Written by Staphenie Lukins
In a world where plastic pollution, air pollution and climate change are all on the rise, so is the popularity of environmental degree programs. With a predicted job growth of 11 percent for environmental specialists between 2016 and 2026, the demand for those who have a well-rounded skillset and interdisciplinary knowledge to help combat the world’s most pressing challenges is also intensifying. But what job roles can you expect to find?
Getting your foot on the environmental career ladder
There’s an affinity of diverse environmental job roles out there which can be matched to both your interests and academic experience. Taking up an internship may even be the key to helping you get one step closer to figuring out exactly what it is that you would like to do – as two Master in Environmental Policy students at Duke Kunshan University in China discovered.
“The internships showed me how to apply the knowledge I learnt in class to the real world. They also enlightened my research; I got the idea for my master project from my internship in a corporate social responsibility consulting company,” said Xiaolin Xie, who interned at Syntao in Shanghai China.
“I also learned how to communicate and perform in business, how to solve problems efficiently and how to organize work when facing multiple tasks,” she said.
Whilst US student, Julie Mao, who undertook an internship at the US Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Quality Management recognized the importance of soft skills within the workplace: “I think the soft skills which I learned during my internship will benefit me in my future career more than the technical skills, such as learning how to effectively communicate my ideas to upper management and how to work with various stakeholders on certain projects.
At BLM, I learned to manage various stakeholder's conflicting interests on a project to provide a solution that best benefited each party. This opportunity allowed me to work with the public, private and social sectors, which will benefit my future career as I’ll be working with a myriad of individuals, companies, and organizations.”
A worthwhile experience then!
Five possible career paths
Green degrees such as the master’s in environmental policy are here to stay, and careers within the sector even more so. Although the opportunity to pursue one of the following careers may vary depending on your experience, the area you work in and your specialized skillset, the career outlook in environmental rights and public policy is both promising and rewarding.
Environmental policy analyst
This is one of the most apparent career paths you could pursue with a master’s in environmental policy. It’s where your passion for protecting the environment will really shine and can be an incredibly varied role with opportunities to work across sectors at all levels – from non-government organizations to county councils.
It’s also a very fast-moving job where policies are having to constantly be re-considered. It’s therefore your responsibility as an environmental policy analyst to investigate data trends to design and implement objective policies to help combat problematic environmental issues, from water pollution to climate change.
Ocean and coastal resource manager
Ocean and coastal resource managers work to conserve and manage the world’s coastlines for future generations to enjoy.
You’ll need good communication skills and the ability to manage teams of people as well as resources, as the protection of ocean and coastal resources depends on several environmental, financial and social factors.
Ocean and coastal resource management is a niche area to move into and pursuing a career may depend on your experience as some positions will require specialized marine qualifications. However, a master’s in environmental policy can provide the foundations necessary to acquire the technical acumen to get started.
Credit: Duke Kunshan University
If you love the outdoors, then you’ll love the fact conservation scientists spend more time outside of the office than inside it.
This role involves working to protect and conserve natural resources with the intention of developing a positive symbiotic relationship between humans and nature. In order to do this, conservation scientists conduct necessary field research in order to determine the ecological impact created by humans, before creating solutions which aim to help restore and protect these disrupted environments.
Are you an excellent problem solver? How are your scientific skills? Do you have a creative mindset? If so, a career in environmental engineering could be for you.
As an environmental engineer, you’ll have the desire to ensure sustainability is at the forefront of every organization’s mind, as you develop innovative technological solutions in order to overcome some of the world’s most pressing issues, such as urbanization, deforestation and climate change.
Some positions may require additional engineering experience or qualifications.
If you’ve got a keen interest in understanding how business works and want to combine this with your passion for sustainability, then a career as a sustainable consultant may be ideal for you.
You’ll carry out environmental impact surveys and assess numerous factors such as noise pollution, air pollution, water pollution, energy consumption as well as carbon footprint emissions in order to advise companies on how they can become more sustainable in the most cost-effective way possible.
Therefore, you’ll need to be skilled in leadership and project management, as well as having excellent communication skills.