomatics surveyor
- Marine scientist
- Nature conservation officer
- Recycling officer
- Sustainability consultant
- Waste management officer
- Water quality scientist
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- ENDS jobsearch – Provides useful careers advice and industry news for getting a job in the environmental sector. It also provides job profiles for you to research.
- British Ecological Society – Offers a wide range of resources and advice including a careers booklet ‘Rooting for a Career in Ecology’ or ‘Environmental Management’
- Environmentalist Online – Provides the latest news and insight to the environment and sustainability.
To secure a job in the environmental sector, you need to demonstrate a real commitment to the work. Therefore it’s crucial that you try to proactively find relevant work experience, even on a voluntary basis.
Environmental work experience can encompass a wide range of sectors, some thought as to which area(s) you are particularly interested in will help you to target your job search. Explore the various areas within the environmental sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
Any type of environmental work experience or work shadowing is valuable, even if it's only for a short time. Many vacancies may not be advertised, so it’s well worth considering making speculative applications to find opportunities.
The breadth of countryside roles out there is huge. Below are some suggestions that can help you to find work experience that suits your interests:
Paid/unpaid work experience/internships
- CIEEM (Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management) – Contains useful resources advice, guidance on all aspects of further study and career guidance, including a range of career profiles.
- Environmentjob.co.uk – Lists Conservation and Wildlife opportunities.
- Countryside jobs – Promoting countryside careers in the UK & environmental conservation worldwide.
- Wildlife Trusts – Advertises paid/unpaid opportunities throughout the UK.
- RSPB – Jobs board for all roles within the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
- National Trust – Great site with lots of information. Lots of good countryside jobs here.
- Lantra – Opportunities for careers in the land-based & environmental sector
- Conservation Jobs UK – Job site focussed on the conservation sector.
- Woodland Trust – Conservation charity which protects the world’s most biologically important and threatened habitats
- Environment Jobs – UK environment jobs.
- Earthworks – On-line database of career opportunities for ecology and environmental workers, not so much countryside though.
- ENDS jobsearch – lists environmental vacancies across a range of sectors and locations. Features latest industry news, and provides advice and tips from employers on how to tailor your CV and covering letter.
- International Institute for the Environment and Development – Offers internship opportunities
Voluntary work is a great way to obtain relevant experience so it is also worth considering.
If you lack experience, or want to gain some specific skills be prepared to volunteer for roles. It will be a great way to network and develop important and useful contacts.
It could be an opportunity for carrying out practical conservation, research, recording and monitoring activities and campaigning. Competition for salaried employment is intense so many roles are carried out by volunteers and work can be seasonal.
Below is a list of places where you could be looking for volunteering opportunities:
- Environment Job – Search for environmental volunteering opportunities – conservation, wildlife, ecology, sustainability and environmental education
- RSPB – Royal Society for Birds protection offers volunteering opportunities.
- The Wildlife Trusts – Offers voluntary opportunities.
- The Conservation Volunteers – Find out what they are doing near you and how you can get involved.
- University of Portsmouth Student Union – Offers a variety of volunteering community projects such as clean beaches for you to get involved.
- Portsmouth Together – Search for Volunteering Opportunities in Portsmouth.
- MyCareer Volunteering Bank – Provides you with local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability centre.
- Search for more voluntary opportunities on Do-it Trust
Opportunities (some at a cost), to get involved with environmental and conservation projects, often in countries that would be difficult to visit independently, offering participants the scope to acquire skills which can be useful.
We provide further information and resource on our working globally pages.
Becoming a member of an environmentally-related professional body can help you find contacts, and gain a wider knowledge of the sector.
- Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM)
- Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM)
- Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, (CIWEM)
- Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
- Environment Agency (England and Wales)
- Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment
- Marine Mammal Observers Association
- Natural England
- Natural Environment Research Council
- Wildlife Trusts
Although many of the work opportunities available are on a voluntary basis, there are some possibilities for relevant paid work experience.
You could start your work experience search by researching some following organisations in your local area:
- Energy, oil and gas exploration firms involved in marine energy
- Fisheries and aquaculture organisations
- Marine environmental surveying consultancies
- Marine environmental surveying consultancies
- Renewable energy companies using sea-based and seabed turbines
- Marine and coastal management organisations
- Marine conservation and environmental consultancies
- Pollution and water control companies
- Statutory environmental protection agencies
- Environmental and conservation charities
- Marine research laboratories and agencies
To get work experience in marine biology/conservation you could think:
- Getting involved in local beach cleans and rockpool rambles along the coast is great fun and allows you to acquire useful skills and knowledge. The Student Union organises clean beach days for example.
- You can further your knowledge by joining the Marine Conservation Society, which will keep you up to date with interesting developments in the field of Marine Biology. You could also become a member of the Marine Biological Association.
- Consider completing some work experience or an internship in an institute that specialises in marine biology, such as a laboratory or university.
- Volunteering is extremely useful for broadening your experience in this field. It not only shows you have a passion for marine biology, but helps you to make contacts too. Many zoos and aquariums offer volunteering opportunities,
- It could also be helpful to learn boat-handling skills by joining a sailing club. Snorkelling around the coasts of the UK is also a brilliant way to explore the ocean.
- Learn to dive! A popular first step to take is obtaining a PADI Open Water certificate. This is a great option if you would like to ‘test the water’ and decide whether diving is for you or not.
