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Environment & agriculture Career Pathways For School Leavers

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The UK’s environment and agriculture industry is responsible for protecting our land and ensuring that it can be used for generations to come for the cultivation of plants and animals - an incredibly important sector!

Most jobs in this industry aren’t your typical 9-5 sitting-behind-a-desk scenario. Instead, you’ll spend some (if not all) of your time outside - particularly if you’re working on the farming side of agriculture.

Other jobs that you could pursue in this field include:

  • Gardener

  • Farm worker

  • Tree surgeon

A lot of the work in this industry is hands-on and practical, perfect for those who like to be able to clearly see the results of their hard work. Seeing your crops flourish or rearing healthy livestock is pretty satisfying. There are numerous areas of specialization that you could explore including livestock, crops or horticulture.

However, the industry also requires management and leadership staff to keep the operations running smoothly, which may necessitate more office work.

Roles in the environmental sector are likely to be more office based than those in agriculture. Once you have some experience behind you, there may also be opportunities to work for yourself. Typical job roles that you can find in the environmental sector include:

  • Environmental consultant

  • Environmental health officer

  • Health and safety adviser

  • Countryside officer


Work experience is really important in this industry because a lot of it you cannot learn in a classroom - you need practical experience. For this reason, voluntary work is very common in this industry.

You will also need an understanding of animal welfare and a wider understanding of the impacts of agriculture on the environment - this helps to make sure that you work sustainably.

Those working in environment and agriculture need a range of key skills, whichever level they’re at. Some of these include:

- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Analytical skills
- Communication
- Digital Marketing
- Negotiation
- Organisation
- Teamwork

Progression opportunities

You should be in a position to apply for assistant level roles in the environment and agriculture industry after you complete your apprenticeship if this is the route you decide to go down.

Career development

If you’ve completed an apprenticeship in this area, you could consider going on to university afterward in order to increase your professional standing. This is a good idea if you want to move into a scientific role, most likely in the environment sector.

There are also a number of certified training courses available in the industry, depending on which area that you want to specialise in. Some of the recognised bodies in the industry for these courses include:
The Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA),the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES),the Society for the Environment (SocEnv), and the Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgrM).

SocEnv offers a route to becoming a Chartered Environmentalist, a masters-level qualification that’s a highly respected title for those working within the industry.

Types of jobs in Environment & agriculture

Earning potential

As an apprentice, you’ll earn a minimum of £3.70 per hour if you’re under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship, or the National Minimum Wage if you’re over 19. This works out at around £150 - £240 per week.

When starting out in the industry (even after your apprenticeship) your wage is likely to be modest, but due to the responsibilities placed upon you and the level of organisation and skill required you could see your salary increase quickly.

The wages paid within the agriculture and environmental sectors can vary hugely – the roles that come under the sector range from farm hand to high-level environmental consultant, after all.

Here are average salaries for some jobs within the industry, according to Payscale:

Farm manager - £27,025
Farm worker - £18,246
Agronomist - £30,339
Environmental advisor - £28,200
Environmental engineer - £29,866
Environmental manager - £34,088
Environmental scientist - £25,889
Environmental consultant - £25,128
Compliance officer - £27,100

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Qualification requirements & subjects to study

To get a job in the environment and agriculture sector as a school leaver, it’s a good idea to undertake a vocational qualification. A diploma, certificate or short course can give you the practical skills you need to get a job in this sector. Professional organisations, as well as colleges, can provide these qualifications.

Alternatively, you could look at apprenticeships in the sector. Apprenticeships will see you studying and working for a company at the same time. You will work alongside experienced staff and will have one day off per week to study, usually at a local technical college or equivalent. This can be a great route for those who know what they want to do early, and don’t want to burden themselves with the time and debt of university.

Industry Bodies

Agricultural Industries Association
Farmers Link
Tenant Farmers Association
Soil Association
Agricultural Engineers Association
Tropical Agriculture Association
Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV)
Countryside Management Association
Countryside Alliance
Environmental Services Association
Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environment Management
Environment Agency
Water UK

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