Spotlight on Careers!

Competitive advantage of being accepted into graduate school

The large majority of environmental master’s programs require a bachelor’s degree, not necessarily in a related field. However, applicants to these graduate programs are viewed more positively if they have some prior experience and education in environmental studies. Thus, students with bachelor’s degrees in unrelated fields who complete this certificate are significantly more competitive when applying to environment-related master’s programs than those without this certificate.


Seeking a new career path

This program provides those who cannot attend a full four-year degree program the opportunity to gain a knowledge base in the field without spending the time and money that is required for a bachelor’s degree. For many entry level positions in environmental science listed on, candidates must have at least one year of education or experience in the field in order to be considered. For some entry-level positions, the completion of this program could fulfill this minimum requirement. For non-entry level positions that require more than one year of experience and education, a graduate degree is required, for which this program will provide a competitive advantage to the student.


Environmental Specialists are in demand, and will be for a long time!

Students who successfully complete this certificate will understand the complex connectivity of people and places, be able to make practical decisions involving the interconnectedness of the physical environment and society, and will provide the insight for wise management decisions about how to best utilize our planet’s limited resources. This latter point is perhaps most significant, given the reality that major changes in regards to the environment are currently being made and will continue to be made in the near future. Solving these complex issues requires a holistic and interdisciplinary perspective, which the field of environmental studies provides.


Employment in this field is projected to grow 11% from 2014-2024, faster than the national growth of all occupations of 7%. This growth is attributed to heightened public interest in issues facing the environment, as well as our growing population.


Environmental scientists and specialists are employed by several different industries. The breakdown (for 2014) is as follows:


Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 23%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 22%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 13%
Engineering services 10%
Federal government, excluding postal service 6%


Of the 94,600 jobs in 2014, 23% were in the management, scientific, and technical consulting services. Within this industry, environmental consultants help businesses minimize their impacts on the environment through careful monitoring of regulations and development of practices that conserve resources. This industry is projected to have the most growth over the next ten years. In addition, it is expected that planners and contractors will have an increased need for environmental scientists and specialists to assist in land use planning and the construction of buildings and new transportation systems that have limited impacts on the environment. Employment growth in the consulting industry aside, a majority of employment will remain in federal, local, and state governments.



2015 Median Pay $67,460 per year/$32.43 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s Degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the Job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 94,600
Job Outlook, 2014-24 11% (faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 10,200

*Bureau of Labor Statistics



Environmental educators and professionals are of great appeal to employers; they are well-rounded with experience in a wide array of fields and have a varied mix of skills that employers want to see. Employers of environmental scientists and specialists look for five main skills in applicants: analytical, communication, interpersonal, problem-solving, and self-discipline.


Completing an environmental studies program develops skills in “numeracy, teamwork through regular field trips, analytical skills in the lab and a certain technical savviness… also, the subject area cultivates a world view and a certain cultural sensitivity,” enabling environmentalists to thrive in the job market[1]. In fact, environmental scientists have a relatively low level of unemployment of 5.0%[2], compared to 10.4% for college graduates at a similar time[3]; geoscientists, a related position, has a mere 3.2% unemployment rate.


Completion of the certificate will prepare students for graduate school and/or entry level positions as a(n):

  • Environmental planner
  • Analyst and scientist for government agencies
  • Researcher, writer, journalist, and activist for private environmental organizations
  • Educator
  • Outreach Specialist
  • Climate Change Analyst
  • Environmental Health Specialists
  • Environmental Restoration Planner
  • Industrial Ecologists
  • Environmental Chemist
  • Water Control Inspector
  • Water Conservationist
  • Watershed Manager
  • Energy Impact Assessor
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Environmental Lawyers
  • Environmental Auditor
  • Historical Preservationist
  • Land Acquisition Analyst
  • Open Space and Recreation Planner
  • Solid Waste and Recycling Specialist
  • Sustainability Manager


Students will not necessarily become one of the above after completing the program; rather, they will be prepared to either continue their education in graduate school, which will then lead to becoming one of the above professionals, or will gain the basic foundation needed for an entry level position in one of the above fields.


[1] White, A. (2010). What makes psychology and geography grads the most employable? The Guardian.

[2] O’Shaughnessy, L. (2011). 25 college majors with lowest unemployment rates. CBS Money Watch.

[3] Wething, H., Sabadish, N. and Shierholz, H. (2012). The class of 2012. Labor market for young graduates remains grim. Economic Policy Institute.