Online searchable databases
- The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology
- Earthworks Jobs
- Environment Job
- Jobs.ac.uk – for jobs in academia
- Nature Jobs
- Marine Management Organisation (MMO)
Other useful websites
- Oceanographer Occupational Profile
- Marine Scientist Occupational Profile
- Society for Underwater Technology – Brings together organisations and individuals with a common interest in underwater technology, ocean science and offshore engineering.
- National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
- School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor
- Marine Biology & Ecology Research Centre, Plymouth
- Useful Diving Links from the Health & Safety Executive
- IMCA – the International Marine Contractors Association
It isn't always easy to find work experience and not all placements are advertised. Discover how to identify opportunities and approach employers with a speculative application.
Speculative applications for work experience
Sometimes work opportunities or summer placements are not specifically advertised. Many employers (often small charities) don’t have big budgets for advertising, their opportunities therefore don’t get promoted widely. However you can be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively. Environmental work is predominantly dominated by small and medium enterprises/charities therefore your work opportunity search needs to be very proactive and a speculative approach is often required.
The Ends Directory provides a list of over 1000 top environmental consultants and suppliers and you can select them by area/specialism. This could be a good starting point to research companies and targeting them.
However remember employers receive many CV’s every week so you will have to ensure that your CV stands out from the crowd. Find out how to create a targeted CV and get advice on making an effective speculative application.
Suggestions to help you find work experience
- Try to have something that makes you stand out in your applications: join and get involved in relevant University groups or projects this is a good way of demonstrating your motivation and interest in this area of work.
- Tailor your project work or final year dissertation towards an environmental theme that interests you.
- Research employers/organisations carefully.
- Keep up to date with developments in the environmental field.
- Speak to your tutor or other members of Faculty staff researching in the areas that interest you, as students are sometimes recruited to work on research projects over the summer.
- Start early! Get involved, volunteer during your first and second year to help boost your employability opportunities once you graduate.
Applying for work experience
When sending your CV, application for work experience remember to research and prepare well: know your stuff (Google the company, subject area, news…) make sure you send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
- Keep up to date with environmental news and trends by following the professional bodies on Twitter. Consider following key news channels and organisations in the sector you are applying to work in. Most employers will expect you to display some understanding of their business but also the sector in which it operates.
- Most companies have a Twitter and/or Facebook account, register with them as this is often a place where new projects are posted, and where you can keep in touch with their current activities. This information might help you to identify projects where they may be looking to recruit additional staff and therefore tap into the hidden job market. The acquired information will also help with the application and interview processes.
- Create a LinkedIn profile and network with sector employers and start following them – see our LinkedIn section for further guidance.
Finding a job
There are many different areas within the environment sector and work can be varied. You could get involved in: environmental conservation and management; sustainability and development and renewable energy; waste management; water and flood risk; urban planning and regeneration, so some thought as to which area(s) you are particularly interested in will help you to target your job search.
Check the following links for graduate scheme opportunities:
- Gradcracker to find a list of graduate schemes that recruit in all STEM subjects.
- Graduate Jobs for graduate schemes in the environmental sector.
- Environmental Agency
- Civil Service Grad Scheme
- Natural England
- Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
Employers who recruit in these areas
- Public sector
- Voluntary and charity sector
- Intergovernmental bodies and international organisations such as Environment Agency and Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
- Pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth, Green Alliance, Greenpeace International and Rainforest Action Network
- Private sector ranging from resource management such as water industry to environmental consultancies, eco-tourism and renewable energies companies
Useful websites to help you start your job search
- ENDS jobsearch – Features latest industry news, which could help you identify companies who are currently working on new projects and therefore may be looking to recruit additional staff. You could send a speculative enquiry about possible forthcoming opportunities. In addition this site provides advice and tips from employers on how to tailor your CV and Covering Letter. It also carries environmental vacancies across a range of sectors and locations.
- Environmentjob – Searchable database for UK, Europe and worldwide based Jobs and volunteering opportunities in the Environmental and Conservation sector.
- Earthworks-Jobs – Advertises worldwide jobs and employment opportunities in Energy, Geosciences, Oil, Mining, Geography, Environmental Sciences.
- Green Jobs Online – A leading site for environmental and renewable energy jobs advertising graduate roles across all industry sectors. Searchable database by function, sector and location.
- Jobtensor – A specialist recruiter in science, engineering and IT.
- MyCareer – Here you will be able to find graduate jobs across different sectors and locations.
Tips for finding a job
- Keep up to date with environmental news and trends by following the professional bodies on twitter, this information might help you identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden job market.
- Keep your on line job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
- If you are keen to focus on a specific sector within environment check out the specialist websites for these areas for current vacancies.
- Most companies have a Twitter and/or Facebook account, register with them as this is often a place where new opportunities are posted, and where you can keep in touch with their current activities.
Useful Twitter feeds
Check out the following Twitter feeds for news and information about current projects and to tap into the hidden jobs market.
Further study is a popular option for environmental graduates. Taking a relevant MSc course may be helpful, if you're interested in getting into a particular field of environmental science.
If you are unsure about your career plan or what are the next stages of your career planning, the Careers and Employability Service is here to support you as a students and as a graduate for 5 years after graduation.
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
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We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.
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