Do I need a University Degree to work in Conservation?

Traditionally, it has been true that the route to a job in conservation was via a university degree in Life Sciences, such as Biology, Botany, (Marine) Ecology and Zoology. Over the decades, the number of degree subjects has expanded to include interdisciplinary courses ranging from environmental management to conservation biology and sustainable development. Worldwide, there is now a huge number of undergraduate and Master’s courses on offer involving environmental stewardship and sustainability, as this blog post indicates. Academics have observed that there is a generational shift towards a new type of sustainability scholar with a more holistic view than the older scientists.

person-apple-laptop-notebook The growth of university degrees in conservation, especially in developing countries for example in Asia, is a positive trend. However, for many students the cost of a university education has increased even more, so they wonder whether it is worth making such an investment in a university degree? This is a valid question given the current competitive job market all over the world. The answer is tricky and almost always goes “it depends..”. The latter means it is not just a matter of finances, but also what career path you would like to follow, based on your own interests, and at what level.      pexels-photo-203237

Our advice, for those who are genuinely interested in working in conservation, is to educate yourself about the diverse career paths from an early age. This can be through school clubs or local projects, and especially by talking to people who already work in conservation. In this career guide, we have identified seven broad directions, ranging from fieldwork to NGO jobs to media-careers. Many of these opportunities do require a degree, however there are certainly exceptions, and we will highlight these with real-life examples throughout the guide.

The bottom-line remains that a university degree certainly helps when applying for jobs, but employers also look for work experience and skills. This is where volunteering can be very useful, but make sure to select high-quality projects that can provide plenty of such relevant experience and skills. If studying at Uni is not for you, then there are certainly new options that are based on vocational training and work experience.

Not going to Uni: the choices

These days, with conservation and sustainability becoming more widespread, there are more opportunities to work in conservation without a university degree.

There are great examples, such as former volunteer Chris. He has a burning passion for fieldwork in the Asian rainforest, but did not go to university. Chris managed to find his current dream job working to rehabilitate elephants in Cambodia through a variety of valuable volunteer experiences.

The RSPB advertises entry level jobs for non-graduates, which range from roles such as ‘Membership Development Officer’ for those who love to promote conservation, to ‘Assistant Warden’, if the outdoors appeals to you. The National Trust recruits Trainee Conservation Assistants where on the job training opportunities are provided – within 12 months, you could become a fully-fledged Conservation Assistant! Finally, the World Land Trust also has non-graduate opportunities, so keep an eye out!

Unlike working as a doctor or a lawyer, you do not need a professional qualification to practise conservation. Even so, there are a number of professional bodies offering diplomas and training, which non-graduates can join once they’ve built up relevant work experience. CIEEM is the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and presents itself as a leading professional body due to its Royal Charter and diversity of membership across government, NGOs, academia and industry. It offers two chartered titles: Chartered Ecologist (CEcol) and Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv). Non-graduates can start at the ‘Qualifying’ level before working their way up.

The Institute of Enviromental Management and Assessment IEMA offers a wide variety of learning options. This ‘not for profit’ organisation has more than 14,000 members and collaborates with providers of higher education and training to promote their professional certifications. Non-graduates can start at the affiliate level to receive regular updates on relevant webinars, events and sector information. With work experience under your belt, the next level is ‘Associate’ level (AIEMA). Eventually, members work their way up to leadership, as a Fellow FIEMA.

If these professional certifications still sound too academic for your liking, then the good news is that the choice for more vocational courses is increasing. Established providers such as City & Guilds and BTEC are offering more subjects in environmental sustainability.food_production_cat_smaller

Never stop learning!

Whatever your early educational choices, it is almost certain that in today’s fast-changing world, you will need to upskill thoughout your working life. Life-long learning is now a reality for the evolving job market and your own personal development. With the issues of biodiversity loss, climate change and ocean pollution becoming more mainstream, the opportunities to learn as part of your CPD are set to grow with many interesting courses, for example this mid-career MSc, that are yet to be created.

Don’t forget to check our Conservation Career Guide Blog and sign up for regular updates!

What is the right conservation career for me? [with free personality tests]

How to decide what is the right conservation career

right conservation career

‘What’s the right conservation career for me?’ is a question we’re commonly asked. Nature conservation is a diverse and expanding field, but there’s one common thread for all practitioners: an absolute passion for nature and its wildlife.

