Case study

Lecturer in animal management — Joao Louro

Joao is about to start a job as a lecturer in animal management. Find out how his qualifications and experience helped him into the role he has been working towards for years

What degree did you study?

I graduated with a BSc Hons Zoology from Aberystwyth University in 2020. I then went on to study an MSc Biodiversity Conservation at Bournemouth University.

How did you get your job?

Both during and after my degree I built up a variety of relevant experience. This included seasonal work as an education ranger, and later as a lead education ranger, for the countryside education department at the London Borough of Hounslow based at Bedfont Lakes Country Park. I also worked in America at Camp Equinunk as a zoo counsellor, teaching children about animals.

With my qualifications and experience together, I was able to apply for two lecturer roles at further education colleges. I got interviews for both and accepted an offer from one.

How relevant is your degree?

Both my zoology degree and Masters have been instrumental in helping me get a lecturing job. Before doing my degree I worked in a small zoo in West London for three years. I then applied for zookeeping and lecturing jobs. Although I got interviews for zookeeping jobs, I didn't get any for lecturing roles and took this to mean that while I had experience, other candidates probably had the qualifications I was lacking.

Fast forward to now and I've completed my zoology degree, which gave me a unique perspective concerning animal welfare and management. It also allowed me access onto a Masters course. My Masters has given me the necessary information I was missing on the conservation issues relating to native and exotic flora and fauna.

What did your Masters course involve?

My Masters has been slightly different from usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some modules would have featured weekly field trips and labs, which would have been absolutely spectacular for practical learning and consolidation. Despite this, however, we as a cohort have put in extra study hours ourselves and have wowed the department by achieving some really high grades.

We typically have around seven hours per week of seminars, lectures, open discussions and coffee mornings.

What did you enjoy most about your postgraduate course?

What I liked best was the depth that I could go into for my own specialisms. Despite the fact that the course is oriented towards examples of native conservation, the assignments allowed us to truly focus on the knowledge we wanted to develop as specialists.

What are the challenges?

Definitely keeping my cool and being organised. Doing a degree full time while working full time, or even part time, definitely requires a lot of mental fortitude and organisation skills, which luckily I have. Sometimes, however, it was very difficult to keep on top of everything.

How essential was your Masters to getting your chosen job?

I feel there would've been a smaller chance of getting my current job without my postgraduate degree. I was successful in getting interviews at both the colleges I applied to and both interviewers talked about my Masters.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters degree?

I would definitely look into what you want to gain from a Masters and go from there. Make yourself a list and look at the pros and cons of each university and course, thinking about how this fits in with your requirements. This includes everything from location to the price and the course units. You can also email the faculty and ask any questions as they’ll always be happy to answer a prospective student.

Do you also need work experience?

I would always advise that you get work experience and take these opportunities as you will have the working background that others may not, thus making you infinitely more employable.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I would like to be about to finish my PhD or working through it. Being at Aberystwyth really opened my eyes to research and the world of science. I realised just how much there is to know, how fascinating the world is and how hard people work towards just knowing things.

What advice can you give to others?

  • Volunteer - get as much experience as you can. If an opportunity comes up for some experience, run to it and gain as much as you can from it. It will reinforce your degree and back you up in the future for years to come.
  • Stick with it - there will definitely come times when you reach a slump or think something is a waste of time, but stick it out as at the end you will have a Level 6 qualification, level 7 for a Masters, and know that you have done it.
  • Enjoy it - really think about the experiences you're having: your labs and field trips, the friends you're making and the lectures you're getting so much information from.

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