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Careers in Ecology

Ecology provides the foundation for a broad array of career pathways in academic, government, non-profit, and private sectors.  However, graduate training in ecology is, by definition, an academic endeavor.  This can lead to an inherent limitation in which graduate students are not provided the skills or resources needed to find their professional niche. Here we outline several resources to help you explore diverse career pathways in ecology.


The most effective way to get a job is to “see a guy who knows a guy.”


Search engines

  • USAJobs
    • One-stop shop for all federal jobs in the United States of America
  • State Jobs Search Database
    • This site allows you to select your state and then redirects you to the job listings of that state so you can search for jobs within that desired state
  • Texas A&M Job Board
    • One of the best search engines for jobs in the environmental sciences
    • Particularly useful for finding internships, technician positions, and other temporary and technical skill building work
    • This site also provides users with access to faculty positions in wildlife management and related areas
  • ESA Job Board
    • This board features mostly academic positions (e.g. faculty, instructor, etc.) however some technician and other temporary positions are also present
  • Conservation Job Board
    • This search engine features the latest jobs in conservation, ecology, wildlife, forestry, marine biology, fisheries, environmental education, and outdoor recreation
    • The site has few tenure track academic jobs so it is not an ideal place to search if you are set on going into academia; its designed more for ecologists interested in getting into NGO’s, the private sector, and government agencies
  • Society for Conservation Biology
    • This site is very similar to the conservation job board. Like the conservation job board, it too focuses more on applied jobs although it does post tenure track positions. One notable difference is that it is geared more towards students looking for fellowships, internships, etc. 
  • Boston University Career Resources
    • This engine allows you to search for jobs and provides you with links to more than 40 other job search engines. It also includes a short description for each link. 

Marketing your research skills

As a student of ecology at any level (and especially the graduate level) you are likely to possess numerous valuable skills that you take for granted. Here we provide you with some websites that provide excellent examples of marketing research skills for positions outside of research or academia.


  • This is a fantastic site in general (and worthy of exploration) but the link above will take you straight to a page discussing the importance of gaining and marketing your skills beyond academia.

Jobs on Toast

  • This site gets right to the punch and presents you with lists of typical research skills re-worded for relevance in the non-academic sector. 

University of Michigan Career Center

  • Similar to the “Jobs on Toast” site, this site gives you lists of typical research skills re-worded for relevance in the non-academic sector. However, it does a much better job of elaborating on exactly how certain skills may transfer to a non-academic setting.

A couple tips for getting to “see a guy who knows a guy”


  • Volunteer
    • Most ESA sections and standing committees suffer from a shortage of enthusiastic leaders, especially from young, bureaucratically untarnished, enthusiastic leaders. By joining these organizations you will not only gain phenomenal leadership experience but you will also meet big wigs in your sector of ecology. Furthermore, ESA’s non-academic (e.g. NGO, private sector, etc.) membership continually grows and your chances of meeting and leading a section with someone established outside of academia is constantly growing. Also, any academic involved in the leadership of a section or committee is likely to have their hands in countless other enterprises, all of which you could tap into once you get to know them. Finally, and most importantly, by working with leaders of sections closely you have the opportunity to gain access to their professional network as well; so although it may be unlikely that the person you first start working with will be able to directly set you up with a job opportunity, it is likely that they will know someone who can.
  • Network up, down, and across
    • Many students and early career ecologists assume that the only way to move up in the world of ecology is to network up. This is wrong. First, networking up generally has a much lower success rate than networking across because, among other reasons, you will be less likely to run into that person again (unless you joined their section leadership of course!) which is vital to growing a strong professional bond. Secondly, your peers today will be leaders tomorrow and when they are you have an in. Also, your peers are all on the hunt for jobs and often may know of more opportunities than faculty who are already tenured and unconcerned about job openings.