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Careers in Environmental Studies

There is a wide array of career opportunities available in the field of environmental science with agencies and departments at the federal, state, and county level. Many federal agencies offer positions for graduates with degrees in environmental science. Concentrations in global environmental management, environmental planning, and environmental sustainability prepare graduates for high level environmental manager positions in federal, state, and local agencies, consultancies, and nonprofit organizations dedicated to both global and national environmental protection.

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Useful Skills within the Environmental Science Field
  • Managing Physical Resources - The ability to make appropriate use of equipment and materials to get a job done.
  • Monitoring Equipment - Watching gauges and any other types of indicators to make sure equipment is running properly.
  • Quality Control - Inspecting and testing products or services to assure they meet the desired specifications.
  • Decision Making - Weighing out the options in a situation or a problem and logically choosing the best course of action.
  • Problem Solving - Ability to identify a problem, review related information, develop and evaluate options, and implement a solution.
  • Reading Comprehension -Ability to understand complex written paragraphs, instructions, or reports.
  • Speaking - Talking, giving speeches, or speaking in a group to convey information, explain ideas, or give instructions.
  • Reasoning - Using logic to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
  • Listening - Paying attention to what other people are saying, and taking time to understand the points being made.
  • Managing Money - Determining how much money is required to get a job done, allocating those monies, and then accounting for all expenditures.
  • Managing Time - Allocating and budgeting your time for different tasks so that things get done when needed.
Career Options
Career Spotlight: Environmental Specialists and Scientists

An environmental specialist or scientist is someone who uses their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment.

Examples of Environmental Specialists and Scientists

  • Environmental health specialists study how the environment affects human health. They could study food safety or disease, for example.
  • Environmental protection specialists study how humans affect their environment. For example, these specialists concern themselves with air pollution and how to control, prevent, and find a solution to the pollution problems facing the environment.
  • Environmental scientists focus on a specific science field, such as chemistry, and how that science affects the environment.

Career Path

Most environmental specialists and scientists start their career out of college in laboratories and agencies as research assistants or technicians. With experience and possibly advanced degrees, the opportunity for growth within this field is high.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm

Getting Started: Internships

Gaining real-life experience is an ideal way to start a new career. The career services website has an extensive list of internships and fellowships. Browse through the internships; they are organized by interest or by federal program.

There are government-organized internship programs which provide students or recent graduates the opportunity to gain real-life experience. Many require students to maintain either a half-time or full-time student status. The best ways to identify potential opportunities such as these is to contact branch offices directly, to search USAJobs.gov, or to look at the agencies’ career portals. Keep in mind that these positions are not always posted online, so direct contact with the agency is key. For example, please review the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge Complex Internships and Volunteer opportunities with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Pathways

The Pathways Program is a federal initiative that offers internship programs for current students and training and career development opportunities for recent graduates. Recent graduates must apply within two years of degree or certificate completion (except for veterans, due to their military service obligation, will have up to six years to apply).The internship program for current students replaces the former Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).

The Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF)

PMF is designed to attract to federal service outstanding men and women from a wide variety of academic disciplines who have a clear interest in, and commitment to, a career in the analysis and management of public policies and programs. To be eligible for nomination, an individual must be a graduate student completing or expected to complete, during the current academic year, an advanced degree from a qualifying college or university.

The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP)

WRP is coordinated by the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense, and aims to provide summer work experience, and in some cases full-time employment, to college students with disabilities. The program develops partnerships with other federal agencies, each of whom makes a commitment to provide summer jobs and a staff recruiter. Each year, recruiters interview about 1,500 students with disabilities at college and university campuses across the nation, and develop a database listing the qualifications of each student.

Getting Hired: Government Agencies, Organizations, and Search Engines

There are several government agencies and organizations that seek candidates with degrees in environmental science. The list below provides some examples of those federal agencies. Each position within the federal government is classified under a series of numbers. For example, the “Natural Resources Management and Biological Sciences Group” is within the 0400 series. You can narrow down the exact series number based on your interests and search for it on USAjobs.gov across hundreds of federal agencies. Click here to see a list of federal positions by major.

While many of the major job search engines will have positions in several fields to choose from, the list below is specific to the environmental science field.

Keeping Current: Professional Organization and Associations
Conferences and Expositions
Get Connected: Social Media

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  • Environmental Science Program - LinkedIn
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