Countryside Officer

The Job and What's Involved

The role of a countryside officer is to encourage visitors to the countryside, promote awareness of the natural environment and protect and preserve the countryside for future enjoyment.

The tasks can vary and can be broken down into practical
elements and the management of the countryside.

The practical element of this role includes:

  • Patrolling sites to encourage responsible enjoyment, reduce crime and protect the public and wildlife.
  • Managing habitats to maintain favourable conditions for wildlife.
  • Managing exhibitions and visitor centres.
  • Ensuring footpaths, bridleways and other public access areas are safe.
  • Making minor repairs to gates, fences, stiles, walls, footpaths and picnic tables.
  • Raising awareness of environmental conservation.
  • Devising and implementing surveys to monitor wildlife.
  • Nature conservation, including the implementation of projects at a local level for the protection and creation of habitats.
  • Landscape conservation, including the creation of schemes to protect existing features or restore landscapes.
  • Environmental assessments and field surveys.

Management of the countryside involves:

  • Implementing a variety of environmental and conservation projects, education activities, fundraising, working partnerships and policy development.
  • Increasing community involvement and participation, for example, by organising activities and projects.
  • Recruiting and supervising staff and volunteers.
  • Developing a business plan, marketing and controlling budgets.
  • Looking at the future of the countryside and the action that needs to be undertaken in order to protect the natural environment around us.
  • Implementing solutions.
  • Preparing applications for funding or assessing planning applications.

Countryside officers typically work around 37.5 hours a week. The hours vary depending on the season, with early starts common in the summer months. Weekend and bank holiday work, late evenings and overtime are often required. There are part-time, voluntary and flexible opportunities available.

The work can be physically demanding. Regardless of the season, work can be inside or outdoors in all weathers. Depending on the area covered, there may be a significant amount of travelling between different sites for meetings and to co-ordinate education or community projects. A driving licence is therefore an essential requirement for many positions.

Officers may be provided with protective clothing or a uniform.

Starting salaries may be around £18,000 a year. With experience, officers may earn around £25,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are over 5,700 countryside officers and rangers within the UK. In addition there are many people working as volunteers in this area. The number of people working in this area is expected to grow each year and opportunities can be found in both urban and rural areas all over the UK. However, competition for paid work is intense and experience is essential.

Jobs can be found with local government and national agencies, including Natural England, and local authorities including national park authorities. Charitable trusts, such as the Woodland Trust and the National Trust also have paid and voluntary positions.

Vacancies are advertised directly through the local or national press and on organisations' websites. There are also a number of countryside careers websites that list job vacancies.

Education and Training

Although there are no set academic requirements for entry into this career many employers expect a degree or HND. Work experience, including volunteering, is seen as being of considerable importance.

There are a wide range of degree subjects relevant to conservation work, including rural resource management, countryside management, rural environmental management, conservation and environmental studies.

Other appropriate subjects include geography, life sciences, ecology, environmental science and geology. Entry requirements for degrees are usually at least two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications.

Other qualifications that would provide a good grounding in conservation include:

  • HNC/HND in environmental science or countryside management.
  • NVQ Level 2 or 3 in environmental conservation.

Candidates should check with individual colleges and universities for specific entry requirements, as these will vary.

The Diploma in environmental and land-based studies may be relevant to this area of work.

It may be possible to enter this career through an Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is usually on the job but may also include in-house training courses. Vocational qualifications can be studied in conjunction with local colleges.

Several organisations offer relevant training including the Field Studies Council, National Park Study Centres, Lantra Awards and British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV).

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Countryside officers should:

  • Have good interpersonal skills.
  • Have strong communication skills, both written and oral.
  • Be able to prioritise.
  • Have initiative and self-motivation.
  • Understand the scientific and technical aspects of the natural world.
  • Be prepared to work outside in all conditions.
  • Be able to follow health and safety practices and procedures.
  • Be able to work alone or in a team.
  • Have good problem-solving skills.
  • Have project management skills and be able to maintain accurate records.
  • Have good ICT skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience and relevant qualifications it is possible to progress to management positions, such as senior countryside officer or countryside manager. The career structure will vary depending on the size of the organisation. It may be necessary to seek opportunities with an alternative employer in order to progress.

There is also the possibility of specialising in key conservation areas or moving into environmental policy or management.

Get Further Information

British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV),
Sedum House, Mallard Way, Doncaster DN4 8DB
Tel: 01302 388883
Website: www.btcv.org

Countryside Management Association (CMA),
Writtle College, Lordship Road, Writtle, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 3RR
Tel: 01245 424116
Website: www.countrysidemanagement.org.uk

The Environment Council,
212 High Holborn, London WC1V 7BF
Tel: 020 7836 2626
Website: www.the-environment-council.org.uk

Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM),
43 Southgate Street, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9EH
Tel: 01962 868626
Website www.ieem.net

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park,
near Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 0845 707 8007
Websites: www.lantra.co.uk , www.lantracoursefinder.co.uk , www.afuturein.com and www.lantra-awards.co.uk

The National Trust,
PO Box 39, Warrington WA5 7WD
Tel: 0844 800 1895
Website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Natural England,
1 East Parade, Sheffield S1 2ET
Tel: 0114 241 8920
Website: www.naturalengland.org.uk

The Woodland Trust, Autumn Park,
Dysart Road, Grantham, Lincolnshire NG31 6LL
Tel: 01476 581111
Website: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

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