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Conserv Biol. 2013 Feb;27(1):24-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01956.x. Epub 2012 Nov 9.

Graduate student's guide to necessary skills for nonacademic conservation careers.

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Graduate Group in Ecology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

Abstract

Graduate education programs in conservation science generally focus on disciplinary training and discipline-specific research skills. However, nonacademic conservation professionals often require an additional suite of skills. This discrepancy between academic training and professional needs can make it difficult for graduate students to identify the skills and experiences that will best prepare them for the conservation job market. We analyzed job advertisements for conservation-science positions and interviewed conservation professionals with experience hiring early-career conservation scientists to determine what skills employers of conservation professionals seek; whether the relative importance of skills varies by job sector (government, nonprofit, and private); and how graduate students interested in careers in conservation science might signal competency in key skills to potential employers. In job advertisements, disciplinary, interpersonal, and project-management skills were in the top 5 skills mentioned across all job sectors. Employers' needs for additional skills, like program leadership, conflict resolution and negotiation, and technical and information technology skills, varied across sectors. Our interview results demonstrated that some skills are best signaled to employers via experiences obtained outside thesis or dissertation work. Our findings suggest that graduate students who wish to be competitive in the conservation job market can benefit by gaining skills identified as important to the job sector in which they hope to work and should not necessarily expect to be competent in these skills simply by completing their chosen degree path.

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