Reversing the effects of pollution, deforestation, mining and other human impacts can be challenging work. But there’s no shortage of tasks to be tackled when it comes to promoting restoration, reducing consumption and encouraging sustainability. There’s an ever-growing need for scientists, program managers, communication specialists, policy analysts and other green-minded professionals as businesses, nonprofits and government agencies turn their attention to their environmental practices.
Here, Peter Beck, associate professor of Environmental Science and Policy at St. Edward’s University and director of the Professional Science Master’s in Environmental Management and Sustainability, outlines some of the sector’s broad job opportunities.
Like logistics? Be a sustainability coordinator.
Organizations that want to reduce carbon emissions or recycle wastewater often have to start from scratch — building a plan that takes into account the particulars of their business. They are increasingly hiring or appointing a sustainability coordinator to figure out the logistics involved in green initiatives.
Enjoy teaching? Become an environmental educator.
Yes, there are teachers in classrooms who specialize in environmental issues. But there are also park rangers and arboretum staff who interact with the public regularly. Environmental educators are retained and hired by nonprofits that want to bend the ear of legislators and bureaucrats. “Frequently, the people doing the science aren’t good at explaining their findings,” Beck says. “So environmental educators help translate their work.”
Love being outdoors? Get into land management.
If traipsing through the forest or paddling through wetlands sounds significantly more appealing than sitting behind a desk all day, fieldwork might be the best fit for you. Land managers remove invasive species, track wildlife populations, burn prairies, build trails, maintain beaches and fight erosion. The dirt under you nails will pay off in a sense of true accomplishment because your work enhances others’ experience of the environment.
Want to be your own boss? Build a career around environmental sustainability.
Entrepreneurs often hatch the best ideas for process improvements: eliminating waste, saving energy, and reducing water use — mostly because it’s a necessity for saving costs in a fledgling endeavor. And as corporate and nonprofit clients seek to launch their own green initiatives, they often look to other firms to help them execute their plans so opportunities abound.
Bonus: Enlist as a Peace Corps volunteer.
If you have the flexibility to go overseas for a couple of years, there are plenty of opportunities that await for improving the environment. “It’s a great opportunity to have a lot of influence,” says Beck, noting that Peace Corp volunteers are often involved in work that positively impacts people’s livelihoods as well as the landscapes they live in.
In the intensive two-year Professional Science Master’s in Environmental Management and Sustainability, students explore sustainable development through environmental science in project management in Austin, Texas, and Costa Rica.
Joel Hoekstra is a freelance writer.