As a kid, were you always the one climbing trees and wading knee deep through rivers? Did you worry about polar bears and penguins in the face of melting ice caps? Now that you’re all grown up, are you a big-picture thinker with the vision and guts to design and implement real change for a better future?
In today’s world of variable weather patterns, challenges in food distribution, climate change, and a host of other issues, a career in environmental policy and management is more vital than ever before. If you’re looking for a diverse and challenging career with the potential to make a real difference, then perhaps a degree in this exciting field is just the thing for you.
Part I. The World of Environmental Policy and Management
As an employee in the environmental sector, you’ll be working to identify ways to undo decades — even centuries — of environmental damage. You might hold a management position or work as a consultant for a nonprofit organization. When it comes to a career in environmental policy and management, it’s not so much what you’re doing, but who you’re working for that makes the difference. Here’s a rundown on the major institutions that tend to hire environmental managers and policy makers.
- Government Agencies: When it comes to the U.S. federal government, there are no shortages of jobs for those with environmental expertise. Employers include the Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Land Management. On the local level, each state has its own department of environmental conservation.
- Private Sector: These days, environmental concerns in the world of business are as prevalent as ever. Private sector employers looking to hire environmental policy and management graduates include Chemonics International, Inc., Development Alternatives Inc., Environmental Resources Management, Hear.org, and ICF Consulting Group, Inc.
- Research, Non-profit, and Non-governmental Organizations: When people think of jobs in environmental policy and management, action-oriented NGO’s often spring to mind. Some of the heavy-hitters in environmental policy making include Audobon International, Friends of the Earth, the World Conservation Union, The Nature Conservancy, and World Wildlife Fund.
- International Organizations: There are plenty of committed environmental organizations outside the United States, as well. The World Trade Organization, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, World Bank Group, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, and the European Union are just some of the outfits that are constantly in need of environmental policymakers.
Salary and Career Outlook
Earnings in the environmental sector will vary depending on your level of education, experience, and specialization, as well as your employer. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for natural science managers in 2010 was $116,020. Environmental scientists and specialists earned a median salary $61,700 during the same year. Most natural science managers spend time working as scientists before moving into management positions.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment for natural science majors has a projected growth rate of 8%, which is slower than the national average. Careers for environmental scientists are expected to increase 19%, which is close to the average for all occupations. It’s worth noting that careers in sustainability related fields will likely increase in new and unpredictable ways as a response to the changing environmental landscape.
Part II. Top U.S. Environmental Policy and Management Programs
The environmental management degree at Indiana University is housed in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). One of the top environmental programs in the country, SPEA is known for keeping up-to-date through rigorous research. The curriculum emphasizes management, humanities and science in order to address the ever-changing environmental landscape.
- Accreditation: Indiana University is a member of the North Central Association (NCA) and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
- Specialized Degrees: The SPEA College offers a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science or a B.S. in Public Affairs and Environmental Management.
- Industry Perception: SPEA is known for its superior academic curriculum and high research standards. The school is ranked second in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.
- Cost: Indiana residents can expect to pay $18,888 per academic year. Nonresidents pay $40,388.
- Financial Aid: In addition to financial aid, Indiana University offers a variety of scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities.
University of Michigan
The Program in the Environment, or PitE, at U of M is the result of a collaborative effort between the College of Literature, Sciences and The Arts (LSA) and the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. The approach is interdisciplinary, blending elements of the humanities and the sciences. PitE also offers a variety of specializations, so students can hone in on specific areas of interest.
- Accreditation: The University of Michigan receives its institutional accreditation status from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), an independent corporation that holds membership in the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
- Specialized Degrees: Students can choose between either a Bachelor of Arts or Sciences in the PitE program. From there, further specializations include Aquatics, Environmental Economics, Environmental Policy, Terrestrial Ecology, and Urban Planning.
- Industry Perception: U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Michigan’s environmental science program among the top 20 in the nation. The college is known for its commitment to scientific research and diverse faculty.
- Cost: Lower division (freshman/sophomores) residents should expect to pay $25,848 per academic year for tuition, housing and other fees, while nonresidents pay $51,976.
- Financial Aid: For the 2011-12 academic year, U of M awarded $350 million in financial aid to more than 19,000 individuals. Students might also be eligible for a number of scholarships and grants.
If convenience, affordability, and flexibility are important to you, then you might want to consider an online degree in environmental policy and management. Kaplan’s program is designed to teach you research methods that are relevant to your line of study, as well as management, policy and law, and other global environmental issues.
