How to get a career in Environmental Protection
If you are passionate about helping the planet or want to find a career where you are making a difference to the world, then environmental protection might be the perfect sector for you. So-called ‘green jobs’ are growing rapidly in the US and across the world and in 2010 accounted for 2.4% of all US salary and wage employment (as measured by the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program). We’ve answered some key questions to help you decide whether a career in environmental protection could be for you, and how to find a job and develop a career in the sector.
What is environmental protection?
Why is it important?
What kind of careers are there in environmental protection?
How can I get a career working in environmental protection?
Do I have to study environmental science?
The key aim of environmental protection is to prevent the degradation of the natural environment, which is important for all living creatures. Clean air and safe drinking water are fundamental to our health, and factors such as increasing population, technology and overconsumption have all had a negative impact on the environment, which can put humans and animals at risk.
A core element of environmental protection is resource management. Resource management is not, as many people think, about managing the environment but actually about managing the way humans interact with the natural world in order to protect and preserve natural ecosystems. This may involve considering ethical, economic and ecological variables in order to limit environmental degradation.
Some of the biggest problems in environmental protection today are related to fossil fuels, which are related to pollution, climate change, and natural resource depletion. Combustion of fossil fuels releases a range of gases and toxins that are linked to global warming. Another environmental issue that has been very prominent in the news is water pollution by plastics, which has had a harmful impact on marine life and ecosystems.
Environmental protection is extremely important because a lot of environmental degradation is irreversible or will take hundreds of years to fix and can also be very dangerous to humans and animals. If the environment is not protected we risk losing animals to extinction, destroying beautiful natural habitats and poisoning vital resources such as air and water.
Environmental organizations bring together like-minded to people to try and encourage change. This may involve lobbying governments, creating plans to meet environmental targets or raising awareness of environmental issues in the general public. Making people aware of environmental issues is key to protecting the environment, as it can change attitudes and behaviours and encourage people to become involved in the environmental sector.
Environmental science and protection is a field that encompasses a range of disciplines, meaning that it includes a range of careers that require different skill sets. Whereas environmental jobs once mainly consisted of scientific research roles, the rapidly growing ‘green jobs’ sector means that there is demand for passionate environmentalists in a number of fields, including law, marketing, planning and development, education and conservation. Some of the more traditional roles in environmental protection include environmental scientist, hydrologist, zoologist, and conservation scientist. You can find out more about these roles and some other careers in environmental science here.
Although the number of jobs in the sector has increased significantly over the last decade, increased awareness of environmental issues means that demand for jobs has also increased. This means that you will have to think carefully about developing your experience and knowledge in order to secure a job in such a competitive market.
Here are some of our top tips to help you begin a career in environmental protection:
1) Think creatively about gaining experience
If you are committed to working in environmental protection, then one of the best ways to help you find a job is to find a voluntary role in order to help you develop your experience. This does not have to be a full-time role, but volunteering will help you develop a skill set and knowledge that are relevant to the sector. If you are looking to find a more skilled role such as a lawyer or scientist, it may be hard to find voluntary work that is obviously related to the job you want to do, but volunteering in the environmental or conservation sector will show that you are committed to developing a career and making a difference.
Attend every relevant event you can – whether it’s a volunteering day, conference, fundraising or a workshop. This will help in two ways – firstly it will keep you up to date on current news and developments in the environmental sector. Secondly, it will help you meet people who could be your future work colleagues or even influential in hiring decisions. Meeting people who work in the sector also gives you the opportunity to learn about their backgrounds and ask for advice for landing the job you want.
3) Sign up for environmental news and jobs sites and use social media
This will mean that you stay completely up to date on topical issues and news, which can be incredibly helpful in an interview situation. It also ensures that you are aware of roles that come up, that might be easily missed on a generic site. Depending on the organisation, you might also find out about opportunities on first on social media, which could give you an advantage in a competitive job market.
4) Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone
This might be on university work placements, volunteering or when applying for a job. Sometimes taking a risk is the best way to develop your knowledge and demonstrate your transferable skills. If you feel that you have the skills to do a job well then take a risk and apply! Don’t be put off because other applicants might be more experienced – you never know exactly what the employer is looking for, and genuine commitment and passion are as important as experience.
Many people who are interested in working in environmental protection wonder if they should study environmental science, or worry because their degree isn’t obviously related to the environment.
There are two important questions to consider:
1) Do you want to work in a science-related job?
If you want to work in marketing for an environmental organization or as a lawyer or in any other green job that isn’t heavily scientific then an environmental science degree isn’t a requirement. Depending on the employer it might be viewed favourably, but many employers will value relevant experience and passion for the environment just as highly.
2) Do you definitely want to work in environmental science?
If you are considering what degree to study, and are interested in science then an environmental science degree might be a good choice. However, if you choose to study chemistry or biology, you still have a strong scientific basis to work in environmental science, and will probably have the option to choose relevant electives, however, you will also have a more widely applicable degree when you graduate. This might be a better option if you aren’t sure if you definitely want to work in the environmental protection sector.
In conclusion – you don’t have to study environmental science. It might be the right choice for you if you are choosing a degree and are totally committed to working in the environmental science sector. However, there are a lot of people working in the environmental protection sector that do not have an environmental science degree, and there are very few jobs where it is a requirement.