Environment & agriculture Career Pathways & Advice
If you've always dreamt of working outdoors, you might be on the hunt for a job in the environment or agriculture sectors after leaving university.
Those working in agriculture are responsible for the cultivation of plants and animals in order to provide food, medicine and other essentials. Working in this area could mean working on a farm, overseeing all operations during the production process whilst providing leadership and organisation, working within production or supply chain, and/or specialising in livestock, crops or horticulture.
The regulations in this industry are set by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for safe, high-quality produce farmed in an environmentally sustainable manner.
The environmental sector covers a huge remit, including areas such as conservation, air and water quality, environmental assessment, agricultural supplies, animal nutrition, soil science, animal care and technology, wildlife or fisheries management, energy-efficient practices, animal therapy, and forestry.
For roles across the sector, it’s likely that you’ll be required to spend part of your time outdoors and part in an office environment. You might see opportunities for self-employment too – around half of the industry works in this way.
Environment & agriculture Jobs
Because of the technical and practical nature of a lot of jobs in the industry, work experience and practical skills are valued highly – so you’ll want to undertake some work experience to give you the skills needed. Voluntary work is common for those looking for experience in the sector, and you may also get the chance to undertake a placement year during your degree.
A solid understanding of animal welfare and how agriculture impacts the environment are also both essential for this sector.
Other skills that may help you include:
- Analytical skills
If you are on a structured graduate scheme, you will have a clear path laid out from the beginning – and will be able to see where your career within the company is likely to head in the future.
Likewise, if you find an entry level role in an organisation such as the Environment Agency, you are likely to find a strong network that supports you at the beginning of your career.
There are a number of certified training courses for those that want to move into or progress in this sector. Some of the industry bodies that offer 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.
It is also possible to take the academic route in agriculture or environment to MSc or PhD level, which usually leads to teaching and research positions within the sector.
Types of jobs in Environment & agriculture
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
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
A relevant degree is required for most jobs within the environmental sector, so if you have one of the following you’re in a great position to start planning your career:
- Environmental science
- Civil engineering
It might be helpful to look into specific postgraduate qualifications if you’re definitely sure that you want to move into a specific area.
For jobs that aren’t environment or agriculture specific, for example in management, marketing, IT or sales, you can apply without a directly-related degree.
In agriculture, there is a growing requirement for applicants to have a degree or professional qualification in a related subject – for example: Agriculture, farm business management, crop management or land management.
How to get there
For smaller companies, you should send out speculative emails that detail your skills and introduce yourself and the kind of roles you’re looking for – jobs are not always widely advertised in the environmental sector. Because it’s a popular industry, be prepared for the reality that you might need to take on unrelated work whilst you apply for competitive jobs.
For agriculture, it is normal to have obtained a fair amount of work experience before finding a position. It is practical experience that will make you stand out from the crowd. This experience is usually obtained with a sandwich course, holiday work, or a gap-year placement.
You can find graduate schemes at large companies, including the Environment Agency, JCB, British Sugar and the Forestry Commission, which will usually require a 2:1 and involve an application process with a few different stages.
Agricultural Industries Association
Tenant Farmers Association
Agricultural Engineers Association
Tropical Agriculture Association
Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV)
Countryside Management Association
Environmental Services Association
Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environment Management