So, you want to work with wildlife?
Wonderful! All over the world wild animals and landscapes are in trouble and desperately need inspirational, motivated and caring people like you to stick up for them. The bad news is that competition for wildlife jobs is incredibly fierce. But don’t let that put you off, as there has never been a better time than now to launch a career in wildlife.
These days, there’s a huge array of job opportunities out there that involve caring for the natural world, and you don’t necessarily have to have a PhD in ecology to get one. To get you inspired, we’ve compiled our top ten jobs in wildlife—in no particular order because they all sound brilliant.
Being a wildlife rehabilitation involves the treatment and care of sick, injured or orphaned wild animals and preparation for their release back into the wild. As a wildlife rehabilitator, you’ll probably be based at a wildlife care centre where you could be cleaning up seabirds caught up in an oil slick or hand rearing baby hedgehogs. You may also be required to operate a helpline, help rescue trapped or injured animals or drive a wildlife ambulance.
What’s required? Depending on the level of care they’re providing, wildlife rehabilitators may require a degree in veterinary science or zoology, a vocational qualification in animal care or simply experience of working with animals and a can-do attitude.
The ultimate dream job for animal lovers, zookeepers are responsible for caring and enriching the environment of animals at the zoo. Their daily tasks include feeding animals and checking for signs of illness or injury, as well as maintaining enclosures, preparing exhibits and giving talks to groups of schoolchildren. Sometimes a zookeeper may be lucky enough to hand rear baby animals.
Zookeepers don’t necessarily need a degree in zoology, as a vocational qualification in animal care or husbandry may be sufficient but gaining plenty of work experience is essential.
First steps: For an insight into the wide range of zoo careers available, check out this video series from the Smithsonian and for job and volunteering opportunities, keep an eye on the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums website.
Employed by an NGO or government body, conservationists strive to protect precious natural resources, species and habitats. Depending on the area of conservation, your duties could involve conducting a survey of the bat population of an urban green space, working with fisheries to prevent overfishing in a marine conservation zone, or managing wildlife habitats such as woodland or acid grassland. You’ll need to be prepared to work in all weather conditions, as well as spending as much time in the lab or office as in the field.
What’s required? Conservationists often have a degree in a subject like ecology or environmental science but it is often possible to break into this line of work by volunteering or gaining an internship with an NGO or an apprenticeship through the National Apprenticeship Scheme.
First steps: Enrol on a short course with the Fields Skills Council, search for volunteering opportunities via Green Volunteers or apply for a conservation experience abroad with VSO International. You’ll also find heaps of advice and tips at Conservation Careers.
If you have a passion for raptors such as owls, hawks and eagles, then the life of the falconer may be for you. Falconry or hawking is an ancient field sport of hunting wild quarry in its natural habitat with a trained bird of prey. To earn a living from falconry, you’ll need to either work at a falconry club or else set up your own business offering raptor handling and flying experiences to the public. The work requires dedication, as you’ll be spending hours a day caring for and training your birds, as well as good communication and business skills.
What’s required? The LANTRA beginner award is currently the only award recognised by the Hawk Board in the UK.
First steps: Attend a day hawking experience or enrol on a short course at a falconry club, such as those on offer at the Hawking Centre.
Spending all day snapping your favourite creatures in a pristine wilderness only to see your work grace the pages of the National Geographic comes pretty high up on the list of dream wildlife vocations. However, wildlife photography is an extremely tough and competitive gig and the chances are that you won’t be able to make a living exclusively from your art. Also, be prepared to spend as much time editing and promoting your work as out in the wild chasing the perfect shot.
What’s required? No formal qualifications are needed but undertaking a photography course or workshop, such as those offered by the British Wildlife Centre, is a good idea. It goes without saying that you’ll need to get your hands on a decent camera, know your way around it and practise, practise, practise.
First steps: Consider joining a local photography club or sharing your work with an online group such as Wildlife Sightings. Entering competitions can also give you a boost.
Eco Tour Operator
Love nature? Love to travel? Then why not combine the two with a career in ecotourism? The growing ecotourism sector encompasses many different areas of work, from constructing eco-friendly resorts to providing low-impact guided tours and engaging with the local community. You could end up managing an eco lodge in Guyana, running turtle conservation holidays in Costa Rica or leading bushcraft courses in the Bavarian Forest.
What’s required? There are loads of routes into ecotourism; you could break into it via a background in conservation, hospitality, teaching, construction, architecture or landscape design.
Wildlife Crime Officer
These police officers work to prevent and detect wildlife crime, such as poaching, wildlife persecution, wild bird egg theft and the introduction of invasive species. Wildlife crime officers work with regional police forces, other organisations and the public to identify threats to wildlife, raise awareness of wildlife crime and bring the perpetrators to justice. They may also work with government agencies to help crack down on the international trade in endangered species.
What’s required? You’ll need to join the police first and then undertake a training course in wildlife law enforcement. Alternatively, you could gain a qualification in wildlife management and find work with an organisation that helps to enforce wildlife law, such as the RSPCA.
Who wouldn’t want to work in the great outdoors, immersed in beautiful landscapes and surrounded by wildlife? As a national park ranger you can expect to spend your days maintaining footpaths, gates, stiles and bridges, managing conflict between visitors and locals, patrolling lakes and coastlines, coordinating volunteers and running events for the public and schools.
What’s required? A degree or diploma in conservation or countryside management will stand you in good stead, while work experience, good communications skills and local knowledge are essential.
First steps: Volunteering is the way forward; get in touch with the National Trust, RSPB, The Conservation Volunteers or your local Wildlife Trust. For motivation, check out these tips from the Lake District National Park.
These scientists observe, study and record the behaviour of wild animals in order to further our knowledge and understanding of the different species we share the planet with. Wildlife researchers tend to have a specialism, such as marine biology, ornithology or entomology and might conduct research to discover the reasons behind a species’ decline or to determine its role within an ecosystem, for example. Like conservationists, they spend as much time in the lab analysing their findings as in the field watching wildlife.
What’s required? You’ll definitely need a bachelor’s degree or higher in a relevant science such as zoology for this one.
First steps: If this is the career avenue you want to travel down, then take a look at The Wildlife Society to find out more, and for a list of the top ranking zoology degree courses in the UK see here.
Honeybees are in trouble due to declining habitats, pesticide poisoning and parasitic mites, but you could help make a difference to these remarkable creatures by becoming a beekeeper. It takes time and dedication to build up bee colonies and learn about bee behaviour, while the work requires heavy lifting of bee apiaries and regular hive inspections to prevent swarms. You’ll be rewarded with delicious honey and sweet-smelling beeswax to enjoy and sell, but be warned that beekeeping is more likely to be a side-earner than a full time career.
What’s required? Anyone can become a beekeeper; you just need a large enough outside space to house your bee hives and equipment. The British Beekeepers Association offers a beginner course, while the National Bee Unit provides all the information you need to get started.
First steps: Contact your local Beekeeper Association and arrange to visit an apiary where you can handle the bees before investing in any equipment.
Want to see some of these amazing wildlife jobs in action? Why not check out our new video streaming service, filled with amazing natural history documentaries—including shows such as Angels of the Jungle—which dive into the world of wildlife work like you’ve never seen it before. [/geoip-content]