questionshow are you supposed to get experience for your…


I am surprised to hear that you are not able to find a related volunteer position without having previous experience. Is the job market especially bad where you live? Are you fluid enough to consider moving? If you live in a college town, a degree won't get you as far as in a town where few people have degrees. Where I live a college degree is a real door opener, because a fairly low number of people have a degree. A friend of mine was pushing me to move to her college town a few years ago because she said that she could get me a great job. In that town my lack of a degree wouldn't hamper me because I bring lots of professional experience to the interview, which they are sorely lacking in her town. It's a funny dichotomy.


what exactly will your degree be in?
When you said your field was ecology/biology, I started laughing, because I don't see a lot of jobs in "ecology". If that's in fact the case, this is what you get for selecting a major in a field that doesn't have a lot of job opportunities. If you had selected an engineering degree, I can almost guarantee you would have had a job offer weeks before graduation.

OTHER THAN THAT, more related to your actual question, I can only suggest searching harder for internships. Or learn to say "would you like fries with that?" with a big fake smile on your face.

On a positive note, realize that the overall national unemployment rate for people with a 4yr college degree is around 3.9%, very low.


"Do you think that universities should be held more responsible for giving students the experience they need for the job market"

are you serious? YOU are an adult, this is what you should have been paying attention to for 4 years, a university's job is to educate you, period. This honestly sounds like a case of the typically over-indulged child who expects everything to be given to them.

Did YOU have any sort of internship or part time job while you were in school?

"With so many random majors these days, almost everyone goes to college. Is a bachelor's degree now the equivalent of a high school diploma?"

Maybe "almost everyone" in your particular social circle, but in general, not "almost everyone" goes to college

As for the second part of the question, yes, a 4 yr degree isn't as rare as it used to be, and highscools have been dumbed down to the point that a HS diploma isn't worth what it used to be either... colleges are having to make freshmen take remedial HS-level classes now


@kamikazeken: My actual degree is biological science.

I'm just gonna try to ignore the trolling but the experience I was referring to are more undergraduate research opportunities, co-ops, internships, etc. Colleges/ Universities can easily help out their students. Research Universities can talk to partner companies and say "We have this course, students who take it would be well prepared to work for you." Smaller schools do stuff like that all the time.

I am really struggling to remember the last thing that was given to me. I am still driving the same car that I bought with my own money when I turned 17... I have been working at a job for the past 5 years- 60 hours a week during the summer/ 20 hours during the school year. The problem is that it is only partially related to my degree. If the university's job is only to educate me, why do they have countless employees other than faculty and maintenance? College would be much more affordable if you were only paying for your education.


For your field check with US Fish and Wildlife or National Parks Service, a lot of the time they have seasonal positions that don't require experience and they can open up to a full time position. Unless you're in a large park area, you may have to be willing to move. If they don't open to a full time position then you're getting experience at the very least. Check out


In my area, there are a bunch of watershed-related organizations related to the Chesapeake Bay (Baltimore area). I bet a lot of them (and similar organizations around the country) have volunteer or intern positions available. Those would probably help you with your ecology field. Other than that, most districts will let you substitute teach (which may or may not count as experience) with a college degree and some minor certification/testing. But, depending on what you really want to do, grad school may be the solution - the biology/ecology people I deal with professionally all have PhD's. But, at that point you may be limited to be a college professor (to train others to be professors it seems).


I believe that people seem to have abdicated personal responsibility, at a fearsome rate. On the other hand, when I was young (oh, so very long ago), you had an advisor, and you were REQUIRED to have them sign off on your classes. You could have an undeclared major for the first two years (the equivalent of Liberal Arts), but would get continual pressure to focus until you chose something.

There's nothing wrong with a degree in Ecology, but I'm quite surprised that you are just now starting to wonder where you will work. It seems to me that if you chose the field, you should have had some idea of where you might work, and what that work might be, and that you have been turned down for a volunteer position suggests that you might not be seen as ready to work, even now.

