After writing my last blog, ‘Hints and Tips to starting your career in Conservation’ I received a message from Craig (see below) who was worried about how he would be able to pay off his student debts, find financial stability and stay in a conservation career after graduating. Whilst writing a response, I realised that this answer may be relevant and/or useful to a few of you out there, so here it is…
‘I truly want to get into the conservation field and would be willing to endure all those hardships as a Type A. My biggest setback is paying off student loans. Like sure, having an employer pay for my accommodations would be great and having a salary of any kind would be SUPER! But then there’s my 4 year degree in Marine Science that I’m on a 10 year repayment plan for.
I just think it’s a warped message being sent that I can work for free AND not default on those student loans which I’ve been repaying since 2014. I’ll be in my early 30’s if I wait to get into conservation jobs and by then my career will be who knows where. How do I get into the field I want AND stay financially sound while making that transition? I’m just so lost.’
Thanks for reading! I can completely understand where you are coming from. I’d be lying if I said I had the answer. Though there are a few individuals who are lucky enough to earn good money in this industry, they are few and far between. Unfortunately, your concern is one shared by myself and most my colleagues working in conservation throughout the world- especially those working out in the field or with wildlife. It’s a problem that only gets more challenging with age and added social pressures (marriage/children etc). In fact, quite a few of my close friends, with lots of experience and qualifications, have ended up leaving the conservation world altogether to seek employment in completely unrelated fields in order to reach financial security and independence in the future.
It’s quite warped indeed, that it’s the people who are willing to dedicate all their time and energy to saving the planet, who are being forced out of their careers because they literally cannot afford to continue.
That said, if you are willing to compromise, there are some positions that have potential to offer decent salaries and enable you to make a difference at the same time. These positions may not be quite the image you first envisioned when you signed up for your degree, but for some, they can offer a viable solution. Here are a *few examples:
1. Observer Roles – e.g. Fishing vessels /oil tankers need to hire marine scientists to monitor bycatch and impact on wildlife.
2. Eco Tourism – Though guiding may be low paid in some areas of the world, you can sometimes find wildlife positions in hotels and lodges that enable you to focus your passion and educate others at the same time. Whilst out there you may get the opportunity to meet and work alongside other conservation projects too while progressing in the lucrative hospitality industry.
3. Veterinarian – if you need to, it is possible to build on your initial degree, but you will have to go back to school for this!
4. Consultant – working as an environmental consultant you can become the bridge between human impacts and the ecosystems of the world. There are many roles within this industry, so it may be worth researching if it’s something that perks your interest.
5. Professor – if you can grit your teeth, keep going and find a way to sponsor/fund your studies for the next 10 years, you may be lucky enough to land one of these highly sort-after roles at a university. If you are even luckier, you may then also get sponsored to go back into the field every year too.
I hope this offers you some hope and inspiration. Failing all this, you could always follow my path and take a punt at an equally competitive and equally financially unstable industry – the creative world!
** I have literally listed the first few examples that I or my colleagues have experience in. If anyone has others to add please do pop them in a comment below!
Thanks for reading!
Hope that helps.