Made famous by crusaders like David Attenborough, Jane Goodall and Steve Irwin, conservation is the best-known area within the environmental industry. A hugely popular sector, conservation is about preserving habitats, biodiversity and ecosystems.
Australia has more than 9,400 protected areas – covering nearly 14 per cent of the country. This large area shows the important role played by conservation professionals in managing and preserving our unique ecosystems.
The biggest employers of conservation professionals in Australia come from the public sector. At the largest scale, Australia’s federal environment body is the Department of the Environment, which manages the National Cleaner Environment Plan. Each state or territory then has their own environment department, and may also have an Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) working alongside the government. At a finer scale, there are regional natural resource management bodies and local councils who employ people within their biodiversity sections.
After the public sector, the next biggest employers are not-for-profit organisations, the largest of which include Bush Heritage Australia, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Birds Australia and Australian Wildlife Conservancy.
These government and not-for-profit organisations employ a variety of professionals for a wide variety of jobs. They employ environmental officers to do proactive work, such as managing and developing habitats, managing the coastline, and doing fieldwork to assess habitat quality. They also employ professionals to respond to critical situations, such as managing threatened species, rescuing wildlife, and managing fire.
Working in this sector can also involve assessing land for biodiversity value or building development. And not all conservation roles are outdoors; some include managing volunteers and community engagement – a key element in this popular sector – as well as staffing visitor centres and headquarter offices.
A great way to sharpen your skills and demonstrate your passion for conservation is to volunteer. This helps you get to know an organisation, develop networks and skills in the field, and is how most conservation professionals have entered into the industry. Many conservation organisations, such as the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, have internships or volunteering programs.
As career opportunities span a range of roles and industries, salary trends depend on the area you decide to work. Click through the gallery to see some example salaries for jobs that graduates enter.