I've hired young people who had good but not perfect GPAs, but who had made the effort to spend every single summer in an internship, paid or unpaid.

[More: Always]


My suggestion doesn't just go for Ecology, either.

If someone chooses Creative Writing as a major (how that EVER became a major is beyond me), they should have had published, paid writing assignments in the first year of school, or else consider that they might not have the bones for it. Nothing is easy. Ever.

When schools permit students to choose majors like History or Sociology, they need to remind the student how few jobs there will be for them outside of academia (or even within). This is also true for theoretical mathematicians, in case you think I'm focusing on the "soft sciences." The student also bears a responsibility to be realistic, as do their parents.

I've said enough for now. I may return to this later.


@kamikazeken: Thank you. You took the words right out of my mouth!

@gopvifootball The job market is tough, for everyone! Even though most positions "require" experience, you might be able to get away with having limited experience, if your education backs it up. Apply to those positions, you've got nothing to lose! And if you do get an interview, then all you're doing is getting more experience, even if you don't get the job.

If your degree really is in ecology, I'd recommend trying to get a job working for your County, State, or the US Parks Service. Just doing something random if anything. At lease something that is similar to your degree. From there you can at least get "experience." Check for more fish and wildlife/parks/forestry positions available throughout the US.


Dude: I really feel sorry for you. The problem is that there are too many people who want do do biology/ecology related work and not enough jobs. I know two who are currently working in the field, and I'll distill their experience for you.

1) Get additional degrees. Yes, this requires doubling down on your bet. Both have PhDs, one has an MA in administration on top of that.

2) Get smart on regulation. The one who has a good job is working for the G, dealing with MMPA, ESA, EPA, and other alphabet soup regulatory issues. You will find jobs working for a consultant, doing evaluations for EISs and the like. But you generally need more experience and you need the degree beyond a BA.

3) Pull back, reassess, consider other alternatives. Maybe the above are not acceptable to you (for time, money, or other reasons). Consider other things to do with your degree. Given any thought to going into teaching? We need good H.S. Biology teachers.


Seems most "experience" requirements are fluid and are usually doubled when written for some reason (must be learned in HR school).

Look at for potential government jobs.


@shrdlu: Not sure I necessarily agree with you regarding the schools having to remind you how lucrative some majors may or may not be. You're paying to be there and making your own choices. Personally, I studied a major that was interesting to me and made me feel like I was spending my money for a reason. Had I pursued a masters/doctorate it could have opened up quite a few doors. But I was fortunate enough to get a pretty great job shortly after graduating. While it's not at all in the field I studied, I don't regret the choice I made one bit.


From everyone's comments on my situation, it seems like all of you managed to get right into your career after college and my situation is somewhat unique.

@shrdlu: I have not just begun to wonder where I can work, I have already resigned myself to the fact that grad-school is a must. I may have had less time to work on it than others, however, since I changed my major junior year from something I was doing for the money (pharmacy) to something I loved (Biology).

I feel like the real reason that the volunteer positions turned me down is more likely because they had surplus applicants. I failed to mention that they were in very desirable locations like Polynesian Islands, tropical rainforests, Australia, and Hawaii. They also include housing and living expenses so they are actually something people want.


Sell yourself on the applications.

Before I ever had a job in a lab I always wrote on my resume that I had experience running, analyzing the results, and troubleshooting GC, HPLC, NMR, IR, etc. because I had experience running and fixing them in classes.

Not everyone with the same degree as you will have the same experience you have, so make sure you point out everything you can do.


Expand your range, and be willing to commute a healthy distance. Your surrounding area will be important to your ease in finding a job. If you live in a scientific industry heavy area, look to see if layoffs have happened recently. There could be a surplus of overqualified people competing for the same positions.

