What it is

Conservation is the sustainable use and management of our planet’s natural resources, ranging from plant and animal life to water, soil and mineral resources. Put another way, it is “managing the environment in a way that does not despoil, exhaust or extinguish” (Carl F. Jordan). Conservation includes many areas such as policy, land management, public education, even real estate development. Thus it is a complex field with many roles and career paths available. Fortunately, advanced knowledge of a particular resource, ecosystem or Conservation-related issue is a major plus in entering this field, regardless of your role.

Starting points

A Conservation career can begin in any of the three major employment sectors (private, public and non-profit). Think first about the type of role you might be suited for, then open your mind to stepping into that role in any sector, to maximize opportunity.


Each role comes with its own unique advancement pathway, but the pace and rules of how one advances varies greatly by employment sector. Government, for example, may offer greater job security but slower advancement. It is possible to change sectors based on your success in any given role.


Conservation is a multi-disciplinary field absorbing PhDs in Life Science, Earth Science, Geography, Ecology, Environmental Engineering, and increasingly, social sciences such as Sociology, Psychology and Political Science.

Personality and outlook

Because the field includes so many different roles, no one personality type has an advantage. However, a key attribute essential to success in this field is a deep personal commitment to the Conservation ethic.


Focus your research as much as possible on specific ecosystems, conservation issues or analytical tools used in the Conservation field. Outside your research, take on projects that will allow you to build/demonstrate project management, program leadership, networking, writing and interpersonal skills, all extremely important in non-academic conservation jobs. Serving as Graduate Advisor to an undergraduate conservation club might help you develop most or all of those skills.

Real Life Examples