And Now For Something Completely Different

Many of you reading this article will perhaps be in an occupation you dislike or find unchallenging, and some of you may even be reading this at work. This is most certainly not an uncommon feeling but it is something that if left unchecked, can lead to long-term unhappiness or regret. Conservation, wildlife and the environment is a huge and diverse industry. Interdisciplinary cooperation throughout many conservation projects and environmental work is essential to the success of most projects, so it could be argued that the industry is one of the most accommodating to career change in to. However, as with almost any change in career at any phase of life there are difficulties to overcome. Money, living arrangements, family and relationship commitments and many other factors enter the fold when a decision as unnerving as quitting your job and lifestyle presents itself.

Image courtesy of Jack Plumb

This article hopes to convince you, the reader, to consider your options and perhaps leave your lingering job or profession behind, take time out before university to consider your future behind, and step up to some of the world’s big issues by charting a new course in to the fulfilling world of conservation and environmental work.

Image courtesy of Frontier’s Wildlife Conservation Projects

Professions in conservation and the environment are highly sort after and for good reason. A chance to live and travel amongst beautiful surroundings with opportunities to see wildlife in its natural state is thrilling to say the least, so as a profession it’s easy to see why the industry is competitive. However, there are an ever increasing number of ways to begin your new career through volunteering and internships. Many conservation projects requiring volunteers ask for little or no past work experience, and more often than not only request a keen interest in the project and the environment in general. For anyone with an unfulfilled longing to engage with wildlife or have a positive impact through conservation or international development, it really is as simple as being enthusiastic.

Image courtesy of Jack Plumb

Environmentalists come from many disciplines and walks of life. Let’s take a large scale conservation project such as the British Antarctic Survey for example, and examine the web of employees. A base commander would be in-charge of the day-to-day overseeing and happiness of all people staying in the scientific research centre. His or her background could be anything from plumber or electrician, to general practitioner or data analyst. Department heads would come below the base commander from fields including but not limited to biology, chemistry, physics, meteorology, computing, electronic engineering, motor mechanics and administration. Other professionals involved might be plant drivers, plumbers, councillors and veterinary practitioners. The shear diversity in a project of this scale requires specialists from all walks of life and experience, and in reality the most important factor to consider for someone considering employment in an environment many conservation projects take place in, is their personality.

Image courtesy of Frontier’s Greece Turtle Conservation Project

There’s no getting away from it though, conservation work is difficult in many ways. Long hours, living abroad and with basic or non-existent facilities, physicality and little in the way of a ‘thank you’ are just some examples. But the sense of self achievement is immense. Every person working on a conservation project can lay partial claim to its outcome. Imagine all the pain staking hours setting up a turtle hatchery on the beach to then witness hundreds of freshly hatched sea turtles clamber towards the sea un-hindered by poachers. Then picture diving with the turtle who perhaps laid some of those eggs. Consider nursing back to health a neglected elephant, caring for the noble creature every day. Contemplate the smiles on every one of the students you just helped to learn in a school you had a part in building. Any or all of these things are simply waiting to be undertaken, by someone like you. Remember though, this isn’t a holiday. This is what you do. This is who you are. And the world thanks you for it.

Jack Plumb is an Online Journalism Intern at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO. Check out Frontier’s blog ‘Into the Wild’ for more gap year ideas to help make your time out meaningful. For more information about travel and volunteering opportunities available please visit

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