If you see something you like, especially for technician jobs, apply anyway. A company already knows that it will have to train someone new on THEIR procedures. I graduated with your degree only a few years ago, and landed a job quickly. The worst that happens is you don't get a callback. If you go in for an interview, and don't get the position, it is practice for the next one.

Even accepting a science job outside of your field will provide you with basic relevant skills for the industry.


Have you visited this website?

I stumbled over it planning my vacation to Costa Rica this year and I saved it because I'd like to try this sort of thing out after I retire.


@gopvifootball: When I say shortly after graduation it was about 18 months. I worked at a bank during that time. I think that experience coupled with my bachelor's degree is what got me hired at my current position, not my major. What specifically did you study under "biological science"?


I faced a similar problem when I graduated. The best advice I can give you is very simple:

1. Don't give up.

2. Apply to every job that your schooling is appropriate for, and disregard the "minimum 1 years' worth of experience" part. Seriously. For many employers those minimums are just guidelines.

When I graduated (>15 years ago) the job market was terrible. I followed my Dad's advice and just spammed the resume to anyone hiring for science jobs AT ALL, even if they only had openings posted for PhDs. Out of blind luck, one of those dozens of resumes hit the right HR desk at the right time. The company hadn't even publicized an entry-level job (I applied for a "needs 2+ years of experience" job), and they happened to have an opening.

Epilogue: I got the job after the interview in large part because the manager (PhD scientist from China) thought I was "a very pleasant young man". For the first few weeks that's how my new coworkers addressed me. Manners help!

Good luck!


@magiclela: The short answer is that I've studied everything- the degree required a little bit of everything so maybe that's my problem. I've had classes in plant breeding, plant diseases, anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, zoology, entomology, ornithology, watershed management, and probably more than a couple that I missed.
What I focused on and and am hoping to get a job in is zoology and more specifically ornithology. At this point I am applying to just about everything I can though.


My girlfriend has a similar background, and jobs are kind of weak in that area (what area isn't?) but she just landed a summer gig through AmeriCorps that has potential go full time if it works out... Maybe they have something for you too:

(BTW: She studied Wildlife Management and Ecology with minor in Remote Sensing)


@kamikazeken, have you looked at the engineering field recently? I studied Engineering, had top grades, and finished in 3 yrs and still had problems getting a job because of the experience clause. My first job was working at a lab until I moved away from the college town I was in.

My advise is open the phone book and send a resume to every company that is in the right field. As stated earlier, there may be positions that haven't been advertised. Also a lot of companies are using temp agencies to fill positions (it makes it less of a risk for them if a person doesn't work out) so look into getting your resume to one of these agencies in the right field. And finally, list hobbies and activities that set you apart. I received my second job not just based on my qualifications, but because I enjoyed martial arts, fencing, and novel writing (and the head boss was Chinese so martial arts were valuable to him).


@gopvifootball: What about something like this?

They have similar positions all over the US. And you would start automatically as a GS-5 for having a bachelor's degree in that related field. No experience necessary.


I just wanted to let you know that I applied for jobs on a weekly basis (Minimum 2 applications per week) for 9 months. I had only two interviews during those 9 months and 1 resulted in the job I hold today. I'm in the IT field and like you I ran into a lot of jobs that wanted more experience I had no idea where to get.

It is frustrating. Months of being feeling a little depressed and hopeless because I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. Lucky for me I was already working but for a while I really thought I wouldn't be leaving that job.

I hope your search doesn't go on as long as mine did. Good Luck!


A voice from the dark ages here, but what happened to faculty advisors and on-campus recruitment? Is that not happening any longer? In the highly likely scenaario of your needing an advanced degree, does your field usually like to see some work experience prior to entering grad school? I am seriously removed from giving advice to anyone in today's world - only that it would appear to me on the surface of it that someone let you down in a major way that should have given you guidance in choosing courses that would lead to meaningful employment and a good idea of what you really want. The areas of study are impressive, but it seems to come off as a broad, general range instead of being pretty specific, especially in your last couple of years. Now is the time to get serious about just exactly what you want to do, what further education you need, where, and when.


