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Heritage & Conservation

Are you brave enough to take charge of our country’s garden and landscape crown jewels? Many of our historic gardens are used as beautiful stage sets for films and TV dramas, and they also contain some of the most valuable plant collections in the world. You will be responsible for conserving rare plants and crafts skills to hand on to the next generation. You can also unlock historical mysteries and symbols to tell the stories of how these gardens were created and what they mean.

Countryside Manager

What they do: A countryside manager is responsible for managing the countryside and visitors’ services for a local authority. The focus of the work is on managing the countryside to benefit everyone by making sure that the needs of rural communities and those of the users of the countryside are met, this can sometimes mean dealing with conflicting interests.

Typical work activities include supervising and training staff and volunteers and designing landscaping schemes. As well as promoting the benefits of the countryside through events, leaflets and displays, fund-raising and managing a budget and dealing with enquiries from the public. The work is partly office-based but includes frequent local site visits.

Career path: Countryside management courses include a mixture of environmental and social sciences. The Welsh Institute of Rural Studies at the University of Wales Aberystwyth, offers courses in Countryside Management which combine academic study with a strong vocational element.

Where they work: The importance of looking after the countryside has generated a variety of careers under the umbrella of countryside management. Organisations employing such staff include National Parks, the National Trust, Forestry Commission and local authorities.

More info: Aberystwyth University

Related job titles: Nature Reserve manager, Countryside Rangers and Wardens, Access Officers, Conservation Officers, Community Workers, Environmental Interpreters and Educators

Environmental Education Officer

What they do: An environmental education officer is generally responsible for promoting environmental conservation and sustainable development. This is done through visiting schools and working on school projects, working with businesses and community groups, giving talks and producing educational resources and websites. To leading guided nature walks, providing training courses on relevant issues, and helping with volunteer activities and conservation projects. Many gardens employ education officers for schools visiting gardens.

Career path: You’ll need a degree or HND qualification, plus experience. Relevant degrees include urban and land studies, physical/mathematical/applied science, and life and medical sciences. Relevant HND subjects include physical/mathematical/applied science, life and medical science, and urban and land studies, physical or biological environmental science and geography. You must also have a teaching qualification, usually a PGCE or post graduate certificate in education, as well as teaching experience. Competition for these positions is fierce and so relevant experience is essential and should include not only practical environmental work but also working with schools, youth organisations and the community.

Where they work: The largest number of employers are in the voluntary sector, which includes organisations such as The Royal Horticultural Society, The National Trust, environmental charities such as Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth and zoos, wildlife parks and botanical gardens.
Large commercial companies, such as oil and gas companies, are increasingly employing environmental education officers as part of their corporate social responsibility agendas. They are also employed in the planning, amenity, leisure and recreation, and education departments of local government. Central government employers include the Forestry Commission, Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).

Related job titles: Ecologist, environmental officer, environmental planning officer, community development officer and field study officer, education officer


What they do: Gardeners work day to day looking after gardens, from planting, pruning and weeding, to mowing and mulching.

Career path: You’ll need natural green fingers and a love of plants to get into gardening. Salaries tend to be on the low side, so you’ll be doing it for the great job satisfaction, rather than to make your fortune.

Relevant qualifications range from NVQs to full horticulture degrees, but your biggest asset will be practical experience. The Royal Horticultural Society runs a two-year trainee scheme ‘Wisley Diploma in Practical Horticulture’.

Where they work: Many private houses have large gardens that need full-time staff to care for them. Gardeners also work for organisations like the National Trust looking after historic gardens, or they might run a small business maintaining the back gardens of clients unable or unwilling to do it themselves. The Royal Horticultural Society employs many gardeners, as do the botanic gardens.

More info:   The Professional Gardener’s GuildHorticulture Courses at Kew GardensHistoric & Botanic Garden Trainee Programmes

Garden Historian

What they do: The UK boasts an amazing number of beautiful and historically fascinating gardens. Garden historians research and communicate the history of these wonderful spaces to make sure they are protected and appreciated for generations to come.

Career path: People tend to develop a passion for studying the history of gardens via one of three routes, a horticulture background, a history degree or through history of art qualifications. Specific qualifications include a Garden History Certificate of Higher Education, which can then lead to a Masters in Garden History.

Where they work: Organisations with responsibility for the UK’s historic gardens include the National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Scotland. There are also opportunities for freelance work for skilled garden historians, with private estates often commissioning research into their gardens, and some councils needing land use surveys to track the history of the areas they are responsible for.

More info: Gardens TrustGarden History Institute

Related job titles: Garden Archaeologist, Landscape Historian

Garden Manager/ Head Gardener of Botanic Garden

What they do: Work in a botanic garden where plants are grown, studied and exhibited. Working in a botanic garden involves the maintenance of an enormous range of plants from around the world, and includes scientific study into the way they are named. This can involve travelling to many parts of the world to look at plants growing in the wild. The Head Gardener or Garden Manager is responsible for the upkeep and development of the botanic garden.

Career path: A strong plant knowledge is key to running botanic gardens, so professional horticultural qualifications are recommended, along with a period of work at a suitable garden, eg RHS Wisley, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew etc.