Apart from this closeness to nature, there are only a few other general traits, as there really is no definitive list of competencies for conservation professionals. Certainly, good communications skills to facilitate team work or engage different audiences are needed, as conservation is just as much about driving behaviour change as it is about wildlife management. Finally, perseverance is a much-needed attribute, in your job search and throughout your career, as it can feel like fighting a losing battle sometimes.  Continue Reading →



We want to share with you what we’ve learnt about conservation career paths. ‘What are the types of conservation?’ and ‘What are some good career options for someone interested in wildlife conservation?’ – these are some of the most commonly asked questions from aspiring conservationists who volunteer on our conservation and community programs. Chances are, you’re asking similar questions, so here’s our shot at giving some advice:

Wildlife Conservation as a career is consistently growing

If someone says the words ‘conservation career’, most people picture a practical conservationist or ecologist out in the field. Field work and ecology are still going strong, but there are now other sectors that are expanding. Here are just some of the other career paths that conservationists take… Continue Reading →


Welcome to our new intern Eleanor, who is pictured here, being handed her enrolment papers by Kiran Kapur, the CEO of Cambridge Marketing College.

Eleanor will be focusing on digital and content marketing for our partner organisation Ecoteer, whilst at the same time studying for her CIM Certficate in Professional Marketing. She wants to become a specialist in Sustainable Marketing and you can read all about it on her blog SustainableMarketing.Academy.


The response to our new Marketing Internship has been fantastic!

The standard of applicants has been very high and beyond our expectations.Clearly, there is a lot of interest for this type of career development for young graduates who want to build their skill set to achieve their conservation goals. Our team will be working hard to create more of these opportunities, which would not be possible without the generous sponsorship of educators such as Cambridge Marketing College.

The first marketing intern will be starting on 3 April, so please WATCH THIS SPACE for updates on this and other internships.

Making Tiger Conservation real

The ‘Realm of the Tiger’ expedition organised by MYCAT (Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers) has been a great success and the 2017 trip is now fully booked. This shows that there is genuine interest amongst zookeepers and the wider conservation community for a tiger conservation educational trip to boost the pool of well-informed big cat ambassadors worldwide. To learn more about this unique group expedition, you can read the blog from Woodland Park Zoo, USA. 

Watch this space for updates on more instructional jungle treks on offer.

Have you ever seen a Terrapin smile?

Please support the awesome team at TCS Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia by voting for their entry to win ‘ Good Story of the Year 2016’!

It features their River Terrapin Conservation Project with  a 3 minute video showing the challenges of setting up the project and the satisfaction of seeing how the local villagers got involved , and how it has benefitted them.
So hurry to click this link  and cast your vote: The prize money of SGD5,000 (approximately RM15,000) will be awarded to the winner to kick start their project in 2017.

Share this with your family, friends and network to help terrapins!  Voting closes on Tuesday, 27th December 2016 (10:00 am GMT +8).

Watch Borneo’s awesome Flying Squirel in action

When a group of volunteers from APE Malaysia visited Sepilok Discovery Centre recently, they were lucky enough to witness an amazing sight: the Giant Red Flying Squirel in full flight, just above their heads. This remarkable rodent, which is deep red in colour, is quite widesspread in South East Asia, but local habitat desctruction still poses a threat for this nocturnal species.

This GIANT RED FLYING SQUIRREL (Petaurista petaurista) glided beautifully over our heads as we watched from the canopy walk at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sepilok.

This rodent is deep red in colour and has a black extremities. It can grow a head and body length of up to 42 cm with a tail just as long or a little longer. It is nocturnal and arboreal, nesting in tree holes of tall rainforest trees.

To “fly”, the giant red flying squirrel will launch itself from a high point of a tree and spread the membrane between its front and hind legs, while the long tail provides stability as it glides from tree to tree. It is reported to be able to glide distances of up to 75 metres.

The diet is mainly leaves but it also eats nuts, insects, seeds and fruits, particularly the binuang and laran, both of which are among species we plant at our tree-planting sites.

Destruction of habitat is the greatest threat to this squirrel. This widely distributed species has been recorded from northern South Asia, southern China and Southeast Asia.

American International School, Hong Kong, Rainforest Discovery Centre Sandakan #EnvironementalEducation, APE Malaysia, #EnvironmentalEducation

Posted by APE Malaysia on Friday, 21 October 2016

Conservation Travel is the future! all lovers of wildlife and nature travellers, the future of travel is Conservation Travel. Don’t just be an eco-tourist, as the term ‘eco-tourism’ has become a cliche for some dubious destinations and activities. Conservation Travel affirms your commitment to sustainable tourism, according to accepted guidelines from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). In simple terms, it means that your visit will only have a positive impact on the local environment, community and economy.

But our tours go a step further, by including a specific financial contribution towards each conservation project that you visit. You can see for yourself what the money is spent on and how this is of benefit to wildlife species in their natural habitat, from the tigers in the rainforest jungle to the sea turtles on the tropical beaches. Even better, you can get involved in the action. Learn how to set up a camera trap or become an expert in spotting wildlife snares in the jungle.