What Does A Biosecurity Officer Do? (Plus Skills and Salary)
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Biosecurity officers work at checkpoints across the country to prevent unwanted weeds, diseases and pests from entering. They are often employed at airports, ports, mail centres and other border crossings. Understanding what a biosecurity officer does can help you discover if it's a career you may find interesting. In this article, we discuss what a biosecurity officer does, their duties, their typical working conditions, how to become one, how much they earn and some skills they commonly have.
What does a biosecurity officer do?
The answer to the question, 'What does a biosecurity officer do?', is that they're responsible for protecting the Australian environment and agricultural industries against imports that may be harmful. These harmful imports can include things such as pests and diseases. Biosecurity officers make valuable contributions to the fisheries, food, forestry and agricultural industries and help protect unique natural environments.
As of 2022, they operate under the Biosecurity Act 2015 to control the movement of material across borders by screening and inspecting parcels, luggage, mail, shipping containers and ships that enter the country. If they identify anything that poses a biosecurity risk, they have a legal obligation to either confiscate or destroy it. Biosecurity officers may also issue infringements if someone's in breach of the biosecurity rules under the legislation.
Biosecurity officer duties
The duties of a biosecurity officer may vary depending on their work environment. Below, you can find some of their common daily duties:
advising people on their responsibilities to contribute to reducing biosecurity risks
attending conferences with government agencies to share resources and create initiatives to encourage people to comply with biosecurity rules and regulations
assessing documents that correspond with imported or exported products
developing educational resources to assist people in identifying unwanted pests
advising landowners on ways to protect their animals from moving pests from or introducing them to their land
confiscating or destroying items that don't comply with biosecurity legislation
meeting people arriving at or leaving from borders to advise on biosecurity risks
inspecting aircraft, vessels, people and goods to protect biosecurity
representing the government as a regulator by upholding and explaining policies to travellers, stakeholders and industry professionals
exercising delegations under the Biosecurity Act 2015
using x-ray machines to scan parcels and other products to identify any biosecurity risks
working with trained detector dogs to locate materials that pose as a quarantine risk
conducting property inspections as per the requirements under relevant legislation
Typical biosecurity working conditions
Many people in this role are full-time employees. There's generally a requirement for biosecurity officers to do shift work, which can often include weekends and public holidays. As these positions exist at all border crossings, it's not uncommon for biosecurity officers to work in open water, inspecting arriving and departing vessels.
Biosecurity officers can frequently attend private premises to undertake site inspections and collect witness statements for biosecurity investigations. This may involve some regional travel by road or air. When inspecting products or screening people to check for potential biosecurity risks, there can be a requirement to wear personal protective equipment, for example, safety gloves.
How to become a biosecurity officer
Below, you can find some general steps to take to become a biosecurity officer:
1. Develop your knowledge and skills
While there's no formal qualification required to become an entry-level biosecurity officer, completing a high school education may help you obtain the basic literacy and mathematical skills required for the role. You may also want to consider enrolling in a Certificate lV in Government Investigations, for example. A course like this can provide you with the skills and knowledge you may require for working in a government investigations team. This course may also help you understand the ethical decision-making and legislative requirements of a role as a public service officer.
2. Attend university
There are some specialist roles available in the field which may require a university qualification in agricultural science, biological sciences or animal sciences. While obtaining a degree isn't a requirement for a role as a biosecurity officer, it can aid the competitiveness of your candidacy and broaden your long-term career prospects. You can consider contacting various universities to see what courses they have available. A good option may be a Bachelor of Biosecurity Science, for example.
3. Ensure you meet the requirements
Given most biosecurity officer positions are within government agencies, there can be several requirements to meet beyond education and skills. It can be a good idea to ensure you meet these requirements before applying for jobs in this field. One of the position requirements is often for the candidate to be a citizen or permanent resident. Biosecurity agencies generally request candidates to provide a current National Police Check and pass medical assessments before being offered employment. A valid manual driver's licence can also be a requirement.
4. Apply for a job as a biosecurity officer
You can begin the application process by browsing jobs online and shortlisting the positions that interest you. Before sending an application, it can be helpful to update your resume and tailor it to include keywords from the job advertisement you're applying for. It can also be a good idea to contact the agency representative for any positions that interest you to discuss the role and find out more about the responsibilities and application requirements.
Related: How to Apply For A Job in 6 Steps
Biosecurity officer salary
The national average salary for a biosecurity officer is $74,000 per year. How much you earn in this role may depend on various factors. These factors can include the level of experience you have, how many years you have been in the position and what agency you work for.
Helpful skills for biosecurity officer jobs
Many skills can help you in your role as a biosecurity officer. You can find a list of some of them below:
This job involves liaising with people to advise on biosecurity rules. You may interpret legislation and explain it to members of the public to help them understand their role in biosecurity. Strong communication skills can assist you in talking to people confidently and clearly to deliver your message effectively.
Biosecurity positions are generally part of a team environment. You're likely to make collaborative decisions and share information across teams to solve issues. Possessing teamwork skills can be important to ensure you can support your team members.
There's an expectation for government employees to act with integrity. This usually means taking responsibility for your actions, having strong ethical standards and respecting others. Having a high level of integrity can help ensure you make ethical decisions in your role as a biosecurity officer.
Customer service skills
Providing quality customer service is important in many organisations. Understanding how best to respond to their customer requirements can help you ensure you develop solutions that meet the requirements of both the customer and the agency you represent. Ensuring you set out clear directions and take the time to listen to those you interact with can be a good way to help avoid conflict with customers and help them understand the biosecurity decisions you make.
You may encounter challenging situations when confiscating goods from a customer to reduce biosecurity risk. Knowing how to show understanding for their frustrations and showing empathy for their situation can help them handle these situations professionally. Understanding how to read body language when talking to people may also help them identify if they're being honest with the information they're providing during an investigation.
Part of your role as a biosecurity officer may require you to update computer systems with information relating to the biosecurity risk items you find. Having good technology skills can help you use these systems correctly and confidently. Knowing how to use a computer to type a witness statement or investigation report may also be useful.
Some positions as a biosecurity officer may require you to move around between border crossings. You can also be likely to encounter lots of different people while undertaking your role. Because of this, being adaptable can make it easier for you to learn new skills quickly and respond to changing circumstances positively.
Strategic thinking skills
Biosecurity officers interpret relevant acts, regulations and policies. Having the ability to think strategically can be helpful to ensure you can prepare strategies and ideas that adapt to changing environments while adhering to the regulations and policies of the organisation you're representing. Continually seeking ways to learn and broaden your knowledge of your role as a biosecurity officer may help you become successful in your role.
Attention to detail
Being observant and aware of your surroundings is important in a biosecurity position. Ensuring you do not miss any information when assessing a potential biosecurity risk or when talking to someone to understand why they've brought a particular product across the border can be essential. Having excellent attention to detail can be very helpful when conducting biosecurity investigations.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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