@gopvifootball: I think part of what you need to do is be willing to settle. You will not get the perfect internship or job after having a degree for 5 minutes. It's just not going to happen. Expand where you are looking. Try state and federal parks, they may have tracking programs going on that you would qualify for. I know last year, every place we camped from VA to ME had little bat houses that were tracking bat migration. Someone had to collect and interpret that data.


did you physically talk to someone in person or on the phone and they said no to internship or volunteering without experience?

what websites put in descriptions is different from what you get talking to someone in person.

most people i ran into who had internships and were good at it, would get hired afterwards because company would lose already trained skilled employee.


Welcome to the real world. Life sucks. Then you die.
There are hardly any real jobs out here. Almost a third of working people are not working or are working part time, and the Red Team thinks you're disposable. Or expendable, I forget which. The owner is a member.

You got a degree. Ya f'n hoo. That entitles you to start at the ground level of the good jobs. BTW, YOU were responsible for what you learned from school. Ass hours =/= good worker: what have you done? A lot of jobs you need experience and/or a previous job to get and do. Many times you have to be an assistant before you can move up. Did you do your homework, research the field AND the company AND the competition to have a clue what the interviewer wants from you?

I work IT, and sometimes I'm asked to help HR interview. I'll say 1:5 has no business being on the property. 1:5 will be good for the job; unfortunately 1:3 of those are looking for something to do until the next better paying job listing comes up. Who are you?


There have been a lot of answers here, and I didn't take the time to read them all so sorry if I've got a repeat response, but a couple tips of how to get your foot in the door:

NETWORK! Go to as many ecology/biology events/lectures/etc. as possible to meet people in the field. If you meet someone higher up in a company they may give you a chance.

Volunteer at non-ecology related positions (again, to get your foot in the door to network). Plant some trees, take care of old people, volunteer at the pet shelter, whatever interests you.

Figure out when you need to start making money and lower your standards. The economy sucks and you may need to just find a "job" for now until you find a place you can get your foot in the door.

The most important thing is to continue learning and improving to give yourself a leg up on your competition. Finding a career job is a competition and you need to give your future employer a reason why you are better than the other guy.


Any job I've ever had, i've started low and worked my way up. It takes swallowing your pride sometimes to take a job that's beneath you, but it's a great way to prove yourself and learn the basics of a new company. Just make sure your position has upward advancement capabilities, and that they actually promote from within.

My last three jobs I started in call centers and worked my way to:

Director of Vendor relations
Regional Manager
Senior Inside Sales rep- I'm still here, and still advancing, 3 title changes in 3 years, and another one on the horizon.

I'm not attempting to brag, just to show hard work does pay off. I only went to college for two weeks, and have a better paying job than most of my friends with degrees.


@klozitshoper: I got your message. Yeah, I hadn't looked at my Woot PM's in a while. Check there for my answer.


I really only have two pieces of advice:

1. Don't let anyone trick you into doing an internship unless it is paid or is truly an amazing internship. Every company in the world right now is taking advatange of young people right now by offering them internships that are really nothing more than unpaid labor and often provide no job skills or opportunities.

2. Really hit up everyone you know. Friends, family, colleagues, teachers etc. It may feel grimy, but this is how 99% of people get jobs, by knowing someone. Ecology is a pretty solid degree so I wouldn't despair too much (I studied philosophy, sigh) but really just try everyone you can think of. I feel like your professors may especially have some ideas for you.


I graduated in 2008 and didn't land a full time job until this January, after I'd worked for two years part time. My job is now in IT but my major was Classics... not much to go for there. In my defense, when I was in college the economy hadn't crashed yet and multiple adults had told me, "hardly anyone uses their major, it's more about the university you went to, so study what seems interesting". Needless to say I ended up stuck in the same frustrating loop of needing entry level and yet needing experience to be entry level. That on top of the fact that no one wants to hire someone who's unemployed already...

