Successful environmental education officers are passionate about conserving the world around them and can speak and engage with people of all ages
Environmental education work involves making people aware of environmental issues, promoting conservation and sustainability and enhancing public enjoyment of the environment.
You'll do this through teaching and interpreting the natural world. You may work mainly within a specific setting, such as in schools or nature reserves, or you could lead guided nature walks for visitors or organise events and awareness campaigns.
Training volunteers and community groups involved in environmental work such as conservation projects is also a common part of the job.
As an environmental education officer, you'll need to:
- research and develop educational programmes and resources for schools, adults, families, community groups or visitors to sites of special environmental interest
- promote educational programmes and resources to the target audience through leaflets, newsletters, websites, and in some cases, social media
- liaise with colleagues, teachers and community groups on the design and delivery of educational programmes
- give talks in schools or to community groups on environmental issues
- teach groups and interpret the natural environment for them on-site by leading guided walks and answering questions
- organise events and activities to raise awareness of environmental issues
- train others, such as teachers, in the use of resources and in delivering educational sessions
- research and collate scientific data
- recruit, supervise and work with volunteers
- manage other members of staff, depending on the organisation's size and structure
- act as a point of contact for teachers, educationalists and colleagues and respond to requests for information on educational issues
- generate income for projects through fundraising activities and investigate and bid for external funding
- evaluate the effectiveness of programmes and write reports for your organisation or funding bodies
- manage budgets for projects and educational programmes
- carry out risk assessments, particularly for outdoor activities
- advise on and draft environmental education policies and strategies - this is usually done at a more senior level.
- Starting salaries range from £17,000 to £20,000.
- With one to five years' experience, you could earn £20,000 to £25,000.
- Salaries at senior level or with experience, (i.e. after 10 to 15 years in the role), range from £22,000 to £30,000. In higher management positions this could rise to £50,000.
Starting salaries may be lower for posts that focus primarily on presenting rather than developing educational programmes and activities.
Many posts are in the voluntary sector, which is traditionally low paid.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours usually include regular office hours, but for many posts some evening and weekend work is essential, particularly when working with community groups.
What to expect
- Posts are often for specific projects and for a fixed term of between one to three years, depending on funding.
- In many roles, a substantial amount of time is spent out of the office, either delivering programmes in schools or at other locations in the community or teaching groups outdoors.
- Jobs are available throughout the UK. Many are based in nature reserves and other rural locations, while others are available in urban areas - particularly in the public sector, where they're often based at an organisation's head office.
- The dress code varies depending on the working day and whether the role is based outdoors or in the office. Some employers provide a uniform, such as a shirt promoting a specific organisation.
- In posts that focus on delivering programmes to schools and other groups, travel is frequent but usually restricted to the working day.
A relevant degree in a biological or environmental science discipline is often required. The following degree subjects in particular may increase your chances:
- botany or plant science
- conservation biology
- environmental management
Entry with a relevant HND or foundation degree, such as countryside management or one of the subjects above, is possible - particularly for candidates with relevant work experience.
It would be unusual to enter this career without any relevant qualifications. You'll need substantial work experience to make up for this.
A postgraduate qualification in education is desirable for many posts, but only essential for those that focus exclusively on schools. A relevant first degree is usually more important.
A postgraduate degree in an environmental field may be an advantage. Search for postgraduate courses in education.
You'll need to have:
- commitment to, and enthusiasm for, environmental conservation and sustainable development
- the ability to communicate effectively in written materials as well as presentations, workshops and guided walks
- interpersonal skills and an ability to relate to people of all ages
- excellent organisational and time management skills
- the ability to work well in a team but also on your own initiative
- good IT skills
- a first aid certificate and good knowledge of health and safety - this may also be useful
- a full Disclosure and Barring Service or Disclosure Scotland check - usually required if the role involves working with children or vulnerable people
- a full driving licence - necessary for many jobs.
Relevant work experience is crucial for finding a paid position, and should ideally include both environmental or conservation work and educational or community-based experience, such as youth work or summer camps. A teaching certificate may be useful and experience of working with children, particularly in a school environment, is advantageous.
Employers in this field will want you to show real commitment and passion for environmental issues. Finding paid work experience is often difficult, however voluntary work is available both part time all year round and full time over the summer, through organisations such as:
Many environmental education officers are employed by voluntary organisations and trusts, including:
- The Conservation Volunteers (TCV)
- National Trust
- National Trust for Scotland
- Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
- The Wildlife Trusts
- pressure and campaign groups such as Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth
- zoos, wildlife parks and botanical gardens.
The public sector also employs environmental education officers. In local government, they may be employed in environmental, education, planning or leisure departments. Existing staff are sometimes seconded to take on this role temporarily.
Central government employers include the:
There are some jobs with private sector employers, such as large estates, and with utilities, oil and oil supply companies and other businesses that have a large impact on the environment. Environmental education may be part of the corporate social responsibility agenda.
In addition to jobs advertised as environmental education officer, many other posts include environmental education tasks. Look for job titles such as:
- community warden
- development officer
- countryside ranger
- field studies or environmental planning officer.
Look for job vacancies at:
Trainee posts with a set training programme are very rare in environmental education. Training usually takes place on the job and through internal and external courses.
Larger employers often offer training on transferable skills, such as:
- IT training
- presentation skills
- time management.
Practical environmental courses, for example on identification, surveying or conservation of species are offered by organisations such as the Field Studies Council (FSC). Mentoring and coaching courses, which might be useful for working with volunteers, are available from a variety of course providers.
For most environmental education posts, continuous professional development (CPD) is seen as an essential part of the job. Training needs may be identified as part of an appraisal process but it's likely that you'll be responsible for managing and arranging your own training. Attending relevant conferences is also an effective way of keeping up to date with current issues and refreshing your knowledge.
It's possible to obtain Chartered status (CEnv) as an environmental professional. Society for the Environment (SocEnv) awards the professional qualification through its 24 licensed member organisations.
There is no typical career path for an environmental education officer, as each post tends to be unique and progression depends on the employing organisation. It's common to be the only environmental education officer in an organisation and this may mean you have to seek out your own opportunities for progression.
In larger organisations there are opportunities to progress to management positions. This might mean taking on a more strategic role, for example as education or development manager, carrying out policy work and liaising with key stakeholders such as local government.
Another option is to take on a wider role, for example as manager of a heritage site, overseeing all activities and taking responsibility for all staff - not just those working in an educational role.
Often, this kind of promotion means relocating to a head office and a move away from the direct and daily contact with children or the wider public, which is often the most enjoyable part of the job for many environmental education officers.