Careers in Conservation


Opportunities Abound

There is a growing need for professionals who work in conservation, especially around riparian forest buffers. If you have interest and/or experience in the areas below, this may be a good time to pursue education and a career in this area.

Positions range from 1) primarily indoor focused like grant writing, communications and marketing, and program management, 2) hybrid positions split between indoor and outdoor work like doing site designs, meeting with property owners, and volunteer management, to those that are primarily outdoor focused like planting, buffer and landscape maintenance, and growing trees.

Here are some of the jobs available in the field:

  • Arborists and Foresters
  • Engineers
  • Green Infrastructure, Low Impact Development (LID), Stormwater Professionals
  • Grounds Managers and other maintenance professionals
  • Horticulturists
  • Landscape architects and designers
  • Integrated pest management (IPM) technicians or licensed pesticide applicators
  • Landscape contractors and technicians
  • Nutrient management (fertilizer) planners
  • Soil and Environmental Scientists
  • Urban Planners
  • Agricultural and Natural Resources
  • Other Related Professionals

Meet the Pros

See highlights from people in the field and hear about their career path.

Are you a conservation professional? Share your story »

Meet Shereen Hughes

Assistant Director of Wetlands Watch and Virginia CBLP Co-Coordinator

Meet Kelly Snoddy

Senior Conservation Specialist with the Peter Francisco Soil & Water Conservation District

Meet Luke Longanecker

Conservation Programs Manager with the Thomas Jefferson Soil & Water Conservation District

Meet Bill Sweeney

Western Regional Watershed Specialist with the Virginia Dept. of Forestry.

Meet Amber Ellis

Restoration Director with the James River Association.

Early Career, Internships & Volunteering

Whether you are just out of high school, college, or looking for a change in your career path, figuring out how to get your foot in the door can be hard! It’s also a time where you might want to try some things out to see what you like and don’t like. Internships and volunteering are both great options to learn more about the conservation world, meet potential employers, and get your feet wet.

Internships & Fellowships

The James River Stewardship Program offers 12-week positions to support James River riparian buffer maintenance. Internships typically start in late May to late August and recruitment starts in February. More info » 

The Virginia Department of Forestry offers paid summer internships each year. They have entry level jobs that do not require a forestry degree. Many have significant fire-response duties. Careers in Forestry brochure »

The Virginia Cooperative Extension, a Virginia Tech program, offers paid summer internships across the state, primarily in agriculture or 4-H youth development. More info »

The Student Conservation Association offers stipened internships across the country. Reach out to them directly and ask for advice on curating your profile to get matched with an opportunity that is right for you.  More info »

The National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates offer fellowships that can help  if you are looking to get into a Masters program. More info »

The Appalachian Conservation Corps partners with land management agencies and organizations to accomplish critical conservation projects and offers internships and AmeriCorps positions . More info »

The Allegheny Mountain Institute offers tuition-free farm fellowships designed for individuals interested in rural agriculture and sustainable farming. More info »


The Virginia Master Naturalist Training runs intensive volunteer training courses that cover all kinds of ecology topics. Learn more »

Your city may have an active Tree Stewards group. Here are a few from around Virginia:

Join the James River Association and Chesapeake Bay Foundation to plant riparian buffers or become a Riparian Steward to help care for them. Volunteer information »

Continued Learning

Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP) Certification

Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP) Program is a system of materials and consistent instruction across the region, creating a community of certified professionals to be better stormwater partners and environmental stewards.

Visit the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional website for complete information »


CBLP also offers a series of certificate programs including CBLP-Buffers, a comprehensive riparian buffer training program developed with Pennsylvania partners and members of the James Riparian Consortium.

CBLP-Buffers is taught in 3 sessions, and is comprised of a series of videos, webinars, and in-person field workshops. Field workshops are held in Maryland, Pennsylvania, or Virginia. More info »


Certified Pesticide Applicator

Virginia Dept of Agriculture and Consumer ServicesThe Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services outlines the steps for becoming a commercial applicator or registered technician. Visit the VDACS website for complete information »

Nutrient Management Certification

Virginia Dept of Conservation and RecreationThe Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation offers training to receive nutrient management certification in either an Agriculture or Turf and Landscape category. Visit the VDCR website for complete information »

Sustainable Landscape Design with  Woody Plants Certificate Program

This certificate program will familiarize you with woody plant identification, appropriate plant use, and design and landscape establishment in various human-impacted landscapes. Learn more »

Workshops & Training

There are a variety of workshops and training opportunities for you to build your knowledge of the latest and greatest in conservation practices and emerging needs. Keep an eye on our Consortium Calendar for related events.

Check out the calendar »

Job Opportunities

Wetlands Watch is Hiring a Policy Program Manager!

Wetlands Watch is seeking a full-time Policy Program Manager or Director to promote nature-driven adaptation strategies statewide and beyond. This position will support our efforts to protect Virginia’s wetlands laws and the no-net wetlands loss policy, in the wake of the recent US Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA. This position will support Wetlands Watch’s role as a leader in Virginia, working through existing partnerships convened by the Virginia Conservation Network and others. The Policy Program Manager/Director will work closely with the Executive Director, in partnership with staff contributing to existing policy, planning, and outreach initiatives.

You can find more information at While the application is rolling, applicants are encouraged to apply by November 15th. Please direct questions and applications to: Mary-Carson Stiff, Executive Director,, 757-376-1364.

Trout Unlimited is Hiring a Seasonal Watershed Survey Technician!

Trout Unlimited is looking to hire several entry-level, seasonal Watershed Survey Technician positions with negotiable spring/early summer 2023 start dates. Lead positions are available. Successful candidates will receive training and experience conducting watershed scale surveys of stream habitat and stream condition, stream crossings, road conditions, and other conditions affecting watershed conditions. This position is located in Bartow, WV or Eastern Panhandle of WV or Augusta, Highland, and Rockingham Counties VA. For more information, or to apply visit this link.

To view all Trout Unlimited job openings, visit

Thomas Jefferson SWCD is hiring an Agricultural Engineering Specialist and and Education Assistant!

Agricultural Engineering Specialist: The Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, is recruiting for an Agricultural Engineering Specialist to provide support for all aspects of District Agricultural Programs. This position is full-time with excellent benefits, including health insurance, retirement, annual and sick leave, paid holidays, and a flexible work environment. Salary range: $56,110 to $89,776. Job Description – Agricultural Engineering Specialist and TJSWCD Employment Application.

Education Assistant: The Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, is recruiting for Education Assistants to prepare, organize, and conduct watershed education programming. This hourly, part-time position is compensated at $20.00 per hour. Education Assistant Job Description and TJSWCD Employment Application.

Places to post or look for jobs

Submit your job post to the Buffer Consortium newsletter by emailing Jordan Bennett and make sure to sign up to receive our newsletter!