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Ornithologist

Ornithologists study the behaviour, ecology, classification and conservation of birds and their habitats. 

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £18,000 to £35,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 30 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need an HND, foundation degree, degree or postgraduate qualification in a relevant subject, like biology, ecology, environmental science or zoology.

You’ll need a British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) ringing permit and experience as a birdwatcher to become a bird warden.

You’ll need some experience of ringing birds and bird watching to become an assistant warden.

Voluntary experience with an organisation like Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) or the BTO will be helpful.

The BTO has more information about becoming an ornithologist.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • an accurate and methodical approach
  • analytical and mathematical skills
  • the ability to produce clear reports
  • IT skills

3. What you'll do

You could be involved in:

  • fieldwork and research
  • conservation and habitat management
  • consultancy
  • education
  • campaigning and policy development

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • conducting surveys
  • monitoring bird species 
  • tracking bird movements
  • collecting, analysing and evaluating data
  • preparing reports, management plans and presentations

You could also work as an ecologist ranger or countryside officer at a nature reserve, ringing station or observatory.

4. Salary

Starter: £18,000

Experienced: £18,000 to £20,000

Highly Experienced: up to £35,000

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your hours and working environment will vary depending on the job, but can often be unsocial, with long working days during times like the breeding season. 

You’ll work outdoors and in all weather conditions 

You might work in remote locations so you may have to travel to sites by vehicle, boat or on foot.

6. Career path and progression

With experience you might become a supervisor.

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Last updated: 21 December 2016