Countryside Ranger/Warden

The Job and What's Involved

Countryside rangers and wardens protect, manage and enhance the habitats of wildlife. Most work in an area open to the public and ensure that people can use, enjoy and understand the countryside without disturbing plants or animals.

Work tasks vary, but may include:

  • Making sure habitats are in good condition by, for example, mowing and strimming, organising grazing, planting trees or managing ponds.
  • Planning and creating habitats to encourage or attract certain wildlife.
  • Carrying out or organising field surveys.
  • Patrolling sites to reduce crime and protect the public and wildlife.
  • Developing good relationships with farmers, landowners and businesses whose activities may affect the environment.
  • Presenting educational talks and workshops.
  • Managing exhibitions and visitor centres.
  • Giving advice and information to visitors.
  • Organising or leading walks and events, and taking part in community projects.
  • Training and supervising volunteers.
  • Collecting litter.
  • Putting up signs.
  • Ensuring footpaths and bridleways are safe.
  • Making minor repairs to gates, fences, stiles, walls, footpaths and picnic tables.
  • Finding contractors to carry out major work, such as scrub clearance or the building of shelters and hides.
  • Co-ordinating the maintenance of vehicles and equipment.
  • Keeping records of work carried out, inspections, accidents and incidents.
  • Managing budgets.

Countryside rangers/wardens use hand tools such as loppers, rakes and construction tools, as well as heavier equipment such as chainsaws and brush cutters.

They may specialise in a specific type of work, eg in liaising with schools or businesses, or work with certain habitats, such as waterways, woodlands or moorlands.

They may work with other rangers/wardens, conservation officers and countryside managers.

Countryside rangers/wardens normally work around 37.5 hours a week. However, they often need to be flexible about when they are prepared to work as this can include weekend, bank holiday and evening work. Part-time and seasonal work is common.

Rangers/wardens work mostly outside, in all weather conditions, and may have to walk long distances, drive four-by-four vehicles or use boats. They may be required to move heavy equipment and walk or climb difficult terrain. Some time may be spent indoors, working in offices and visitor centres or visiting schools and local businesses.

Countryside rangers/wardens may wear protective clothing or a uniform.

A driving licence is very useful.

Starting salaries may be around £9,000 to £13,000 a year. Additional payments may be made for working unsocial hours.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Employers of countryside rangers/wardens include local authorities, government bodies such as the Forestry Commission, Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales, charitable trusts such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), The National Trust and local Wildlife Trusts, and private landowners. Many jobs are on a part-time or temporary basis.

While a number of jobs are located in rural areas, there are also opportunities in inner city locations. There is a great deal of competition, with more applicants than vacancies.

Vacancies are advertised in The Guardian and other national and local newspapers, in The Environment Post and on a range of websites specialising in environmental jobs, including www.countryside-jobs.com and www.environmentjob.co.uk. Jobs in local government can be found on www.lgjobs.com.

Education and Training

The main entry requirements are a commitment to the countryside and experience of volunteering. Most entrants have completed at least six months' voluntary work.

Many organisations welcome volunteers. The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) and local Wildlife Trusts, for example, offer volunteering opportunities.

Certificates in subjects such as first aid or the use of pesticides may also be useful. Academic qualifications are not always required, but can be an advantage, particularly as there is strong competition for jobs. Useful courses include:

NVQ/SVQ Levels 2 and 3 in Environmental Conservation. Academic qualifications are not usually needed to gain a place on these courses.

BTEC/SQA National Qualifications in Countryside Management or Land and Environment. Entry requirements are normally four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) or equivalent, although these may not always be enforced.

BTEC/SQA higher national certificates and diplomas (HNCs/HNDs) and Foundation degrees in subjects such as environmental conservation, countryside management, environmental sciences, and rural and countryside management. Applicants usually need one A level/two H grades and/or relevant practical work experience.

Degrees in subjects such as rural resource management, countryside management, conservation and environment, and environmental studies. Candidates usually need at least two A levels/three H grades, and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3).

Postgraduate qualifications in environmental conservation and countryside management. Entry is usually with a relevant first degree and experience.

Apprenticeships in environmental conservation may also be available.

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.

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Most employers organise formal training programmes. These usually cover health and safety, including the use of machinery and first aid. Training in interpersonal and office skills may also be provided. Much of the training is on the job.

Membership of a relevant professional body such as the Countryside Management Association is not essential, but it may enhance job prospects. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is encouraged.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Countryside rangers/wardens need:

  • Knowledge of the habitats and wildlife with which they are working.
  • Practical skills.
  • Physical fitness and stamina.
  • To understand wildlife survey techniques.
  • Communication skills, to engage with a wide range of people of all ages.
  • To keep accurate records.
  • To be able to act on their own initiative and as part of a team.
  • To be able to solve problems and handle potential conflict situations.
  • Good presentation skills.
  • An understanding of health and safety requirements.
  • To be adaptable, in order to carry out a diverse range of tasks.
  • Map-reading and navigation skills.
  • To be able to manage budgets.
  • To be able to use a computer to interpret data and produce reports.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion is possible to positions such as area, chief and district ranger, or head warden. It may be necessary to change employer to gain promotion.

With further study and experience, rangers/wardens may become countryside or conservation officers or managers. Promotion into managerial roles often means moving away from practical activities to more office-based tasks.

There may be opportunities to move into leisure management, horticulture or agriculture.

Get Further Information

British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV),
Sedum House, Mallard Way, Potteric Carr, Doncaster DN4 8DB
Tel: 01302 388888
Website: www.btcv.org.uk

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

The National Trust,
PO Box 39, Warrington WA5 7WD
Tel: 0870 458 4000
Website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk

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

Forestry Commission, Silvan House,
231 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh EH12 7AT
Tel: 0131 334 0303
Website: www.forestry.gov.uk

Growing Careers, The Careers Centre,
Writtle College, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 3RR
Tel: 01245 424200
Website: www.growing-careers.com

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

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB),
The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL
Tel: 01767 680551
Website: www.rspb.org.uk

Scottish Natural Heritage, Great Glen House,
Leachkin Road, Inverness IV3 8NW
Tel: 01463 725000
Website: www.snh.org.uk

The Wildlife Trusts (TWT), The Kiln, Waterside,
Mather Road, Newark, Nottinghamshire NG24 1WT
Tel: 01636 677711
Website: www.wildlifetrusts.org

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