I don't recommend doing what I did because I could have done it better (landing a part time job and putting up with being poor til they promoted me, and I'm still scraping by) so I just say good luck to you. I know too many people who were unemployed so long out of college that they ended up going to grad school to put it off. :/


@bls1: I agree. ANYthing that is remotely similar go for, as there may be applicants even less qualified than you.
Be who they want to hire and be the good person, no matter what. I once got picked for the short list because I made coffee in the waiting room.

1970. Music major, math minor. The stats: 1:6 grads had a job related to their major a year later. For me: I was a part time music teacher. Being good with numbers got me a waay better paying job as a machinist. Two jobs later- oilfield tech.
1984. I couldn't type so I bought a computer. You can't correct with typewriters. Mechanically inclined, good with numbers, I started hotrodding my computer- a Northstar Horizon. Then I did PC work for others. A few community college programming courses: a Cobol job.
1992. Being the only mechanical inclined PC person I got the ADMIN job when that guy left.
2001. I took another course, got my MCSE.
I've been THE IT guy since.
And I've always had a side gig at home. Do something.


Sit and brainstorm a bit with some other folk.
Eco and enviro degrees can mean you can offer your services to do energy, green, and healthy housing audits. How better windows, clean ducts, insulation, a tuned furnace, and proper placement of trees and no water landscape plants can really cut homeowner costs AND keep the kids safe and healthy. You can get referral fees from the decent HVAC shop and landscaper, and make some money.
You've got enough different stuff to offer your services to architects and builders. Plants and drainage recommendations. Diseases, cures and replacements for the landscaping issues.
Zoology and ornithology? Any good at it? Present yourself to every vet within 50 miles. Be their bird geek.

A couple of part time gigs can get you by. Any experience will show you can and will work. We don't need good test takers, just good workers.
These jobs can get you referrals. The more business people you know the better. "You know, I know a guy ..."


I am a college student who will graduate with a bachelor of arts in Geography. Talk about few jobs in my field! Sure, I knew what I was getting into, but it's a field I ENJOY. Most departments doesn't suggest advisors let students know how few jobs are in a particular field. Most departments are only as strong as the number of students it has and the moment that information is divulged you know that number is going down, rapidly. As a potential 'whatever-you-choose' student, you should do your homework about your field before you pick it as a major. Before I can graduate with a degree in Geography, I have to have an internship of 150 hours. It took me 2 semesters to find an internship. 2 semesters to have a potential internship employer even call me back! Thankfully, I have ended up with an internship that not only is in my field and will complete my degree, but is in a subfield I am interested in. IMO, all college students should have an internship AS PART OF THEIR DEGREE PROGRAM.


Don't forget to check out state jobs, too. Most environmental regulatory jobs are at the state level and many look for applicants with degrees in biology.


@jisaksso: I agree. It would help the students get practical knowledge, help employers get new staff with some hands-on experience, and help non-profits and other service entities get skilled volunteers. I disagree with the idea that the only valid internship is a paid internship. Training new staff is an expensive proposition, and getting that training in a job similar to that you hope to hold is valuable for both the hands-on experience and the ability to add it to your resume, and hopefully get a glowing letter of recommendation from the place where you interned.


What is your major? I am graduating with my Master's in Accounting and have a job lined up with no experience in the field, but I will have my masters (as you mention some places accept in lieu of experience). You may have to try a minimum wage position in the industry you wish to work in and work your way up, or at least gain some basic experience in the industry.


