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Environmental Management and Policy

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Careers in Environmental Management and Policy

Population and economic growth pressures are creating complex environmental problems that directly impact all aspects of human society. Sustainable development, once the cutting edge of environmental issues, is now expanding to incorporate education, governance and democracy, poverty reduction, public health, security, and economic strategy along with traditional environmental fields of agriculture, natural resource management, pollution abatement and conservation. For example, waste management cannot be addressed with simply landfill policies, but must incorporate smart growth, recycling, emission capture, and creation of markets to turn waste into a useful commodity.

Challenges for today’s international environmental policy analysts include: controlling global climate change, considering environmental regulations in treaties and trade agreements, creating environmentally and economically sustainable development, and helping the private sector find ways to incorporate environmental concerns into business planning. In much of the world, basic environmental management such as water resources, wetlands protection and restoration, and environmental health are also very important developments as economic progress puts stress on existing systems.

Career-related activities within this field include policy and scientific research, environmental education and advocacy, regulatory and legislative design, technical assistance to government agencies for planning and management, regulatory compliance and enforcement, and entrepreneurial development in environmental products and services.

Career Paths

Entry level positions in international environmental policy can be found in government, private industry, international organizations, and research, non-profit and non-governmental organizations.

The U.S. federal government is the largest single employer in the environmental career world. While the Environmental Protection Agency is the agency traditionally associated with environmental policy development in the U.S., including international environmental policy, many federal agencies pursue international environmental activities, including agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Food and Drug Administration. One program that provides entry into the federal government is the Presidential Management Fellowship program, which has a starting salary in the low forties.

The private sector has both traditional businesses and consulting firms. Traditional businesses seek qualified managers to work in environmental compliance programs, to incorporate environmental concerns into business strategies, to improve performance by waste reduction and energy efficiency, and to develop sustainable strategies. Environmental consulting firms provide technical assistance to both domestic and foreign government agencies as they work on environmental problems and solutions. They need both administrative managers who write and manage the contract proposals and technical experts who provide the research for various tasks in an awarded contract. Starting as a contract employee with a consulting firm might provide an entry point into environmental consulting. While starting salaries are not unusually high, income is often supplemented with additional compensation or benefits for staff that travel overseas regularly.

Qualifications Necessary

In most cases, a graduate degree is essential to success in the international environmental field. Programs in public policy, environmental management, international relations, public health or law can provide some of the necessary skills. SPEA offers joint degrees, allowing students to get skills in both policy analysis and environmental science. Expertise in regional politics and economics are helpful in understanding economic, political, and social consequences of environmental policy decisions. An environmental science background is also valuable in positions where specialized knowledge is important.

For those who wish to pursue international work, foreign language skills and overseas field experience are desirable to potential employers and highly recommended. GIS and information technology skills are also valuable.

Potential Employers

U.S. Federal Government:

Private Sector:

Research, Non-Profit and Non-Governmental Organizations:

International Organizations:

State Government:

Each state has its own department of Environmental Conservation. Example: Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM);

Online Resources & Networking: