Land-based and environmental industries
Out here in the fields…
Working in the land-based industries can mean being out in the fields growing our crops, but there are lots of other roles too. You might be looking after animals, maintaining machinery and generally keeping the land looking green and pleasant; or you could be researching new ways to produce food or conserve and protect the environment.
About the land-based industries
The sector can be split into three broad areas:
Across those three areas, there are job opportunities tending to the land and maintaining the machinery needed to farm it; looking after the animals on our farms and in our homes and taking steps to conserve the UK’s open spaces for future generations.
What can I do?
In brief: a lot. Crop technicians might work in the open fields using huge, sophisticated machines to plant and harvest crops, as well as tending to the soil. Meanwhile, a forest operative will look after woodland in a job that’s part art, part science, and all tree. As an agricultural engineer, you might be tending to tractors, or you could work in fencing to erect and maintain the increasingly sophisticated barriers we use to protect crops and animals.
If you fancy growing things, you might enjoy working in horticulture, which is all about the plant world and encompasses everything from planting shrubs to cultivating the grapes we get wine from; or as an arborist, which is a job focused on carefully managing the trees that we live alongside in towns, villages and parks throughout the country.
Elsewhere there are plenty of opportunities to work with animals. That might be as a gamekeeper, where you’re looking after the land as much as the animals living on it; or as a vet, veterinary nurse or nursing assistant, which is a varied role and could see you taking care of all creatures, great and small.
To work in this field (in both senses of the word) you’ll need to be passionate about the great outdoors, the things that grow in it and the creatures we share it with. This isn’t an industry for those who don’t like being outside, getting their hands dirty and getting up close and personal with the animal kingdom.
As you might expect, much of the work in this sector can be physical, requiring a fair bit of strength and stamina (ever tried putting a shoe on a horse or felling a tree?) combined with the technical know-how required to get things done safely and efficiently.
Depending on the area you go into you might need an aptitude for mechanics, or have a calm, confident way with animals. Some professions, such as conservation, will demand a good understanding of the scientific processes at work in the environment; others, like animal technology, need research skills and people with an organised approach to their work.
Or you could opt for something that requires a little creativity, such as floristry, which blends a solid knowledge of plants and flowers with an artistic eye for arranging them.
With so many roles available we can’t list them all, but here are some examples:
There are plenty of different ways to get the skills you need for the sector. As you sow, so shall you reap, and all that…
Work-based & work-related qualifications
Relevant NVQ and BTEC programmes include:
Don’t forget: BTECs etc. can also pave the way for a degree.
There are relevant Apprenticeships at four levels:
A Levels, Highers and Bachelors Degrees
Useful A Levels / Scottish Highers might include:
Already know that a degree is the way you want to break into the sector? Head to UCAS and find out what qualifications (A Levels / Scottish Highers / Scottish Advanced Highers / IB modules) you’ll need for the course that interests you.
Industry-specific degree programmes in this area include Bachelors programmes in veterinary science, environmental science, ecology, conservation and horticulture.
Life on the land (or near it)
Your day can start early. Very, very early, in fact: farms can come to life before dawn, with lots to do in order to feed the animals, check on their wellbeing, or get out into the crops when it’s time to sow or harvest. You might also be working long after the sun goes down and everyone else has gone home. You can also expect to be out in all kinds of weather, so you’ll need to get hold of some decent waterproof gear.
What will you actually do?
You could spend the day servicing a tractor, walking the paths in a forest, mending a fence, or reassuring a worried pet owner while their companion gets some vaccinations. At different times you might need to be putting your back into some heavy lifting, preparing a floral arrangement for a wedding or leading a horse trek through the countryside. Or fretting about grapes, feeding fish, muttering about the shrubbery…there’s a lot you could do.
As with every industry, there are more senior roles involving more office-based bits (and we’re a connected society now so you can still expect some IT shenanigans), but chances are your working day will still involve less sitting in front of a computer than most people’s. Although you might be in a research lab, of course, peering down a microscope at seeds and things, so sitting down isn’t completely off the table.
At the end of the day, you might be mentally and physically tired, and it’s definitely the case that this area isn’t for everyone. However, those that it does call to are likely to feel a lot of job satisfaction when they’re helping animals, or out and about watching things grow and keeping the outdoors great.
What’s a Farrier, anyway?
A farrier makes and fits horseshoes as well as working with vets to provide surgical services or corrective footwear (well, hoofwear) for horses. There are a million horses in the UK (that’s about the same as the human populations of Liverpool and Manchester put together) and the deal seems to be that in return for letting us sit on them, we agree to feed, house, brush, and generally tidy up after them.
You could work in/on…
Around 1.3 million people work in the land-based and environmental industries. There are over 200,000 businesses in the sector, from little family-owned firms to giant multinationals. The oldest Horticultural society in the world, the Ancient Society of York Florists, was founded in 1768