“I want to save the planet…what major should I choose?”
There is no such thing as an “environmental major.” The job of building a sustainable society requires scientists, engineers, policy specialists, technicians, educators, communicators, managers, fundraisers, entrepreneurs, financial professionals, and many others.
Many college majors can prepare you for a career in environmental and conservation work.
The most important first step is to begin the process of narrowing your interests. If you can identify your career goal more specifically, you can determine what kind of college education is best for you. Do you like working outside? Do you like to write? All of these things can help you picture the career you want to create.
- Environmental Careers Organization – Click on “Careers” to find a nice section where you can post questions and get answers from an Environmental Career Professional, as well as great tips about hot skills in demand.
- The Green Career Advisor – Profiles of different jobs, people in them, and what you need to do to get them
Mastery of your scientific material is not enough! The EPA’s (Environment Protection Agency) Workforce Assessment Project (PDF) determined that the agency had plenty of good engineers and scientists, but that there was a real need for people who could bring people together, and who could communicate well with the public, in addition to demonstrating a mastery of science and technology.
Of special interest in the environmental field right now is mastery of information technology, including GIS & GPS. GIS is the use of computers to generate sophisticated maps for water resources, wildlife distribution, land use planning, etc. GIS is rapidly becoming an extremely important factor in all areas of the environmental sector.
The other “hot” tool in environmental studies is molecular technology. Internships or other work where you use GIS and/or molecular tools will give you an advantage when you apply for a full-time position.
Majors in the College of Natural Science to pursue environmental studies:
- Environmental Zoology
- Environmental Microbiology
- Environmental Biology–Botany
- Environmental Geoscience
- Plant Biology
- Earth Science
- Environmental Science and Management Concentration
- Also check out: RISE – Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment
Additional sources of information:
- Great Lakes Careers: Career profiles and other information
- A day in the life of a Forestry Service Employee
- Careers in Zoos and Aquariums from the American Zoological Society
- Careers in Water Quality (Water Environment Federation)
- Hot Topics in Waste News; also a series of links to major industrial and non-profit employers!
- An online group at Yahoo: EnviroJobs.
From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Environmental Scientists and Geoscientists
- Environmental Technicians
- Liquid and Solid Waste Operators