Job as a Conservation officer

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Jane Sanderson is a conservation project officer in Macclesfield. She works in one of a network of 48 environmental trusts across the country in her first job since leaving university, Jane enjoys the challenge of helping to improve the environment.

What does your job as a conservation officer involve?

I work on various projects run by Groundwork. Some are community projects, which involve designing and developing recreation grounds, and play areas, often on old, derelict land. As well as identifying suitable sites, I'll liaise with the architects and contractors, consult with community groups, and get involved in the fundraising side, which often includes working with local businesses and securing grants from areas such as the landfill tax.

I also work on projects that give small grants to voluntary environment groups, and also in schools, helping to improve the grounds and playgrounds with new equipment, and some landscaping.

A lot of my time is spent in the office typing up notes from meetings, and developing new projects. I work on about ten projects at a time, so there's always lots of planning and organising to do.

Do you specialise in anything?

Part of my job is spent in schools teaching students about recycling and other environmental issues. I'm also developing a heritage project for local schools, which will involve taking children on field trips.

So do you ever get your hands dirty?

Of course! With woodland projects I'll get involved with everything from putting up bird boxes and improving paths, to organising contractors and arranging for leaflets and maps to be designed and printed.

What hours do you work?

Generally 9am-5pm with occasional weekends if there is a community event or something similar being organised. There are some evening meetings too, because that's when most community groups meet.

What makes a good project officer?

You need to be organised and it helps to be friendly and out-going. You need to be environmentally aware but with so many diverse projects, you end up picking up information when and where you need it. You need to be good with numbers too, as a lot of the work involves invoicing and working out budgets. Above all, you must be interested in conservation and other earth science issues.

What responsibilities do you have?

I'm in charge of the whole project, including the budget, and although there's always a support network, I'm expected to take the project on in its entirety. Another important part of my work is encouraging the community to use and enjoy their local environment.

What are the good parts of your job as a conservation officer?

The variety and the fact I'm not stuck in an office all day. Working with the environment and trying to make a difference is satisfying.

Is there any on the job training?

There's lots of training at Groundwork, which is great. I'm now a qualified first-aider and I've been on courses covering community engagement, how to work with local groups, and a fantastic course about the creative approach to teaching environmental education.

What are your ambitions?

I'd like to move on to project management at a local authority or in a private consultancy. Because the environment and sustainability are such big issues now, there are lots of different options within this sector.

Jane's route to her job as a conservation officer

  • Degree in geography and biology.
  • MSc in environmental management and sustainable development.

Jane's conservation officer tips

  • If you're interested in the education side of things, any teaching work experience is a bonus.
  • Do as much voluntary work as you can in the environmental field, particularly when you are at university.

Conservation officer related jobs

  • Countryside ranger/warden
  • School Teacher
  • Park officer
  • Landscaper

Salary of a onservation officer

  • Money differs from trust to trust.
  • On average project support officers start on about £12,000 and project officers on £13,000, while project managers can earn up to £18,000.

Job as a conservation officer

  • While most project officers have a degree in geography, environmental management or a related subject, the Environment Agency offers a wide variety of job opportunities for non-graduates. It offers a structured competency-training programme with specific modules that are designed to support individual and team development needs.
  • Another avenue is becoming a countryside ranger or park warden. You don't always need academic qualifications to be a ranger or warden. You might need school qualifications such as GCSE/S grades to include geography and workbased experience to get in.
  • Groundwork Trusts operate a large voluntary section, offering non-graduates as well as graduates the chance to gain vital experience which may help in getting a full-time job.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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