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How to work with wildlife (9 jobs)

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Speaking with countless ecologists about their journey through wildlife conservation, so many of them say they had no idea that what they do now was a job when they were starting out.

I thought it was just me!

Finding a paid job within the realm of wildlife, environmental, conservation, research, natural resource management is really challenging! One of the main reasons I see behind this is that jobs in this field as very much still in their infancy, without–

❌ an established career pathway
❌ standardized roles or names (no consistent job titles, qualifications, pay levels or other requirements across the board) – it’s hard to know your options
❌ an expectation of paid work, especially early on – leading to lower equality, diversity of ideas and accessibility of conservation to people from different backgrounds

Not only that, to work within this industry, you have to have blinding passion for the cause to motivate your pursuit, and 9 times out of 10, you will also need to overcome the following barriers to starting your career –

❌ imposter syndrome
❌ gate keeping and competition (from both within the industry and outside it)
❌ burnout (and the erosion of your life and balance from the get go)
❌ under resourcing – the glamourization and voluntourism models have lowered the expectation for low or no pay – and the industry as a whole isn’t valued in the same way other natural resources are.

But let’s not get bogged down in this. While these factors make things hard – it’s by no means impossible to land your dream job in the wildlife space – and myself and countless other guests on #itsawildlife are living, breathing proof of that!

There are so many ways to work with wildlife, work for the environment – both directly and indirectly. What I mean by that, is there are roles where the focus is wildlife and environmental conservation or research, such as ecologists, zoo keepers, wildlife vets and eco-tourism guides.

There are also ways to make other roles more environmentally-focused without switching your career to study conservation biology. Conservation needs everyone and a variety of skill sets – so whether you have an existing career or experience in marketing, law, business, art, design, accounting, administration, hospitality – all these other skillsets can be (and need to be) considered extremely valuable to wildlife and conservation rather than purely within their own industry.

You can also be an ally and passionate advocate for wildlife and environmental conservation without carving out a career within this field. But if you’re reading this post, the chances are you feel called to pursue this type of work as a career – and that’s amazing!

How to work with wildlife (9 jobs) | #itsawildlife

To start, here are 9 entry-level roles where you can work directly with wildlife and nature conservation and research:

  • Field Ecologist

Synonyms: field technician, biologist, botanist, project officer, ecological consultant, research assistant

Description: You work in the field primarily monitoring wildlife for conservation or for industry. You can be based in the field or swing between field stints and city stints.

Employers: non-profit organizations (i.e. Bush Heritage, Australian Wildlife Conservancy), ecological consultancy, government department (science//conservation division), universities and TAFEs, museums.

  • Bush Regeneration (crew members or supervisor)

Synonyms (so many!): field technician, environmental field technician, tree planter, ecological restoration coordinator, team member, field supervisor, nursery hand, leading hand, field staff, bush regenerators, bushland/grassland crew member, field ranger,
Similar: land management officer, arborist, forester, farm/station hand, nursery supervisor.

Description: You work in hands on tree planting, weed removal (hand pulling and spraying), seed collection, native plant cultivation and maintenance of equipment and infrastructure.

Employers: local government, revegetation businesses (i.e. Greening Australia) and non-profit organizations, NRM groups and local nature reserves.

  • Park Ranger

Synonyms: land management officer, operations manager, sanctuary manager, similar roles to build experience: farm/station hand,

Description: You work in the field primarily managing threats to wildlife (fire management, feral animal control and weed management), undertaking revegetation, maintaining infrastructure and equipment and sometimes concerned with visitor safety and/or engagement. You can be based in the field or swing between field stints and city stints.

Employers: non-profit organizations (i.e. Bush Heritage, Australian Wildlife Conservancy), state government departments (parks and visitor services), sometimes local governments, Aboriginal corporations (see below)

  • Ranger Coordinator

Synonyms: ranger mentor, IPA coordinator, land management officer, learning on country coordinator, fire coordinator

Description: You work with Aboriginal rangers to care for Country.

Employers: Aboriginal Corporations and Indigenous Protected Areas

  • Zookeeper

Synonyms: animal handler//trainer, assistant, animal husbandry specialist                                                                                            

Description: You work in wildlife husbandry and visitor engagement – taking care of the animals and educating guests about them. You are usually based locally to the institution.

Employers: zoos and wildlife parks

  • Wildlife Veterinarian

Synonyms: wildlife vet assistant, specialist, animal handler, assistant, animal husbandry specialist

Description: You work in wildlife treatment and rehabilitation for sick and injured animals.

Employers: vet clinics, zoos and wildlife parks, contracts with specialty projects (research, film and television, etc.)

  • Biology Lecturer (university) or Biology Teacher (schools)

Synonyms: biology lecturer, PhD candidate, teacher, lab technician, laboratory/teaching assistant

Description: You teach biology or related fields in schools or universities. This is often a great job for PhD candidates within their field of expertise.

Employers: schools, universities

  • Wildlife Educator

Synonyms: eco tour guide, outdoor leader, landscape education coordinator, discovery guide, interpretations officer, safari guide,

Description: You take people on wildlife tours or provide nature-focused information/activities at nature reserves or sanctuaries.

Employers: wildlife tour companies, non-profit organizations (i.e. Australian Wildlife Conservancy), NRM groups and local nature reserves, schools and universities, small business owners and mobile zoos, online (social media, YouTube and other websites)

  • Lab Technician

Description: You work in biology labs and carry out tests or research.

Employers: universities, laboratories.

  • GIS Technician

Synonyms: spatial ecologist, GIS analyst, data analyst

Description: You work in creating maps and database management and analysis

Employers: government departments, ecological consultancies,  

KEEP IN TOUCH

There are so many roles beyond this and to move into from here. For more information on different career paths, head to our Instagram @itisawildlife or check out the blog or podcast to see the career paths and careers of other featured wildlifers!

What do you think? why not let us know or follow along for the adventure!

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