Discover the qualifications and skills you'll need to enter specific environmental careers and how relevant work experience can boost your employability
Do I need a related degree?
Entry to occupations such as land-based engineering is only possible with a specific degree. For others, including environmental management or conservation, entrants have usually studied relevant environmental degrees. Science, agriculture, geography or business degrees are considered useful for many other roles.
Whatever subject you've studied, considering an environmental course at postgraduate level is a great way of focusing on a specialist field and showing that you are choosing to follow a particular career path.
The environmental sector provides opportunities for training and development at all levels. There's a long tradition of work-based learning, including apprenticeships, in environmental jobs.
For information on entry requirements and qualifications required for environment and agriculture careers, see job profiles.
Which environmental skills do employers want?
Employers in this industry usually require candidates with:
- relevant practical and technical skills
- an interest in environmental or sustainability issues
- team-working skills
- physical fitness (for some job roles)
- business awareness or management skills.
Entrepreneurial skills may also be valuable due to the abundance of self-employment opportunities.
Where can I get work experience?
Work experience is essential for most jobs in this sector and voluntary work is a way into many areas, such as conservation, ecology and animal care. Specialised degrees, such as engineering and forestry, often include a placement year during the course.
Opportunities for volunteering can be found with not-for-profit organisations, including:
- National Trust
- Natural England - includes volunteering opportunities in their National Nature Reserves (NNRs)
- RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)
- RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
- TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) - enter your postcode to discover activities in your area
- The Wildlife Trusts.
Work experience opportunities are often advertised on large company websites. For example, JCB takes on university students as well as those studying for their A-levels for its one-week work experience programme. You must live within a 25-mile radius of the JCB site where you'll be working, and you could be placed in a number of departments, including engineering and technical services. KUHN takes on more than 150 trainees each year for its internships and part-time industrial work placements - from young farmers all the way through to career changers and postgraduates.
Not-for-profit organisations also offer internships, but unfortunately these are often unpaid. The National Trust offers a diverse range of environmental management, conservation and horticultural internships, with travelling expenses and lunch costs typically covered. RSPB internships are either three, six, nine or 12 months in duration. Your travel expenses will be reimbursed and accommodation is provided for those involved with residential volunteering.
To find work placements in the environmental sector, search for work experience.
You can also read more about volunteering with animals.
How do I find a graduate job?
When it comes to jobs for agriculture graduates, there's a choice of commercial and technical roles on progressive farms, or in the large number of global and regional companies involved with crops, livestock, machinery and food.
Useful websites include:
Employment is also available with government organisations such as Natural England, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Environment Agency (EA), as job roles and work-based learning opportunities are advertised at all levels. Read more about Environment Agency careers.
If you're looking for jobs that help the environment, you will find that vacancies are not always formally advertised, as the sector is dominated by small companies. Sending out speculative applications is one approach that may bring you success.
To find the latest opportunities, search graduate jobs in environment and agriculture.
How can I get onto an environmental graduate scheme?
You can find environmental graduates schemes at large companies such as AB Agri, AGCO, British Sugar, JCB and John Deere. These include opportunities in engineering, science, IT, sales and marketing, accounts and HR.
To gain entry onto commercial graduate schemes companies will often accept any degree subject, although some employers insist on a 2:1 as a minimum requirement.
The Forestry Commission runs a graduate management programme for those with a 2:1 (or higher) degree in a subject related to the environment, civil engineering, land management, forestry or business studies.
The Environment Agency requires postgraduates with a Masters in civil engineering or mechanical engineering for entry onto their structured graduate training scheme in flood and coastal risk management. See Environment Agency careers.
What apprenticeships are available?
Land-based and environmental awarding-body Lantra offers their Love Environmental Conservation Apprenticeship, which tackles local and national issues ranging from household waste recycling to habitat management. Apprentices can choose from the four available routes - dry stone walling, rivers, coasts and waterways/flood risk management, access and recreation and environmental conservation. To get involved you'll need to search for a local learning provider, as well as a suitable employer.
At the EA, you could choose to undertake an assistant scientist (level 3) or facilities management (level 2) apprenticeship, with the paid workplace training taking place in either a laboratory or office respectively.
In addition to its graduate scheme, consultancy firm Mott MacDonald runs advanced and degree apprenticeships in a number of areas including civil engineering, transport planning, building services engineering and quantity surveying.
Do I need to do postgraduate study?
The sector relies heavily on practical and technical skills, so some employers favour work experience coupled with an undergraduate degree. Research roles may benefit from further study, while environmental management and consultancy jobs are highly competitive and so a relevant Masters may give you the edge in a specialist area.
For example, agricultural consultancies may require a Masters in animal production. A seed and crop technology Masters is also necessary for working in a technical consultancy post.
To explore environmental science and ecology qualifications, search postgraduate courses.
Which professional qualifications are recognised?
By joining a dedicated professional body that relates to your specific land or animal-based career, this can provide you with information and advice, opportunities to gain industry-specific qualifications and connections to like-minded individuals.
- The Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) offers a range of certified and approved training courses for environment and sustainability professionals. This includes the Introductory Certificate in Environmental Management for those new to environmental issues.
- A number of services are provided by the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES) to help graduates find a job in the environmental fields. They also run a number of qualifications including Chartered Environmentalist and Chartered Scientist.
- The highest level of professional qualification (Masters-standard) available to environmental practitioners is the Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv), which is offered by the Society for the Environment (SocEnv).
- If you're responsible for the management of agricultural and associated rural businesses, or aspire to be, the Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgrM) lists activities and opportunities for personal development to members at various levels, including students.
- A national organisation for rural property valuers, the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) supports professionals in providing advice on a range of matters that affect the countryside.
- Another land ownership advice body, the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants (BIAC),ensures its members have access to information and events to aid their continuing professional development (CPD).