You will need to enjoy working with people and conveying messages through talks, presentations and written material if you want to succeed in this role
Environmental education officers are involved in making people aware of environmental issues, promoting conservation and sustainability, and enhancing the public's enjoyment of the environment through teaching and interpreting the natural world.
The range of activities you will carry out varies from job to job. Some officers work mainly within schools, giving talks and taking part in and developing projects. You can also deliver presentations or host groups at relevant sites, such as nature reserves.
Others work with a range of age groups, for example leading guided nature walks for visitors or organising 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.
Most environmental education posts include the development and marketing of education programmes, as well as the practical delivery of them to a target audience.
Tasks often include:
- researching and developing educational programmes and resources for schools, adults, families, community groups or visitors to sites of special environmental interest
- promoting educational programmes and resources to the target audience through leaflets, newsletters, websites, and in some cases, social media
- liaising with colleagues, teachers and community groups on the design and delivery of educational programmes
- giving talks in schools or to community groups on environmental issues
- teaching groups and interpreting the natural environment for them on-site by leading guided walks and answering questions
- organising events and activities to raise awareness of environmental issues
- training others, such as teachers, in the use of resources and in delivering educational sessions
- researching and collating scientific data
- recruiting, supervising and working with volunteers
- managing other members of staff - depending on the size and structure of the organisation
- acting as a point of contact for teachers, educationalists and colleagues, responding to requests for information on educational issues
- generating income for projects through fundraising activities, investigating and bidding for external funding
- evaluating the effectiveness of programmes and writing reports for your organisation or funding bodies
- managing budgets for projects and educational programmes
- carrying out risk assessments, particularly for outdoor activities.
At a more senior level, you might be involved in advising on and drafting environmental education policies and strategies for your organisation or the wider community.
- Starting salaries range from £15,000 to £19,000.
- Typical salaries with one to five years of experience are between £20,000 and £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.
- For management positions in an organisation where you have responsibility for policy development or the management of a multidisciplinary team, salaries can reach up 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 lower 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.
- Depending on the employer, flexible working might be available and some posts are offered on a part-time basis.
- Jobs are available throughout the UK. Many are based in nature reserves and other rural locations but others are available in urban areas, particularly in the public sector where they are often based at an organisation's head office.
- The dress code varies depending on the working day and whether the role is 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 will 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 will 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.
For many posts, a full driving licence is necessary. A first aid certificate and good knowledge of health and safety may also be beneficial.
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.
Employers in this field will want you to show real commitment and passion for environmental issues. Gaining relevant experience is one of the best ways of demonstrating this on your CV. 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 the:
You may join these organisations as a student member to keep up to date with current environmental issues.
Although you might not be able to get involved in educational activities from the start, working within a relevant environmental organisation can provide the opportunity to speak to environmental education professionals. This should enable you to build up a network of contacts that might be useful in your job search, while developing invaluable practical skills.
Experience of working with children, particularly in a school environment is useful, as is a working knowledge of the education system and the curriculum, see:
If a role involves working with children or vulnerable people, a full check is usually required before starting work by either:
Many environmental education officers are employed by voluntary organisations and trusts, including the:
- 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:
- The Conservation Volunteers (TCV)
- Countryside Jobs Service (CJS)
- Environment Jobs
- The Wildlife Trusts
- Local press and individual employer websites.
For more information, see the environment and agriculture sector.
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.
Attending relevant conferences is also an effective way of keeping up to date with current issues and refreshing your knowledge, both for environmental and educational issues, developments and policies.
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, particularly in smaller organisations, it is likely that you will be responsible for managing and arranging your own training.
It is possible to obtain Chartered status (CEnv) as an environmental professional. The Society for the Environment 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.
In many organisations, you might be the only environmental education officer, so you may not have any colleagues with direct experience of environmental education work. In this type of organisation your line manager is unlikely to be a specialist in this field.
There are opportunities to progress to management positions. In organisations with a larger educational department, 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.