- Accreditation: Kaplan University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
- Specialized Degrees: Kaplan offers a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy and Management.
- Industry Perception: Since the faculty isn’t restricted by geography, Kaplan is able to recruit leading educators and practicing professional from anywhere in the world, making for a superior faculty.
- Cost: The total cost for an online degree is $66,780.
- Financial Aid: In addition to financial aid, you may be eligible for scholarships and grants.
University of California Berkeley
The college of Natural Resources (CNR) at the UC Berkeley offers a variety of undergraduate programs that address the social, biological, and economic challenges that go along with protecting our natural resources
- Accreditation: UC Berkeley, is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
- Specialized Degrees: Students in CNR can choose to major in one of five programs: Conservation and Research Studies, Environmental Sciences, Forestry and Natural Resources, Molecular Environmental Biology, or Society and Environment.
- Industry Perception: UC Berkeley’s CNR prides itself on its commitment to biodiversity, conservation, and the stabilization of the Earth’s climate system during this critical period in human history. UC’s environmental programs are consistently ranked toward the top of lists compiled by the Scholarly Productivity Index.
- Cost: Not including housing, California residents pay $23,772 per academic year, while nonresidents pay $46,650.
- Financial Aid: In addition to financial aid, some students may qualify for special programs such as the Middle Class Action Plan and the California Dream Act.
North Carolina State University
At North Carolina State University, students in the College of Natural Resources have access to a variety of specialized programs in fields of or relating to environmental policy and management.
- Accreditation: NC State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
- Specialized Degrees: Students in CNR can choose between nine specific degree programs, including Forest Management, Natural Resources Ecosystem Assessment/Policy & Administration, Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management, and Environmental Technology & Management.
- Industry Perception: NCSU considers itself a world leader in the sustainable use of natural resources. The college of natural resources is particularly committed to helping communities thrive through environmental action and awareness.
- Cost: Not including housing, residents pay $16,150 per academic year, whereas non-residents pay $29,605.
- Financial Aid: Most students will qualify for financial aid. Additionally, the College of Natural Resources offers a number of program-specific scholarships in areas such as Forestry and Environmental Resources.
Portland State University
This Oregon institution is a leading destination for young men and women who hope to enter the field of environmental policy and management; this is due to not only the academic offerings, but also the ‘green’ attitudes that are common throughout the campus and surrounding community.
- Accreditation: Portland State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
- Specialized Degrees: The Environmental Sciences and Management programs offers undergraduate degrees in environmental science and environmental studies.
- Industry Perception: The Princeton Review rated Portland State University as the top “college with a conscience” in 2012. The school is known for its commitment to sustainable living on and off campus, as well as its involved faculty and student body.
- Cost: For tuition and fees only, residents pay $10,944 per academic year; nonresidents pay $12,269.
- Financial Aid: Most students will qualify for financial aid. Other types of aid include federal and state grants, loans, scholarships and fee remissions, and federal work study.
Part III. Launching a career in Environmental Policy and Management
Now that you’ve got your degree in hand, it’s time to start thinking about where you’re going to go from here. Here are a few things to consider when you’re looking to your future in environmental policy and management.
- Continue Your Education: While there are plenty of entry-level job opportunities out there for bachelor’s degree holders, you might want to consider taking your education to the next level. Most of the major players in international environmental policy will have a master’s degree in fields like environmental law, public policy, or international relations, as well as environmental management. If you’re looking to start your master’s immediately after you’ve received your bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to start researching and applying for programs in the junior or senior year of your undergraduate studies.
- Take Advantage of Career Counseling: More likely than not, your university will offer career resources to its graduating students. The professionals who work in these departments are more than happy to assist you in every facet of the job search, such as building your resume, finding internships, helping you choose a graduate program, or networking and sharing connections to land your dream job.
- Get Your Hands Dirty: Most environmental managers have an average of five years experience working as environmental scientists in the field, during which time they collect samples, analyze data, and publish their findings. Knowledge of the hands-on, day-to-day operations will only serve to make you a more effective policy-maker in the future.
It’s Not Easy Being Green, but Always Worth It!
The challenges facing the earth are complex and sometimes difficult, so why should pursuing a degree in environmental policy and management be any different? Whether you’re concerned with agriculture, deforestation, sustainable energy sources, climate change, or all of the above, pursuing a degree in environmental policy and management will arm you with the skills you’ll need to make a lasting difference.