Each month we take a deeper look at one career pathway in particular. For in-depth profiles of over 600 job profiles, take a look at the Indigo Careers module. This month we take a look at the role of an Ecologist*.

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Qualifications and courses:

Entrants normally require a degree in a relevant subject such as ecology, environmental biology/management, conservation or marine biology. The general entry requirements for a degree are 2 A levels/3 H grades and 5 GCSEs/National 5s at grade C or above, or 4-9 in England.

Many employers require pre-entry experience (as a research assistant or a conservation project volunteer). Postgraduate qualifications are required for higher education teaching and research, as well as consultancy work. A driving licence may also be useful when travelling to conduct fieldwork.

A diploma is available in Work-based Environmental Conservation at Levels 2 and 3 and a BTEC is available in Environmental Conservation (Levels 4–5).

Ecologists with relevant qualifications and experience can become members of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM). Different levels of membership are available depending on your qualifications and experience. The CIEEM, the British Ecological Society (BES), the Field Studies Council and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland also provide many short professional development courses for their members.

Once you have enough experience you could apply for chartered environmentalist (CEnv) status with the Society for the Environment or chartered ecologist (CEcol) status with the CIEEM, for which you are expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD).

What the work involves:

Ecologists help to protect the natural world by investigating the relationship between living organisms and their environment. Ecologists usually work within a specialist area such as freshwater, marine or fauna.

You will undertake ecological surveys of animals and plants and monitor the state of urban and rural environments. You may also write reports and analyse statistical information.

You may also advise on legal regulations, manage wildlife conservation areas and present your research at conferences or educational seminars.

Type of person suited to this work:

A keen interest in the natural world is essential. It’s important to be observant and methodical in your work. You will also need to be organised and work to a high standard of accuracy when collating statistics.

You will need to be comfortable working outdoors, sometimes in poor weather conditions. You must have a good knowledge of environmental policies and legislation. Good manual handling skills are important.

You will be presenting your research on a regular basis so excellent written and communication skills are essential.

Knowledge of geographic information systems (GIS) technology and cartography is an advantage.

Working Conditions:

Ecologists work in laboratories or research centres when undertaking analysis activities.

You would work outside in all kinds of weather conditions when undertaking fieldwork such as surveys of plants or animals.

For fieldwork, you would need a good level of physical fitness and good observational skills. This may make the job unsuitable for people with visual impairments.

Future prospects:

Ecology offers a wide range of job opportunities; you can shape your career according to your interests. However, there is strong competition for jobs; some are available only on a contract basis and it can take time to find a permanent role.

If you become a chartered environmentalist or chartered ecologist, you could progress to senior ecologist in charge of a team of researchers. Alternatively, you could go into freelance consultancy or education.

Many types of organisations employ ecologists. You could go into scientific research, environmental management, teaching or conservation for organisations such as environmental consultancies, research bodies and private companies.


This job provides the satisfaction of having a positive impact on the natural environment.

You may need to move around employers to develop your career.

You can choose to work in your specialist area and develop your career around something you are passionate about.

Money guide

Salaries vary according to the type of organisation you work for.

Starting salaries range from around £18,000 to £22,000 per year.

With experience, you could earn from £22,000 to £30,000.

Senior or management roles in larger organisations can earn £30,000 to £45,000 or more.

Further information

Visit the British Ecological Society, Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management or Institution of Environmental Sciences.

*Information in this profile taken from Careers, from Trotman Publishing – part of the Indigo family.