Where they work: Botanical gardens all over the country, eg Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Oxford and Cambridge University Botanic Gardens, National Botanic Garden of Wales, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. There also opportunities to work at some of the many botanical gardens throughout the world.

More info: Botanic Gardens Conservation InternationalThe Professional Gardeners’ GuildHorticulture Courses at Kew Gardens

Related job titles: Botanic Garden Curator, Head of Collections

Garden Manager/ Head Gardener of Historic Garden

What they do: Having worked their way up from gardener, a head gardener at a historic garden is responsible for looking after and developing the garden as well as managing the staff. Head gardeners need to monitor and record plant collections and trees.  Even historic gardens need to develop and change, so the head gardener will design and plant new areas, in keeping with the tradition of the garden.

Career path: Head gardeners are usually practical gardeners with many years of experience working in gardens, from privately owned estates to National Trust properties, having gained a formal qualification from a horticultural college.

Where they work: Historic gardens such as those owned by the National Trust or in private ownership. The Royal Horticultural Society has four gardens employing gardeners, Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, Wisley in Surrey, Rosemoor in Devon and Hyde Hall in Essex.

More info: National Trust, English HeritageThe Professional Gardeners Guild, Horticulture Courses at Kew Gardens

Graveyard/Cemetery Keeper

What they do: Plants and flowers can transform cemeteries from bleak graveyards into memorial gardens. Cemetery keepers maintain these public spaces, making sure they remain places where visitors can experience a sense of peace in a beautiful and serene setting.

Career path: As with gardeners and grounds maintenance contractors, cemetery keepers need good practical horticultural skills, from planting to tree maintenance and grass-cutting.

Where they work: Many local authorities employ cemetery keepers who work within or alongside the parks and open spaces departments. At an international level, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission manages over 1,750 acres of ground around the world which is given over to fine horticulture, making maintenance a year-round task for its 900 gardeners.

More info: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Landscape Manager

What they do: Landscape managers are landscape architects who develop policies and action plans which protect, improve and look after landscapes for current and future generations.  Landscape managers deal with the long-term care and development of new and existing landscapes. By thinking about how the space is to be used and managed in the future, landscape managers make sure that the design survives long after the designers have left the project. Working with an enormous range of schemes from new designs to historic landscapes, landscape managers ensure that it acts as a resource for people and habitat for wildlife.

Career path: Landscape managers are often landscape architects, in order to pursue a career in the profession you will need a degree followed by a period of study at work in order to qualify fully as a chartered landscape manager. You will also need to be a member of the Landscape Institute, the professional body, qualifying authority and regulator for the landscape architecture profession.

Where they work: Landscape managers often work in the following areas
•    Landscape officer for a local authority
•    Contract manager
•    Maintenance officer
•    Manager of landscape firm
•    Within a landscape business
•    Within local authority planning or parks departments

More info:  Be a Landscape Architect

Landscape Ecologist

What they do: Landscape ecologists investigate and help to reduce the effect of development within cities and the countryside on the natural environment. Working at outdoor sites, as well as in offices and laboratories, landscape ecologists are at the forefront of work on green technologies, and improve the understanding of eco-systems.

Often working in conjunction with landscape designers, planners and architects, ecologists ensure that landscapes, whether man-made or natural, work together with the environment.

Career path: Landscape ecologists work in a range of disciplines from biophysical analysis and environmental impact assessments to habitat management and policy development.
Many universities offer combined courses in landscape design and ecology allowing students to develop the technical skills of landscape architects combined with the scientific and environmental knowledge of ecologists.

Where they work: Typical employers are extremely varied and may include public sector bodies like Natural England, private landscape practices based in the UK and overseas and non-government organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

More info: Be a Landscape Architect

Nature Conservation Officer

What they do: A nature conservation officer works to protect, manage and improve the local environment. They encourage people to use the countryside and promote awareness of and understanding about the natural environment. They develop policy and ensure that it is delivered.

Working with others in voluntary or governmental organisations, they will set and promote targets within local council plans to make sure that natural environment is looked after. They will talk to, and work with, employers in the area to make sure local businesses are on board. They work with all sectors of the local community, helping to educate people and raise awareness of environmental issues.

Career path: Being able to demonstrate paid or voluntary experience is vital. Many people working in this sector start with voluntary work, building up contacts and getting known. That said, new recruits are also expected to have relevant qualifications, relevant degree subjects include environmental, life and urban, and land studies. Degree subjects such as ecology, botany/plant science, biology or geography are also useful. Relevant HND subjects include life sciences and urban/land studies. Getting a job with an HND qualification is possible if you have loads of experience, but graduates are usually preferred.

Where they work: Nature conservation officers are employed in small numbers in a wide range of organisations, including Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and the Wildlife Trusts.

Local authorities, utilities companies and other private companies, such as consultancies, private estates, engineering companies (particularly those concerned with road building), and housing developers are all likely to employ nature conservation officers.

More info:  National Trust

Related job titles: sustainable development officers, project officers, biodiversity officers