The School of the Environment provides many resources and advice for directions and issues related to environmental careers. The following sections will outline some career information and resources in the areas of environment:
If you are a currently registered student, please join us on Friday, March 7, 2014 for the School's Environmental Career Day 2015.
Defining Environmental Careers
What can I do with a degree in "environment"?
Many of you ask "What sorts of jobs will a program in environment prepare me for?" The immediate answer is many, but the field is changing so quickly that jobs being advertized today may not be available when you graduate, while new jobs titles are constantly opening up.
Defining an environmental career
As examples, you might consider the discovery of the "hole" in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Prior to that discovery, opportunites were relatively limited in areas such as atmospheric physics. Suddenly not only were there jobs for physicists, but a need for chemists to develop replacements chemicals for ozone-depleting CFCs, mathematicians to develop new algorithms for the analysis of satellite data, engineers to re-design refrigerant systems, lobbyists who helped shepard legislative changes along, policy analysts who helped in the formulation of international treaties and a host of other, new "jobs".
Opportunities also opened in related industries: technicians trained to remove CFC's from faulty refrigerators and cars, educators to develop training programs for these technicians, new textbooks and legislation to be written and so the web of new opportunities grows.
As we develop our understanding of the relevance of the environment to all aspects of our society, our need for well-prepared graduates in environmental science, education, and policy careers also develops. Whether public or private, regulator or regulated, policy maker or policy analyst, the expanding opportunities in environmentally related occupations are changing, challenging, and increasing. In a U.S. News listing of "hot tracks" for future employment, 20% of those hot track jobs were positions related to the environment.
Click here for Environmental Career Organization Canada's Environmental Labour Market report which outlines the latest environmental hiring trends. (Adobe Acrobat 4.0 format).
How much education do I need?
Graduates with bachelor's degrees can generally expect entry-level positions in which their primary responsibilities are the collection, assimilation and preparation of data. For positions with greater responsibility, a master's degree or Ph.D. is usually required.
Irrespective of your specific skill set, those who can also write well and are comfortable presenting their ideas orally have a significantly higher rate of advancement and overall job satisfaction than those who are not.
Joe E. Heimlich writing for the Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education suggests that environmental careers could be defined as those jobs "involved with the protection and conservation of nature, natural resources and inhabitants of our land."
Over the past few decades, there has been increasing concern with the environment. While the level of concern fluctuates (somewhat as a function of the economy), the long-term outlook is one in which people are concerned about the impacts of environmental contamination on their own health as well as the implications of the loss of biodiversity. As concern has increased, opportunities in the environmental job market have also increased.
But I don't know what I want to do!
This is always difficult. The more traditional approach to career identification is through a position approach but how can you do this if you're not even sure where to start? So why not work backwards from content? Start with a favorite aspect of the natural or human environment. This decision will at least put you into a 'content' realm. Since most environmental areas have a career aspect related to it, you can then follow up your content focus by searching for information on positions.
There are a number of WWW sites that are more up-to-date on the status of environmental career opportunities than we can be in a static brochure. We have tried to compile some of these for you to look at. Even they may no longer be relevant and we encourage you to use several search engines on a topic like "environmental careers" to evalute current career targets.
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Types of Environmental Careers
Careers in the environmental field generally fall into two categories:
- environmental experts such as biologists, economists, sociologists, chemists, or engineers have mastered a particular body of knowledge. Their work generally focuses on the application of that knowledge and
- environmentalists, individuals who have mastered approaches that work in a variety of environmental situations on issues that often take moral, ethical or advocacy positions.
Preparing for an environmental career
Preparation for a career in an environmental field includes focusing on a specific area of interest, while developing highly transferrable skills: a balance between well-rounded generalism and marketable specialization. The person who achieves this will have a successful and highly rewarding career in the growing environmental field.
New jobs in environmental fields are being created primarily from remedial actions such as clean up activity, from regulatory actions or from minimization and prevention activities (rethinking manufacturing, pollution prevention). Many of these jobs require a strong science focus. It should not be surprising then that many of the new jobs in the environmental field are the in highly specialized professions, such as specialties within biology, geology, civil engineering, and chemistry.
However as we saw in the ozone example, there are also opportunities in the area of environmental policy development, regulation, risk assessment and policy analysis. Oppportunities also exist in education (elementary, secondary, post-secondary teachers; parks; nature centers; hands-on science), communication (newspapers; mass media; communications for environmental concerns for private industry; information officers for public agencies) and interpretation (parks; nature centers; hands-on centers; exhibition halls; zoological gardens; tourist centers).
Unfortunately, some more established, even conventional environmental jobs (environmental technicians in forestry and fisheries or conservation officers) are expected to increase at a lower than average rate, with most of the jobs coming through retirements and vacancies, not new positions.
Give me some examples of these new jobs?
Here's a list of some examples of content focused jobs:
- Land Use and Preservation,
- Waste Management and Recycling,
- Housing and Community Development,
- Water- or Air-related Issues,
- Fund Raising and Foundation Work,
- Environmental Education,
- Pollution Prevention and Control,
- Disease Prevention,
- Environmental Planning.
Here's a list of some positions available in several different environmental areas:
- Research & Development (laboratory technicians: packaging scientists; chemists; biologists; toxicologists)
- Technical (civil engineering; transportation engineers; environmental health)
- Regulator (health regulation; environmental regulation; natural resource management regulators)
- Regulated Industry (Risk assessment; impact assessment, environmental compliance officers; environmental health officers)
- Policy Analysis (environmental economists; consulting firms; lobbyists; environmental groups)
- Education (elementary, secondary, post-secondary teachers; parks; nature centers; hands-on science museums or centers; outdoor education)
In examining environment-related employment opportunities, it is possible to explore career options either by "content" or by "position. " Content refers to employment opportunities that directly relate to certain areas of study or preparation, such as water, air, or solid waste. Position relates more specifically to the type of position, such as educator, toxicologist, or geophysicist, and the setting in which the work occurs including public, private, not for profit organization, or regulatory agency.
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Environmental Career Resources