what is an ecologist?

An ecologist studies the relationships between various ecosystems or components. Your job is to examine the impact of interactions between living and non-living things in the environment. You also research the effects of actions by ecosystem members on other ecological phenomena like rainfall and temperature shifts or pollution.

Nature is supposed to be self-sustaining and can maintain ecological balance without the help of scientists. However, industrialisation and population shatter the balance, hence the need for ecologists to care for the environment. As an ecologist, you don't just examine the environment; you also try to rectify the imbalances in the ecosystems caused by human interference. For instance, you determine the impact of housing, urbanisation and recreational facilities on the environment.

what does an ecologist do?

As an ecologist, you are involved in conservation programmes and provide scientific expertise to policymakers and the management of major companies. Hence, the role requires intelligent application and interpretation of biological principles to make decisions that benefit the environment. You need exceptional research and interpretation skills to study tiny details and draw accurate conclusions.

Ecologists can serve in various fields related to the environment like agricultural research institutes, nature conservation, national parks and private organisations interested in environmental sustainability.

Would working as an ecologist suit your passion for the environment and research skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in an ecologist role.

ecologist jobs

average salary of an ecologist

According to National Careers, an ecologist earns £22,000 per year at the start of their career. However, experienced ecologists enjoy a compensation package of up to £45,000 annually due to their expert-level skills and hands-on experience in research and interpretation. Ecologists also enjoy monetary and non-monetary benefits like medical insurance and house and transport allowances. Paid vacations and bonuses are also part of the compensation package.

what factors affect the salary of an ecologist?

Your salary depends on the job type, level of education and experience working as an ecologist. The minimum educational qualification for becoming an ecologist is a degree. If you have additional certifications and postgraduate qualifications, you earn more due to the complexity of your role. Some specialisms also attract better compensation packages due to high demand. For instance, an environmental protection ecologist is likely to earn more due to the increased attention to environmental conservation.

Cycling male, autumn trees and office buildings on the background.
Cycling male, autumn trees and office buildings on the background.

types of ecologists

Some of the types of ecologists include:

  • field ecologist: you spend time collecting data and examining living organisms in their natural habitat. By studying their features, you can identify adaptation mechanisms and their role in the ecosystem.
  • restoration ecologist: your role involves fixing parts of the ecosystem affected negatively by human beings to reduce the effects on the environment. As a restoration ecologist, you deal with coastal erosion, land clearing and poaching that affect ecological balance.
  • marine biologist: you spend most of your career in water bodies studying water creatures and their role in the ecological balance. You also recommend ways to improve their habitat and avoid the extinction of rare marine species.
  • environmental scientist: as an environmental scientist, you use research to safeguard the environment and its inhabitants. For instance, you study the potential dangers of chemicals to the environment and their long-term effects on human beings. You also assist in cleaning up pollutants and developing ways to reverse the harmful effects of human activities.

working as an ecologist

Working as an ecologist is a fulfilling career that equips you with knowledge of ecosystems and ways to protect them. Read on to discover an ecologist's daily tasks and work environment and decide if it is the right career for you.


education and skills

Explore various ways of becoming an ecologist:

  • university course: you can become an ecologist by pursuing a degree in conservation biology, zoology, marine or plant biology, botany or ecology & environmental sustainability. For the degree courses, you need 2 to 3 A levels. Some ecologist jobs require postgraduate qualifications like a master's or PhD in relevant subjects.
  • apprenticeship: pursue postgraduate degree apprenticeship opportunities if you have a degree in a relevant science subject. Most ecologists usually gain experience through volunteer programmes.

skills and competencies

Some of the soft skills an ecologist needs include:

  • interest or passion for nature: your job focuses on improving the quality of the environment people live in and their interactions with nature. You need to love and care for nature to understand the interdependence of various ecosystem components.
  • analytical skills: an ecologist conducts various tests and field research to determine the cause of environmental problems and potential solutions. You need analytical skills to improve your decisions. Analytical skills help ecologists collect data and evaluate various environmental issues.
  • technical skills: you will spend hours on your computer carrying out multiple tasks, and you should have computer skills to perform various functions. Technical skills also help you with model drawing using computer-aided design and statistical analysis that requires complex statistical methods.
  • communication skills: as an ecologist, communication skills help you explain findings to your colleagues. You need to explain restoration plans to stakeholders and field teams undertaking restoration projects. Communication skills can also help you write reports and journals.
smiling female looking away
smiling female looking away


FAQs about working as an ecologist

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