It's all about getting experience in the field as an undergrad. That's why I'm going to grad school this fall (on a decent scholarship). Now I've got to find out how to get even better experience as a grad student.


if you're just worried about the experience, forget it. apply apply apply, to jobs that you think you can do, with words in their descriptions that match what you've studied about or learned to do. try also searching for jobs by your degree, like "life science" degree or "biology degree", not just biological science exactly.
if you're the type to give up right away by jobs that say "1+ years of experience", they don't want you anyway. they may still want you if you read that requirement and still feel like you could jump into that job with the knowledge needed to perform. play up your youth, ability to be molded (no need to untrain), use of modern techniques, ability to learn and work hard, etc

if they call or email even after seeing your lack of experience, they're taking a risk to see if you're going to stand out somehow. read magazines and talk about something you're passionate about that's related to the field, practice in front of the mirror, psych yourself up! not down


you can also play up the fact that you changed your major from something that didn't interest you as much as your current major, you could also mention how you discovered it's what you wanted to do. and mention how you took extra classes because you loved what you were learning about and wanted to be prepared for the workplace. if you sit awake at night with ideas racing through your mind about your studies, talk about it!
if your part-time job has even an inkling of what you're looking to get into, talk about THAT and only slightly mention whatever else you also had to do.
your words, how you present yourself, what you project - all count. who knows you could beat out the person who is switching jobs just for better pay, or because they don't like their new boss. blah blah you're not them, you have to tell them you're so much better


@mortar235: Well, that's the thing. A lot of folk need accountants. Not many need a zoologist, ecologist, or an ornithologist. Your degree is fungible and portable, his is specific.

@gopvifootball: More stats: half of all working Americans make up to $20k per year. That's not the median, nor the average, just the upper limit. Goto $40k, and now you cover three quarters of us. There's not a lot of money out there, there's not a lot of jobs either. "Joe the Plumber" was in the top 8%. And you, are on/near the bottom.
You might ne in the right place at the right time and get a really great job real quick, but don't hold yourself out. Don't be afraid of a few part time jobs, a few part time friends, and a few room mates for a while. Experience takes time. As does success.


Also, does your school have an alumni program?

That helped me get a job. Well a good internship.


Thanks for this, it made me smile...
"I failed to mention that they were in very desirable locations like Polynesian Islands, tropical rainforests, Australia, and Hawaii. They also include housing and living expenses so they are actually something people want."

I'll just say 2 words...
Clean Harbors


@benyust2 said "most [school] districts will let you substitute teach (which may or may not count as experience) with a college degree and some minor certification/testing.

In my area full-time experienced teachers are being laid off due to funding cuts. They sign up to be subs, of course. As an administrator I'd call those folks first instead of the fresh-from-college kids with no teaching experience whatsoever, unless I need to cover detention or study hall.


Wow! So many responses I can't even read through them at the moment, but I gotta say that..... when picking a field of work that does not generate revenue, you're going to have fight for a job these days. Most jobs in the science sector require some kind of funding and people in this economy are not going to just fork over a bunch of cash to people without some confidence that they're not going to fail. That only happens in an economic climate when people have more money that they know what to do with and need the tax write-off.


Haha, I'm in the same boat as you! I finally gave up looking when everyone was giving me the same answers you're getting. I even had Undergraduate research experience.

So, long story short, I'm working on a M.S. now. Too many people with Bachelors, when the economy went south sciences were hit hard, not enough positions for everyone. Why pay for extra people when money that can be going to research is all ready stretched thin?

I'd suggest continuing with your education. Doesnt matter where, just go and start to network hard. Communicate through email with anyone who publishes work that you're interested. You never know what will pop up. Dont have my Masters yet, but I've seen quite a few people get great opportunities after they've received theirs based on just talking with people around the world.

Last, search the world. Not just your state, but everywhere. If all else fails, take the crappiest lowest position and work your way up.


I don't know if anyone is subscribed to this thread but I just wanted to say that I finally managed to get an internship. Thanks to someone's advice that I should apply to jobs that I might not fulfill all the requirements for, I got a job in the Appalachian Mountains. Someone had dropped out last minute and I quickly accepted the job. Thanks everyone for your advice.