Conservationists work to protect the environment, from specific places, to biological life of all kinds, as well as entire ecosystems. Employed in a wide range of disciplines Conservationists focus on preserving and saving life for future generations and to benefit the ecology or our planet’s health.
If you are passionate, dedicated, caring, and your primary motivation for a career isn’t to get rich quick, then working as a Conservationist could be ideal for you.
- Focused on finding solutions to problems and thinking outside of the box
- Practical, realistic and down to earth, willing to get your hands dirty
- Aspires to make a difference and create change, able to communicate effectively
- Able to commit to a cause or project until it succeeds
- Positive and resilient
Conservationists can work in a number of really diverse areas, so it’s difficult to pin down typical job duties unless you’re focusing on a specific role. You don’t have to be a scientist in order to work as a conservationist; artists, managers, engineers, agriculturalists, journalists or anyone else who makes a contribution to conservation can be called a Conservationist.
There are four main areas of conservation:
- Environmental Conservation – In this field you could be preserving ecosystems, creating and maintaining National Parks, researching sustainable solutions such e.g. alternative power and recycling schemes, or working to combat the effects of climate change and pollution.
- Animal Conservation – In this role you could be more focused on the protection of endangered species and their habitats. Working in National Parks, researching and observing animal behaviour, working to combat the effects of humans and their activities, educating communities, identifying new threats, working in rehabilitation or tagging programs for example.
- Marine Conservation – In this area you’d be helping to study, research and protect the species and ecosystems within our oceans and seas, possibly the connecting waterways and coastal ecosystems too. You could be working to protect coral, whales, reduce fishing impacts, or combat water pollution and the effects of rising sea temperatures.
- Human Conservation – Working in this field you might be educating others, implementing sustainable and low environmental impact solutions and lifestyles, protecting cultures, customs and traditions, improving living standards, and more.
Lifestyle Impact: Medium
- Part Time opportunities: Low – only around 24% of conservationists work part time (source: labourmarketinsights.gov.au).
- Average hours for full-time workers: 41 hours a week (source: labourmarketinsights.com.au). This doesn’t take into account volunteers working in their own time, or dedicated Conservationists who live and work in the field.
- Conservationists salary (average) $53,800* per year (source: seek.com.au). *Salaries vary between industries, your role, and depending on your skills and experience
- Future career growth: Strong (source: labourmarketinsights.gov.au)
- There is a chance that working in Conservation you’ll have to travel, work in the field, spend hours researching or working to program deadlines, or in different locations. You may have to work outside of normal business hours and commit to long periods away from home. Working as a Conservationist may also mean that because you’re passionate you’ll be highly invested in your work, which might impact more on your lifestyle.
Conservationists are most in demand in these locations:
Conservation Officers are most in demand in New South Wales and Queensland, but there are opportunities all over Australia and the world.
How to become a Conservationist in Australia
Conservation is a highly competitive career to get into. That’s good news for the planet, but what it means for you is that usually you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Some workers have a Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification or achieve their goals through other pathways too.
Step 1 – High school subjects that could help you get where you want may include English, Geography, Biology, as well as law and government. But if you already know which area of Conservation you’d like to work in, you may have to tailor your subjects to suit the tertiary course prerequisites.
Step 2 – Identify which area of conservation you’re most passionate about and think about whether you’d like to be on the ground, in a lab, or working in an office. That way you’ll be able to select the best tertiary pathway to get you where you would like to be.
Step 3 – Complete relevant tertiary qualifications. Vocational qualifications are also an option, e.g.:
- Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management
- Certificate III in Marine Habitat Conservation and Restoration
- Diploma of Community Coordination and Facilitation
- Consider looking at an Apprenticeship or Traineeship that could give you the qualifications, work experience and a salary.
A large proportion of Conservationists in Australia need a degree in a relevant field. The job might require specific knowledge and skills you’ll learn on these courses, or perhaps just make you more competitive in the applications process.
- Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology)
- Bachelor of Science
- Bachelor of Marine Science
- Bachelor of Law specialising in Climate
- Bachelor of Heritage, Museums and Conservation
- Bachelor of Arts Major Indigenous Studies
- Bachelor of Anthropology
You may have the option of studying some courses online.
Step 4 – Volunteer work is a great way to gain understanding and add experience to your resume. Find projects near to home, consider dedicating your gap year to a cause, you could even travel as part of your volunteering. Apply for lots of jobs, be enthusiastic and stay motivated.
Find out more here –
Similar Careers to Conservationist
Manager of Volunteer Trips
Find out more about alternative careers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What do Conservationists do?
Conservationists can work to preserve wildlife, or as biologists getting their hands dirty in the field. But fieldwork and science are only two ways that you work in conservation. Helping to raise awareness, educate others, promote projects, and raise money are also important aspects of conservation.
So, whether you want to be a journalist, business owner, lawyer, filmmaker, artist, photographer, farmer, statistician, teacher, tech entrepreneur or engineer, you could work in conservation.
How long does it take to become a Conservationist?
If you decide to get a degree in a specific field, it could take anywhere between 3-5 years to qualify for Conservation roles. But a degree is not the only pathway, so it could happen a lot faster too.
Do I need to go to university to become a Conservationist?
You don’t have to go to university to become a Conservationist, but jobs can be really competitive and a degree could open up more opportunities and help you appeal to more employers.
Where do Conservationists work?
You could be working in National Parks, forests, fisheries, out in the ocean, in a lab, at museums and universities, for the Government, in a lab or an office, out in the field or working in communities. You could work remotely or in a large city, you might even work overseas.
What’s the difference between a Conservationist and an Environmentalist?
Environmentalists can be considered a branch of conservation, specifically focused on environmental issues from water temperature and pollution, to climate change. Conservationists may work on projects related to the environment, but they aren’t limited to that area either.
What are 3 things I can do right now to work help me become a Conservationist?
If you’re at high school and you’d like to find out if a career as a Conservationist is right for you and start learning skills and gaining experience, here’s a few things you could try:
- Try a few jobs, volunteer, read up – figure out what areas your passions are focused on.
- Find one place or project that you love and commit time, energy and resources to it.
- Start up your own project at home or at school, get leadership teams on board, find collaborators, even look for funding or promotion to help give your movement some momentum.