First published in Environment Times (volume 16 issue 3)
Ecology jobs are abundant at the moment, with the survey season well underway. The ALLEN & YORK ecology recruitment team are busily working with both specialist consultancies and public sector organisations to source talented ecologists at all levels, so if you are looking for a career move now is a good time to contact us.
This increased activity has prompted us to give some insight into how to begin your ecology career, give some pointers as to what employers are looking for and highlight any trends we’re seeing in the current ecology recruitment marketplace.
A rise in infrastructure projects and property developments throughout the UK means an increase of environmental assessments and ecological surveys. There are opportunities in both the private and public sectors, with a current trend within some county councils to set-up their own in-house ecology teams. This is a good indication of what we hope is a long-term trend as the government pushes to meet new building and transport network targets.
At present we are seeing the number of ecology jobs outstripping the number of experienced ecologists actively looking for work. Which creates a ‘candidate led’ market. This can mean that there is a slight salary increase, especially for senior ecologists and a greater requirement for graduates across the sector.
The surge in infrastructure development comes off the back of a long recession and as such has created a significant skills gap. Senior ecologists are required to head-up new project teams, but they are in short supply. There is no immediate solution to this skills gap, apart from the large influx of graduates moving forward and the survey season is a great opportunity for graduate ecologists to take their first step on the career ladder.
Seasonal field survey work can be both contract and permanent, and gives both graduates and under-graduates valuable experience which can help to build ‘hours’ which go towards gaining specialist species certification, e.g. - bat, dormouse and great crested newt licenses. If you are a graduate with a bat license for instance, you have a significant string to your bow and have a very good chance of fast-tracking into a job.
As much as there is a demand for senior ecologists, many of our clients are also looking for junior ecologists to join their teams and the more qualified and experienced you are, the better. By this I mean having lots of voluntary work under your belt. It is important to mention at this stage that a career in ecology is not for the faint hearted, it requires a great deal of dedication and passion to be successful. If you start your career early and build up your hours of experience you will put yourself at a great advantage.
Many candidates I talk to have started on their ecology career journey as college students, volunteering for conservation groups and working in their spare time to gain valuable work experience. I know as an environmental graduate myself that I spent a good chunk of my university summer breaks volunteering for the National Trust and loving it!
Employers are looking for good grades (a master’s degree is desirable, but not essential) and a good portfolio of voluntary experience. Becoming a member of CIEEM (Chartered Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management) is also a good idea as training, events and courses are available at discounted rates, which can often help to build up hours. It’s important to keep a record of your voluntary work, and to list the experience on your CV, so that employers can see the range of activity you have been involved in.
Many ecologists begin their career as generalists and develop specialisms on-the-job. This is usually because the job, project or employer requires a specialist skill-set, which in-turn becomes your area of specialism. As an example I was recently talking to a senior ecologist who has become a specialist herpetologist (the study of invertebrates and reptiles) initially because his job required him to concentrate on this area and latterly because he found it totally fascinating and wanted to lean more. He is now setting up his own consultancy!
Terrestrial ecology and fresh water aquatics are the areas in which we are seeing the most growth at present. Marine ecology seems to be a bit quieter, maybe due in part to the dip in oil prices and a reduction of oil exploration, as well as a fall in new offshore renewable energy developments.
Geographically, we have vacancies all over the UK and there are no restrictions on location. Consultancies are as likely to be based in towns and cities, as rural areas. We currently have ecology jobs from Derbyshire to London, Kent to Glasgow.
In summary, if you are looking for a new ecology job or to grow your team, now is the perfect time.