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Ecologist

Ecologists study the relationship between plants, animals and the environment.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £19,000 to £45,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need a degree in a relevant subject, like:

  • conservation biology
  • ecology
  • ecology and environmental sustainability
  • ecological science
  • environmental science
  • marine biology
  • zoology

For some jobs, like higher education teaching, research or in areas like ecology consultancy, you’ll also be expected to have, or be working towards, a relevant postgraduate qualification, like a master’s or PhD. 

You could gain work experience and improve your chances of finding work by volunteering.

The Conservation Volunteers, National Trust and Wildlife Trusts have more information on ecology volunteering.

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and British Ecological Society have more information on becoming an ecologist.

You’ll usually need a driving licence.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • a methodical approach to work
  • the ability to gather and interpret data
  • excellent presentation and report writing skills
  • project management skills

3. What you'll do

You’ll usually specialise in a particular type of environment, like marine or coastal areas. 

You could study a specific animal or plant species. 

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • carrying out fieldwork - surveying and recording information on plants, animals, environmental conditions and biodiversity
  • researching the impact of human activity, like housing and intensive agriculture, on the environment
  • building computer models to predict the effects of development or climate change
    monitoring pollution
  • managing wildlife conservation areas, woodland and meadows

You might also help assess planning proposals and make recommendations on sustainable land use for local authorities, government departments and companies.

4. Salary

Starter: £19,000 to £22,000

Experienced: £22,000 to £30,000

Highly Experienced: £45,000 (consultant ecologist)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll work in the field, in an office and in a lab.

When working in a laboratory or writing up research, you could be based at one site and work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. You may have to travel to visit other sites or go to meetings.

Research and fieldwork could involve longer and irregular working hours, including evenings and weekends. 

You could work outdoors for long periods of time.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could apply for Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) or Chartered Ecologist (CEcol) status. 

You could then progress to senior ecologist, leading a team of researchers, developing biodiversity plans or acting as a consultant on sustainable development projects.

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Last updated: 21 December 2016