Working with plants and animals

This sector offers a diverse range of opportunities for both those with practical or technical qualifications and those interested in the management of these resources. Opportunities in this sector include:

  • horticulture and forestry
  • agriculture and fisheries
  • veterinary science and working directly with animals

Further information on finding work experience and vacation bursary schemes in the life sciences is available in our guide:

Horticulture and agriculture

There are some graduate entry routes into this sector, including entry into government departments like Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) via direct recruitment or via the Civil Service Fast Stream, food companies or groups such as British Sugar and MDS, and the Forestry Commission.

Some roles demand the ability to balance environmental, sustainability and welfare issues with commercial and economic issues.

Gaining relevant practical skills and work experience will increase your chances significantly. Employers will look for candidates who can actively demonstrate their interest and ability. This may be gained from formal industrial placements and internships for example The John Innes Centre offers vacation bursaries for students interested in plant science research.

Volunteering is another opportunity to gain experience, especially in areas were obtaining paid work is more difficult, for example working with animals.

For horticulture and forestry work experience is essential for example planting, tree maintenance and gardening. Conservation and community organisations sometimes offer voluntary experience, both in countryside maintenance tasks and in urban projects like community allotments.

Veterinary science and working with animals

Entry to veterinary science degrees is competitive, particularly as a graduate entrant.

The Royal Veterinary College and Edinburgh University both offer accelerated 4 year programmes for graduates. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons website has comprehensive information on training. Be aware that some universities will require you to sit the Biomedical Admission Test (BMAT) as part of the application process.

Postgraduate study may be advantageous for graduates without a relevant first degree and is important for entry to research based roles like plant breeding. Look for courses accredited by relevant professional bodies. Membership of professional institutions can also be useful for accessing training, voluntary opportunities and for networking.

Other jobs working with animals directly, include animal welfare officers and zookeepers.