Taking A Break From Field Work: When Money Gets You Down
I love field work. But I've gotten to the point where field work may not be practical for me right now. I'm beginning my applications for graduate school, and the daunting task of finding funding has set it. One year at Oxford costs roughly $28,500 just in tuition and fees alone, not including living costs or a ticket to get from California to England. If I were to stay at a $35/day field job, it would take me about 815 days, or over 2 years, to earn enough to pay for that one year of graduate school, not including living costs. I've decided, therefore, that I must put field work on hold for a while so I can save some money. This doesn't mean that I have to put my love for the natural world on hold. There are plenty of biological jobs that exist out of the field. These include jobs like monitoring construction sites (making sure builders don't destroy an endangered species' habitat), monitoring wind farms to report on avian and bat mortality, working in a wildlife rehabilitation clinic, teaching children and others about biology, becoming involved in policy, or working in a zoo, museum, or aquarium. All of these jobs would allow me to live at home, which my parents have generously allowed me to do, meaning I would be able to save even more money for graduate school without spending all my earnings on rent, especially somewhere like San Francisco. These jobs also give me a peek into different types of biological work, all of it still relating to biology and conservation. These jobs give me the opportunity to strengthen and gain new skills, which will make me a more well rounded applicant in the future. Many of these jobs also offer the opportunity to research and write, something I truly love doing. This will also get me back into the swing of things as graduate school approaches.
Field work is awesome, but it doesn't pay well. Often times, it doesn't pay at all or will actually cost you money. Field work will eventually pay more than stipends, but not realistically until one has more experience and a higher education. Be smart and know when it's time to put this work on hold and search for a more stable, well-paying job. Although we tend not to think about it, money is necessary, and short-term field work at low pay will not allow you to put much money into a savings account. Know when it's time to take a break. Remember, you can always spend a few months studying turtles in the Galapagos once you've saved enough money for airfare and can afford not to be paid for those months.