If you’ve ever dreamed of turning your concern about climate change or endangered species into a career, now’s the time to make that vision a reality, says Peter Beck, associate professor of Environmental Science and Policy at St. Edward’s University. “Businesses, nonprofits and government agencies are increasingly interested in sustainability,” says Beck, who also directs the school’s Professional Science Master’s in Environmental Management and Sustainability. “They’re hiring people.”
Beck suggests you consider the following questions:
Much like the planet itself, the origins of environmental problems are often complex. Solving environmental issues requires a solid understanding of the science, as well as the cultural, economic and political matters that are tied to the primary problem. The Master’s in Environmental Management and Sustainability (MSEM) teaches you how to examine issues from the inside out. In addition to researching problems, environmental advocates need to study various solutions for efficacy and impact.
Wolves can’t speak to humans. Neither can wetlands. So the environmental sector needs people who can get the word out about important issues and explain them in a non-technical way to the general public. “If you’re a scientist, you won’t be as effective unless you can communicate your findings,” says Beck. The MSEM degree helps you hone your communication skills through written, oral and poster presentations of your research: Writing, speaking, and shaping strategy are necessary to success in solving a host of environmental issues.
Seeing is believing — especially when it comes understanding global environmental connections. Michael Wasserman, assistant professor of Environmental Science and Policy at St. Edward’s, remembers the first time he visited a banana plantation in Central America and realized how the fruit he purchased at the supermarket was directly tied to pesticide pollution and poor wages. “International travel gives you a whole new perspective,” Wasserman observes. At St. Edward’s, the MSEM involves studying in Costa Rica.
Time isn’t always on our side, given the rapid pace of species destruction and environmental degradation. So if you have some free hours, donating valuable skills to a field study or a nonprofit environmental concern is yet another way to help save the planet without hugging trees (that’s fine, too, of course). Immersing yourself in volunteer work can be a great way to determine if you’d like full-time environmental work and might benefit from obtaining a Master’s in Environmental Management and Sustainability, Beck says: “If you want to work in an environmental job, get as much experience as you can.”
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.