Environment and sustainability careers

Want to find out more about a career in environment and sustainability? 

The requirement for graduates with the skills and motivation to work in the environmental and sustainability sectors is increasing.

Careers in the environmental sector include work in conservation, corporate social responsibility, sustainable development, waste management and air and water quality among others.

Almost 3500 of our students said they are interested in environment and sustainability

Explore your options

If you want to explore the environment and sustainability sector, explore the types of careers and resources below.

Find out about the environment and sustainability sector

Subscribe to resources such as the edie and European Environment Agency (EEA) news feed for daily updates.

Use professional directories such as those provided by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and the ENDS Report (ENDS). The professional and social networks can be great in-roads to make new contacts and get more career information.

Professional networks (for instance the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) for those interested in water & environmental management) offer many opportunities.

Additional useful links

Professional Bodies/Companies

  • Climate KiC is Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate change, consisting of dynamic companies, the best academic institutions and the public sector.
  • Energy Institute Knowledge Service is the professional body for the energy industry, delivering good practice and professionalism across the depth and breadth of the sector.
  • The Geologists Directory is a useful tool to source companies in relation to geology.
  • Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) - Note: access to the IEMA careers advice requires joining the IEMA as a member, which includes a fee and you can do as a student or graduate. They also provide a resource on skills & knowledge for a sustainable profession 
  • Sustainability West Midlands is a sustainability advisory body working with members in the business, public and voluntary sectors.
  • SHAP (Sustainable Housing Action Partnership) promotes research and disseminates best practice in the Environmental, Social and Economic Aspects of Sustainable Housing.
  • The ENDS directory provides a list of UK environmental consultants and eco-service providers which can prove useful for targeting speculative enquiries. 

Hear from our graduates

Sara Mills

Internship at the United Nations in New York

“To work for the United Nations is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is recognised as being one of the most highly sought after and competitive internships globally and is highly respected by employers and recruiters from every sector.”

Many of our graduates from University of Birmingham have gone on to pursue careers in environment and sustainability. Hear from our graduates in the following areas:

Book an appointment with a Careers Adviser 

If you have questions and want to find out more about pursuing a career in environment and sustainability, have a chat with one of our Careers Advisers.  

Book an appointment through your Careers Connect account.

Plan your career

If you are ready to start planning a career in the environment and sustainability sector, follow the below steps.

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning has over 13,000 courses to enhance your CV and stand out from the crowd when thinking about a career in the environment and sustainability sector.

University of Birmingham students get free access to LinkedIn Learning

Work experience 


Due to the competitiveness of the environmental sector it’s essential to get to work experience - according to Lantra approximately 200,000 people are volunteering in the UK on conservation projects alone.

Avoid restricting your search for advertised opportunities; through research and networking try to source your own experience which is tailored to the careers you’re interested in.

Charities have limited resources to manage volunteers, and therefore much prefer a volunteer who has done their research and is proposing a project or role that they could work on.

Also consider local social enterprises cooperatives and community interest companies.


Volunteer for local conservation groups and gain experience of working with protected species. Experience in habitat management and habitat surveying is also very valuable.

For more information, have a look at our ‘Finding work experience in the environmental sector’ page.

If you’re finding it challenging to get experience in your chosen area, you may want to consider writing a series of blogs about the challenges, as well as about your career goals and the experience you’re seeking.

You don’t know who might read these and if you articulate yourself well, they may lead to you receiving offers you didn’t expect.

Where to find opportunities, jobs, internships and volunteering 

Professional organisations

Can provide a wealth of experience to members, including short courses and even internships and placements, as well as the opportunity to network with employers and academics at conferences.

Many also have some useful online careers resources. A detailed list of UK learned societies relating to all aspects of biology, including ecology is available on the IntoBiology website.

Specific societies which may be of interest include the British Ecological Society, which have their own career booklet, and a ‘Top 10 tips for getting a career in ecology’. The society runs summer schools and Peer Group Mentoring.

You may also find it helpful to refer to the Careers Network 'Professional bodies, societies and organisations for GEES students' page.

Although environmental roles have multiplied in recent years, securing a graduate job in the fields of conservation, regeneration and sustainability can be competitive with those able to offer work related skills as well as their degree subject gaining an obvious advantage.

Many opportunities to gain relevant skills are of a voluntary nature and do not necessarily require graduate level qualifications, however they can be a useful means of developing employability skills, networking with others and gaining an insight into environmental organisations.

Get trained and licenced

Regulations restrict who is able to undertake work with ecological species in the UK. Common licences include those for bat handling and dormice surveys.

The Government website provides detailed information on the types of licence required under UK law for environmental management.

A quick search will provide you with details of the specific licences available such as: dormice licencesgreat crested newts licences and bat licences.

If you are planning to work in ecology, you may find it helpful to consider what species you would like to work with and identify which employers work with these species, such as consultancies which specialise in surveying certain fauna or flora and ask if they expect applicants to have experience and licences in advance of joining.

Even if they say that they don’t require experience, if you have been proactive obtaining experience during your time at university and have applied for a licence yourself, this will help to demonstrate your passion and commitment for the industry sector and may give you an advantage over many other applicants.

Many opportunities leading to a licence are seasonal in nature, so it may be helpful to regularly monitor on-line resources which promote these, such as the Countryside Jobs Service (CJS) - you can subscribe to this for free daily updates.

The CJS also provides a helpful training directory, with links to courses nationwide. However, you should note that there may be costs associated with many of these training courses.

Working world in the environmental and sustainability sector 

Drivers of change in the sector 

Some of the key drivers of employment and skills change in the sector include the following: 

The Low Carbon Industrial Strategy

Focuses on alternative sources of renewable energy, carbon capture and storage and green manufacturing technologies.

For example, the Wind and Nuclear energy sectors are both anticipating a huge demand for additional workers to meet renewable energy targets in the next 10 years.

Low Carbon Economic Growth

Established to ensure skills gaps are filled before they become a barrier to job creation.


There is uncertainty as to what disassociation from Europe may mean for European environmental policy and hence career opportunities. 

Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Has taken over UK energy policy and other duties from the now abolished Department for Energy & Climate Change - the effects of this on career opportunities will become clearer over time. 

Natural Capital Protocol

Introduced to offer a standardised framework for businesses to be more efficient and make better environmental decisions, and may increase opportunities in the sector. 

Climate Change

Risks associated with climate change are influencing the development of opportunities in sectors including risk assessment and insurance, and also emergency planning. The need to replenish an ageing workforce particularly in the energy and utilities sector. See also the Energy and Utility Sector Skills Assessment from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

Key higher-level skills

Some of the key higher-level skills likely to be required in the sector include:

Specialist skills and knowledge

Support industry and commerce to improve and maintain their social and environmental responsibilities (some examples include, good understanding of environmental legislation, surveying and reporting skills, knowledge of ecological assessments)

Specialist skills and knowledge

Adapt to new environmental technologies (for example in transport, construction and energy) as well as new business models including carbon auditing, energy efficiency and carbon trading.

Leadership and management skills including:

Project and planning management, workforce development and training, communication and presentation skills and IT knowledge.


Apply for jobs 

If you are ready to apply for jobs in the environment and sustainability sector, have a look below.

Search and apply for jobs in environment and sustainability

Application support 

When you have a clear sense of where you want to apply, the final step is making the most out of your application. Our Employability Advisers are here to help review your application documents. 


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