How to become an Countryside Officer. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Countryside Officer do?
As a countryside/conservation officer, you would be involved in the management, protection and improvement of the local environment. You would encourage people to visit the countryside and promote understanding of the need to protect the natural environment.
Your work would be varied, but would typically include:
- advising landowners on managing their land to protect the countryside and wildlife
- conducting surveys, carrying out research, analysing data and writing reports
- dealing with complaints about issues such as overgrown rights of way
- organising the upkeep of country parks and woodlands
- making sure footpaths are clearly marked, and litter bins and car parks are provided
- advising on planning applications – for example assessing the effects on the countryside of a new road or housing development
- giving talks to local groups
- producing resources like leaflets and information boards to show the public how to look after the countryside
- advising on, organising or supporting local environmental activities and projects.
You would also deal with paperwork, keep detailed records, prepare applications for funding, and assess funding applications from other organisations.
You would usually work around 37 hours a week. This would often include making early starts or attending evening meetings, and perhaps working some weekends and public holidays. Temporary and seasonal work may be available.
Although you would be office-based, you may spend a lot of time visiting sites, which would involve being outside in most weather conditions.
How much does a Countryside Officer earn?
- Starting salaries can be around £19,000 a year.
- Experienced officers can earn £35,000 or more.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
Many countryside/conservation officers have relevant degrees, BTEC HNDs or foundation degrees, so you may have an advantage if you have this type of qualification. Relevant degree subjects include countryside/environmental management, environmental sciences, biology, ecology and geography.
To search for HND, foundation degree and degree courses see the UCAS website.
Employers will expect you to have practical experience. You could get this by volunteering with organisations such as the National Trust, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and Groundwork. Contact them for information about local opportunities. Some of these organisations offer training for their volunteers.
Competition for jobs is strong, so the more practical experience you can gain the better.
Another option could be to start in a lower-level practical job and work your way up. For example, see the profile for Countryside Ranger.
Training and Development
You can add to your skills and knowledge by taking courses like those offered by the Field Studies Council and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
You could also work towards the Diploma in Work-based Environmental Conservation at levels 2 and 3.
Your employer may support you in continuous professional development (CPD), such as studying for a postgraduate qualification, which you may need for some senior jobs.
Joining professional bodies, such as the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM), will give you professional recognition, and access to CPD and networking opportunities.
Skills and Knowledge
- enthusiasm for the countryside and conservation issues
- confidence and assertiveness
- the ability to explain technical and scientific issues to a variety of audiences
- effective communication and ‘people’ skills
- tact and diplomacy
- good IT skills.
You would often be employed by local authorities, but could also find jobs with government agencies such as Natural England, charitable trusts such as the National Trust and the Woodland Trust, and environmental consultancies.
With experience and further qualifications you may be able to progress to become a senior officer or countryside manager.