Career Information

Environmental scientist testing water on sunny beach
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A conservationist manages natural habitats including parks, forests, and rangelands. He or she may also be called a conservation scientist or soil and water conservationist. 

This green job involves finding ways to utilize land without harming the environment. Conservationists, who are employed by either private landowners or federal, state, or local governments, make sure landowners follow government regulations and take appropriate measures to protect habitats. They advise farmers and ranchers to help them improve their land and control erosion.

Quick Facts

  • Conservationists earn a median annual salary of $61,480 (2017). 
  • About 22,300 people work in this occupation (2016).
  • Employers include the federal government and state and local governments. Social advocacy groups also employ some of them, as do private landowners.
  • The job outlook for conservationists is good. Job growth will be on pace with other occupations between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Conservationists work in offices, labs, and outdoors.

A Day in the Life of a Conservationist

What is it really like to be a conservationist? Employers listed these duties in job announcements on

  • "Make field visits to meet with producers to determine conservation needs and assist with conservation plan development"
  • "Use hand tools (e.g. clinometer, hand level) to determine percent slope and slope length"
  • "Conduct site inspections of on-going projects to assure that practices being installed meet specifications"
  • "Serve as a liaison and the point of contact with ecological, safety, and program support for the State Resource Conservationist"
  • "Ensure all federal, state, departmental, and district regulations are being followed"

    The Downside of Being a Conservationist

    Expect your days to be physically demanding if you choose this career. You will have to walk long distances often and spend time outdoors in inclement weather. There are dangers inherent in this occupation which include coming into contact with poisonous plants and biting insects.

    Education Requirements

    To work as a conservationist, you will need, at the minimum, a bachelor's degree in forestry, agronomy, agricultural science, biology, rangeland management, or environmental science. Some people go on to earn a master's degree or doctorate. Your undergraduate studies will prepare you for graduate school.

    What Soft Skills Do You Need?

    Particular soft skills, which are personal qualities with which you were born or acquired through life experiences, will allow you to excel in this occupation. They are:

    • Listening and Verbal Communication Skills: As a conservationist, you will have to communicate well with colleagues, workers, landowners, and the public.
    • Problem Solving and Critical Thinking Skills: Detecting problems and then identifying possible solutions will be a big part of your job. 
    • Analytical and Decision-Making Skills: The ability to evaluate the results of experiments and studies and the capacity to utilize this information are essential to success in this field.

    What Will Employers Expect From You?

    Here are some requirements from actual job announcements on

    • "Ability to work independently and as part of highly collaborative teams"
    • "Working knowledge of computers and software including MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and/or GIS preferable"
    • "Ability to perform minor maintenance and repair to infrastructure and equipment"
    • "Ability to compose clear, concise, and technically correct documents; chooses the most effective and meaningful written form to express information; states information as simply as possible and organizes information logically"
    • "Exceptional attention to detail"
    • "Ability to manage multiple tasks through use of effective organizational and time management skills"

    Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

    This occupation is most suitable for individuals with the following interestspersonality type, and work-related values:

    Related Occupations

    Description Median Annual Wage (2017) Required Education
    Environmental Scientist Identifies and then finds ways to eliminate hazards to the environment or the earth's inhabitants $69,400 Bachelor's Degree (entry-level) /Master's Degree (advanced)
    Hydrologist Studies the distribution, physical properties, and circulation of water $79,990 Bachelor's Degree (entry-level) /Master's Degree (advanced)
    Environmental Engineer Solves problems in the environment using knowledge of engineering, biology, chemistry, and soil science $86,800 Bachelor's Degree in Environmental, Civil, or Chemical Engineering,
    Urban or Regional Planner Helps communities determine how to best use their land and resources $71,490 Master's Degree in Urban or Regional Planning

    Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online (visited June 13, 2018)