In my pursuit of an environmental management career, I repeatedly run into some form of the question: “What does that entail and what kind of environmental degree is required?”
Admittedly, it’s a difficult question to answer. For me, environmental management takes the form of policy-making, analysis, and economics. But the pathways, specializations, and opportunities within it are endless. You get to forge your own environmental management career.
What binds all the specializations together is their collective focus on making the world a healthier, greener, more equitable place to live for all life on Earth. A career in environmental management is best understood as a dedication to supporting the environment in whatever way you connect with, with whatever aptitudes you have.
Deciding whether a career in environmental management is right for you is an exciting journey, but one that deserves a good deal of thoughtful consideration. Let’s delve into it.
Undergraduate Environmental Degrees
One of the environmental field’s greatest strengths it how interdisciplinary it is. That means you’ll likely be able to find connections to the environment no matter what you major in. Still, enrolling in an undergrad program with explicit ties to the environment, like Environmental Studies or Sustainability, would equip you with a honed skillset for analyzing environmental issues. Some top environmental programs and schools include:
BA/BS in Environmental Studies
- San Jose State University, CA
- San Francisco State University, CA
- California State University, CA
- Oregon State University, OR
- University of Washington, WA
- Baylor University, TX
- University of Houston, TX
- Drew University, NJ
- Lawrence University, NY
- British Columbia Institute of Technology, BC, Canada
- Florida State University, FL
- Michigan State University, MI
- Ball State University, IN
- Royal Roads University, BC
- Murdoch University, Western Australia
- The University of Adelaide, Southern Australia
- University of North Dakota, ND
- University of Northern Colorado, CO
- The University of New Mexico, NM
- San Diego State University, CA
- Elon University, NC
- University of Maryland College Park, MD
These undergraduate programs all filter into starting a career in the environmental management field. Better yet, each pave the way for you to receive further education in environmental management should you decide that option makes sense for you.
Graduate Environmental Degrees
A graduate degree will propel your career forward by allowing you to take more prominent roles within the teams and organizations you work with. Think of it like this: Instead of being a research assistant, you have a good chance of being a project manager after some initial experience. You’ll be in the field yourself instead of crunching data or authoring write-ups for those who are. A degree from a leading environmental management program offers far more than a mere monetary return on investment; it’s a career-changer. Here are some excellent programs:
- Master of Environmental Management, Portland State University, OR
- Master of Environmental Management, University of North Dakota, ND
- Master of Environmental Management, Duke University, NC
- Master of Science in Environmental Management, Webster University, MO
- Master of Science in Environmental Management, University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany
- Master in Environmental Policy & Management, University of Denver, CO
- PhD in Environmental Science & Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
Environmental management degrees prepare you for a diverse array of environmental careers. Below are the primary ones along with a brief description for each concentration:
Coastal Resources Management – Focuses on interactions between human societies and coastal environments. Involves marine biology, conservation policy, water quality management, and physical ocean processes.
Environmental Communications – Focuses on how individuals, societal institutions, and cultures communicate messages about the interaction between humans and the environment. Deals with interpersonal communication, society decision-making communication, and environmental media coverage.
Environmental Design – Focuses on how to design products, buildings, programs, etc. in ways that take environmental impacts and constraints into account.
Energy – Focuses on sustainable energy and how political, economic, and scientific forces interact to shape the current and future energy landscape.
Regulation and Policy – Focuses on the complex interactions between government, society, markets, and the environment. Attempts to reach an equitable relationship between the four groups, and to use policymaking as guidelines for better environmental outcomes.
Waste Management – Focuses on purifying natural resources like water, land, and air via smart and environmentally-friendly waste management. As such, it has connections with various forms of pollution as well as public health.
Ecological Conservation – Combines natural sciences, policy, and management issues together to conserve natural resources and wildlife. Involves geospatial analysis, ecosystem services, and field surveys.
Urban Planning – Focuses on urban development and how the world’s increasing number of cities can flourish in pragmatic and sustainable ways. Also focuses on how environmental impact of urban areas may be minimized, and how cities may have a healthier relationship with the natural environment (urban greenspace, waste management, etc.).
As you can see, the environmental management field is quite broad. Its breadth is also its strength. If you are an individual who is passionate about the environment, there’s a good chance you’d find something within the field compelling, and would make a great environmental management professional.
We all know the world needs more environmental managers out there helping to keep the world clean and green!
Darren studied Economics and Environmental Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and studied Environmental Economics abroad in Aarhus, Denmark. He is now pursuing a Masters in Environmental Management (MEM) at Duke University, where he studies Environmental Economics & Policy.
He is passionate about many things, but writing and sustainability more than most. In his free time, he likes reading articles about environmental topics, geopolitics, and fascinating new tech developments. He also enjoys watching and playing strategic video games.