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Becoming an Environmental Consultant

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 9 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Changing Career Career Change

With climate change never far from the headlines, issues regarding the environment and working in an environmentally-friendly capacity continue to be hot topics. Changing government regulations on environmental impact, public awareness and criticism relating to the effects of consumerism, added to increasingly erratic weather patterns linked to global warming, have all influenced the scale and importance of environmental considerations for both commercial and governmental organisations.

It is no surprise, therefore, that an environmental consultant's services are often called upon, and employment levels for this job remain impressive. In fact, the majority of professionals involved in environmental data analysis work in a consultancy role. If you have a background in science, are interested in environmental policy or environmental conservation, then you might find that a Career Change to become an environmental consultant is for you.

What Does An Environmental Consultant Do?

Environmental consultants either work for or are hired by commercial or government organisations to assist in a number of areas where environmental concerns and legislation have to be considered. Typically, this will include any planning stages of a land development, or as part of an audit process, where a number of environmental assessments such as noise/vibration measuring, land and environmental management, waste management and measuring contamination of land and water have to be made.

The actual tasks performed on the job will include a mixture of scientific data collection, auditing and analysis, reporting results and findings, partaking in presentations, as well as the development of an environmental management system. Some consultants will also expand their services to practices such as Lecturing In Higher Education.

Environmental consultants also organise or take part in field surveys at the beginning of a consultation period, and can be required to continually keep up to date with scientific findings and data. In light of this, it is likely that if you undertook a career change in this field, you might find that you would be required to travel. This could include a proportion of overseas travel.

In addition to this, some consultants work within a more commercial capacity, and are employed in part to help businesses seek new clientele or secure environmental sponsorship. This may be an increasingly important role as many clients are looking for environmentally-conscious companies that have a 'green' reputation.

What Skills and Qualifications Would I Need?

A scientific background is the most desirable accolade for any prospective environmental consultant. If your career change is between two completely different subject fields, then you will need to gain a scientific qualification in subjects such as chemistry, physics, agricultural or horticultural studies, engineering, or urban and land studies. Some consultants also have degree-level qualifications in economics or business studies.

If you know which environmental subject area you would like to work within, for instance, consulting on water pollution or chemical waste, then it's worth gaining a specialist qualification, such as ecology, geology, organic chemistry, hydrogeology or wildlife management. Bear in mind that an additional postgraduate qualification will also give your profile a boost in relation to your employability factor.

Personal Skills

There are many Transferable Personal Skills that you can bring to the table when considering a career change to become an environmental consultant. Excellent communication skills are vital, particularly as you may be undertaking a certain amount of public speaking or giving presentations. Strong IT skills alongside a sound understanding of business practices are also desirable, as in many cases you'll be working in a commercial environment.

You will also probably be employed to assist or manage separate projects, so it is key that you can demonstrate that your organisational, administrative and time-management skills are second to none, as good project management is vital.

What If I Haven't Got Any Experience In This Field?

If this is the case, then ideally you should try to gain some experience, particularly if you are a more mature applicant. Some consultancy firms and businesses may offer graduate training schemes for junior staff, but for those who haven't recently graduated, it always helps to have a Strong CV to back up your intentions to move into this field.

In light of this, it may be more than worth your while offering your services to a Voluntary Organisation working on environmental projects and field surveys. You may be able to land a placement at an environmental consultancy, although the chances are that you won't be paid. For more mature applicants, your CV must show your dedication and determination to move into this field, and nothing speaks louder than experience.

Is There Room for Career Development?

Yes, there is room for career development, but a career change to environmental consultancy from a completely different career field will mean that, in effect, you'll be put back into a more junior position. Your duties will include the more administrative and organisational roles, such as working on field surveys, collection and dissemination of data and writing up reports. This will then move to a more business-orientated role with the senior positions. Many senior environmental consultants spearhead projects, marketing and funding campaigns, as well as being responsible for staff and resource management.

Where Are the Best Employment Opportunities?

The great thing about changing career to become an environmental consultant is that, thanks to government policy and public awareness, the sector is increasing all the time. Consultancies are popping up all over the UK to meet this demand, so employment prospects are good.

Employment also depends on the specialist area that you'd like to concentrate on. For instance, in addition to the commercial sector that uses consultancy to obtain planning permission, there are many non-government and wildlife organisations, environmental groups and conservation bodies that continually require the services of environmental consultants. Local, regional and central government groups are always utilising consultancies. The larger consultancies tend to be affiliated with utility providers such as water companies, and waste management service providers. The list seems to increase year upon year.

Importance of Networking

You should continually check websites, papers and industry journals for employment opportunities. However, many vacancies are also filled on personal recommendation, so Networking within the sector is also extremely useful.

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hi guys! i am still doing my degree in environmental and natural resource economics and i am having conflicting thoughts on where i should head in my degree. i am given a choice to so politics or economics units. Both cover VERY general stuff about society and economies and i was wondering what are the importance of both and which is more relavant. And which is more important for my career in the future. I hope to become a consultantand deal with projects/problems that promote sustainable development
mojojoba - 4-Aug-11 @ 2:55 PM
l read Project Management Technology as my first Degree and works in a firm that manages and funds ecological problems. presently l am studying Environmental Planning and Protection as second degree. l want to work as an environmental Consultant majoring in Eironmental Impact Assessment and waste management.l am so much into the environment and wants to keep it healthy (sustainability
mado - 27-Apr-11 @ 4:31 PM
I am an animal scientist (first degree) and Environmental Scientist (second degree) graduate. I have worked protecting the UK poultry industry for 4yrs. I travel 32K pa for the company. I say a blessing each time I see a road kill animal, I want to protect the environment, this is my true calling.
KayDee_Online - 28-Mar-11 @ 10:18 PM
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