A Career in Ecology – Part 1

Part 1

A career in ecology has seen a resurgence over the past twelve months. It may be down to what some publishers are calling the ‘Greta (Thunberg) effect’. A massive demand by young people seeking to make a positive change to our environment.

So how do you stand out when seeking your first role in ecology? Well, it all depends on where you’re coming from.

Early stage

If you’re just about to choose between A levels or T levels,[1] then you need to see where these qualifications can take you. The A level route is more academically based and may provide an opportunity to obtain a placement at a University. The T level route will be ‘industry’ based and more hands on, putting you in sight of a ‘potential’ employer. They both have their advantages and disadvantages, but either route will provide you with knowledge and an understanding of what sort of a career in ecology you may (or may not) be seeking.


If you further your academic career, then securing a placement on the right course at University is going to be your next step. There are a plethora of courses out there, and so some research into what courses are better suited in helping you secure that first paid role is required. Many Universities have league tables, but I would treat them as a guide only. They are mainly used for the business of securing places and hence funding. Seek out an ‘independent’ review site before making your final decision!


For some people, University is simply not an option and it’s also not suitable for everyone. Unfortunately, there is a heavy bias towards academic qualifications within the recruitment of ecologists. It’s mainly seen as ‘traditional’ to recruit a graduate who has demonstrable knowledge and an understanding of the role of science within the natural environment, but less so on the essential and desirable skills that so many of employers seek.

The good news is that recruitment is changing. Slowly! There are now Modern Apprenticeships available in different parts of the UK as well as higher level apprenticeships approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.


If you are at this early stage, then you will need to find out what sort of a career in ecology you want. Are you passionate about plants, an advocate for animals, or do you relish research?

There are many career opportunities as an ecologist available to you, so spending a little of your time researching what’s on offer may help you decide what qualifications or skills you need to develop.

Find out more by visiting the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) career guidance pages.

Part 2 to follow…..

Richard Dodd, Chartered Ecologist & Managing Director Wildwood Ecology

[1] T Levels are new courses coming in September 2020, which will follow GCSEs and will be equivalent to 3 A Levels and will offer students a mixture of classroom learning and ‘on-the-job’ experience during an industry placement. Students will be able to take a T level in a variety of subjects, including agriculture, land management and production, and animal care and management or science. Find out more by clicking here.