A great way to get paid to gain valuable experience!

Working as a subcontractor provides flexibility in your schedule and the freedom to work on different projects, and develop your skills. Here we look at the best ways to get into subcontracting as an ecologist and get paid.

Subcontractor Ecological Consultancy
Working as a subcontractor in ecological consultancy is rewarding and fun

Working as A Subcontractor in Ecological Consultancy

Embarking on a career in ecological consultancy is exciting for anyone passionate about the environment and biodiversity. As a subcontractor, you have the unique opportunity to gain valuable experience and hone your skills in various aspects of ecology whilst getting paid, and maintaining your current employment. One area that offers both a worthwhile and rewarding experience is bat surveying, although other surveys could also be offered. 

Subcontracting allows you to work with multiple consultancy firms and professionals in the field. Building these relationships can lead to future job opportunities and collaborations. This exposure is invaluable for building a diverse skill set and understanding species and survey techniques. 

Getting Work as A Subcontractor in Ecological Consultancy

Focusing on niche areas, such as bat surveys, can make you highly sought after as a subcontractor. Many consultancy firms look for help in the busy summer months. You’ll gain hands-on experience in fieldwork and data collection. These are crucial for a successful career in ecological consultancy and you can do them whilst also being paid and working around your existing job.

We suggest you contact your local ecological consultancies and offer to help with surveys. If you are offering to do bat surveys then we recommend you do our Bat Ecology and Surveying course so you do know a bit about bats. For other surveys you could do our Surveying for Protected Species course. These will give you good background knowledge to be able to have a conversation with a consultancy about surveys.

You can charge between £12 and £20 ph for surveys, plus mileage at an agreed rate with the consultancy – we pay 45p a mile). You will need to invoice the consultancies at the end of each month and declare your earnings at the end of the financial year as this will count as earnings.

Bat Workers are Highly Sought-after

Bats are a fully protected species in the UK. Conducting bat surveys is essential for understanding their populations, habitats, and behaviours and for ensuring their protection during development projects. Bats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2019 in the UK. Any development project that could impact bats must consider their presence to comply with these laws. Protecting bat habitats also contributes to ensuring bats can still thrive after developments. 

As a sub-contractor working with Bats, you will be needed to carry out emergence and activity surveys. Often, emergence surveys need multiple people and most consultancies do not have that capacity, hence the need for subcontractors. By getting experience in these surveys you can work towards the 100 hours of experience required for your bat survey licence. For more information take a look at our blog about getting a bat licence. It is helpful for you to have a bat detector such as a basic heterodyne like a Magenta 5. If your budget can stretch to it then invest in an Echometer Touch which plugs into a phone or tablet and shows the bat sonograms. They even analyse the calls to give you an identification (not to be totally relied upon). 

Working with Bats

It is worth staying up-to-date with the latest techniques and legal requirements in bat surveying and ecological consultancy. You can do this by attending workshops, webinars, and courses. These will enhance your knowledge and increase your confidence. We have a range of courses including our Bat Licence Training

Importantly, you must document this experience on a Bat Experience Log. Once you have 100 hours of experience and 10 internal surveys you can apply for your bat survey licence. For more information click here, or to download a copy of the log click here. Gaining your bat survey licence is almost a guarantee of a job in consultancy, but even if you have experience but no licence that will be attractive to employers. 


Working as a sub-contractor in ecological consultancy, especially in conducting bat surveys, offers a unique pathway to gaining essential experience in the field. The flexibility, networking opportunities, and specialised experience you gain can significantly boost your career prospects. By focusing on bat surveys, you will not only be contributing to vital conservation efforts but also building a niche skill set that is highly valued in the industry. Other surveys that you can get involved with are great crested newts, dormice and reptiles but these tend to be during the day. Embrace the challenges and rewards of sub-contracting to make a meaningful impact on ecological conservation and get paid to do it!