What is agriculture and environment?
The agriculture and environment sector has never been more important than it is today. People who work in this industry deal with how we use, maintain and protect our natural resources, including the food we eat – issues that are hot topics in the modern world. Growing concerns about the environment and plans to boost British farming have spurred politicians and the public into action, leading to a bigger focus on being "green" and buying locally produced food.
This means more and more jobs are becoming available in the agriculture and environment sector. And as the industry has become more sophisticated, so too have the roles.
Alongside more traditional, hands-on jobs such as farmers and tree-surgeons there are also roles focused on environmental policy or education. This is a sector that’s developing fast, meaning there’s much more to a career in agriculture and the environment than you may have first thought.
What agriculture and environment jobs can I do?
Own and operate farms. Depending on the type of farm they run, responsibilities may include planting crops, caring for livestock and operating machinery.
Responsible for practical and manual work on a farm. This may include working with animals, ploughing fields and harvesting.
Study the relationship between plants, animals and the environment. They may carry out environmental impact assessments or produce lists of species that need to be protected.
Carry out work on trees, including planting, care and maintenance. Also known as arborists, they need a head for heights!
Responsible for managing staff, planning production and marketing and selling produce. They may run their own business or be employed by owners or tenants to run a farm.
Look after forests or woodlands and oversee activities on the land such as timber production, conservation and recreation.
Work for the government or commercial bodies to research environmental issues. Their work can vary but one main task is to find out if air, land or water is contaminated.
Help organisations manage their impact on the environment in areas like recycling or cutting down on fuel. They also develop and implement environmental policies and strategies.
Design, install and maintain agricultural, horticultural and forestry machinery and equipment. They also advise farmers, landowners and government departments on agricultural issues.
Responsible for planning and developing environmental and waste reduction policies, as well as running local recycling schemes.
Collect recyclable materials such as glass and paper from homes and businesses. They may also sort collected items at the waste collection site.
Park and countryside rangers
Look after areas of the countryside like woods and national parks; protecting animals, habitats and landscapes.
Study all forms of plant life. They can specialise in many different areas, including marine botany, biochemistry and ecology.
Study the environment, living things and the earth’s natural resources. They use their knowledge to protect the environment and public health. There are a wide range of specialisms, from environmental chemistry to fisheries science. For more information about a career in science visit our Science and Research Zone.
Grow and look after all kinds of plants, flowers and trees in public and private green-spaces.
Oversee the development and growth of plants, for garden centres or public parks and gardens. They may also design and manage green spaces.
Also known as landscape designers, design and create landscapes. These might be for public parks, areas around public buildings or housing developments.
Creative people who design and put together flower arrangements, bouquets and wreaths.
A meteorologist is someone who observes and analyses weather conditions. Then they forecast and report the weather.
Is a career in agriculture and environment for me?
The agricultural and environmental industry is a great career choice for Geography students. Who wouldn’t want to help save the planet? OK, so not all the jobs we’ve mentioned are about combatting climate change, but if you care passionately about the environment, love working with plants or animals or just can’t get enough of the great outdoors, then this is the industry for you.
The wide range of roles and skill levels means there are career paths for graduates as well as people who want to get stuck into a job straight from school. And there are plenty of opportunities for self-employment in this industry, so it’s ideal for those who fancy being their own boss one day.
You will need to be fairly tough though. Most careers in agriculture and the environment involve at least some outdoor work and many people in the industry will spend most of their working day outside, whatever the weather. Hours can be long and may vary depending on the season, and for some jobs you will need to be physically fit too.
How can I start a career in an agriculture and environment
Agriculture and the environment is an industry that uses Geography-based skills. Some jobs don’t require any academic qualifications at all while for others a degree can be essential. One or two may even require a post-graduate qualification too.
Options include florists, recycling officers and operatives, farm workers, gardeners and tree surgeons. A-levels that may come in useful to find work or get a place on a relevant course include biology, botany and environmental studies. For BTECs you might want to look at horticulture, environmental sciences or animal management.
Specialist colleges offer a range of courses in areas such as animal care, trees and timber, game and wildlife management, and land-based engineering. The Landex website has a list of land-based colleges and universities in the UK.
Apprenticeships are another way into working in agriculture and the environment. For instance the Forestry Commission runs a range of different apprenticeship programmes for people interested in countryside management. Many of the National Parks also offer apprenticeships. And Sainsbury’s runs a horticulture and agriculture apprenticeship scheme.
Check out gov.uk for a full list of agricultural apprenticeships.
Ecologists, botanists and landscape architects will all need a relevant degree such as ecology, conservation biology, plant science or landscape architecture. They may also be expected to work towards a post-graduate qualification. In other roles, such as farm manager or environmental manager, a degree – in agriculture or environmental engineering for example – will give you a head start.
Experience can be just as important as qualifications in this line of work, so volunteer as much as you can. Organisations like the National Trust and The Woodland Trust have loads of opportunities for people who want to learn new skills.
What agriculture and environment qualifications are available?
There are lots of opportunities to develop your skills on the job. Agricultural colleges and professional bodies like the National Farmers Union and the Institute of Agricultural Management often run short courses, workshops and seminars focused on professional development. In certain jobs, such as an agriculture engineer or landscape architect, you could work towards chartered status.
Did you know these agriculture and environment facts?
Every day, British farms supply 19.5 million eggs and 11.6 million loaves of bread.
Sheep can recognise up to 20 different human faces – and they prefer a smiling face to an unhappy one!
Recycling one tin can saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours.