If you’re looking to move to a new job, or are starting your career, you'll be keen to know what to expect from the environmental job market in 2021. With COVID-19 and the end of the Brexit transition period there is a lot of uncertainty.

First a recap, what did we see in 2020? There has been lots of coverage of the problems that charities have been having in the pandemic, and how councils are under extreme financial pressure and companies are facing a double-dip recession.

What effect has this had on recruitment?

2020 recap

In summary, looking at job posting data from environmentjob.co.uk we saw the following:

  • Job postings down 84% in April
  • Recovering to 50% of normal for most of rest of the year
  • Overall down 35% in terms of number of postings for the year
  • Increased number of applications for lots of roles

Here is what that looks like on a chart:

All in all, not a great year to be looking for a new job.

What about 2021?

To try and get an idea of what might happen in 2021 we emailed a very short survey to 1,200 advertisers who had posted a job with us in the last 2 years.

The survey was conducted in the week beginning 16th November 2020, during the second lockdown and after the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccine announcements.

The main survey question was:

Thinking about your own organisation, what are your expectations for recruitment in 2021?

  • All back to normal
  • Reduced to approximately 80% of normal
  • Reduced to approximately 50% of normal
  • Reduced to approximately 20% of normal
  • Very, very little recruitment
  • I honestly have no idea!

The results looked like this:

Understandably, 30% of respondents said that they had no idea how things would go. If we take out those people - the results were as follows:

Over 50% of respondents who expressed an opinion thought that things would be back to normal. But 23% thought there would be very, very little recruitment.


We also asked for comments about recruitment in 2021, here are some of the responses:

Our recruitment is linked to successful grant applications for funding. There is no reason to assume this will change in 2021 and therefore we would expect a normal year given the unpredictability of grant funding.
Simon Roper, Ambios
We are continuing to grow due to the fact that COP26 is happening next year so will be a big year for us!
Katie Gargett, UK100
We have recruited several posts over the summer and expect to continue to recruit for new posts in 2021.
Sheila Gundry, Froglife
It depends on the efficacy of the vaccine, but suspect normalcy to return around September. Until then there will be a lack of confidence in the market.
Adam Donnan, Institution of Environmental Sciences
We are looking at ‘normal’ activity beginning from April and recruitment will most likely be in place to support this.
Jack Middleton, Surfers Against Sewage
The crisis is generating some new opportunities for us so we are hopeful of creating some new positions.
Pip Tabor, Southern Uplands Partnership


There's definitely positivity amongst lots of our advertisers that the situation will improve next year and that their recruitment will be heading back up to a level closer to what we’d usually expect to see. Many organisations have been able to adapt their working practices and this is likely to account for the increase in job postings over the second half of this year.

However, this isn’t the case for all organisations, and there is still a lot of uncertainty over if and when things will return to ’normal’. Overall it looks like some organisations are unlikely to be able to commit to regular recruitment levels until there is more stability, whether this comes from the vaccination programme or clarity over the effects of Brexit.

The increase in unemployment and job losses experienced this year are also likely to mean that the environmental jobs market will remain a very competitive one, especially for entry- and mid-level positions.

Have your own thoughts on 2021? Let us know!

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