The growing focus on environmental issues, such as climate change, has led to a considerable expansion in environment-related jobs. Industry, business and government sectors are increasingly recognising the importance of incorporating environmental perspectives into their policy and practice, resulting in a high demand for environmental knowledge and expertise. Environmental careers are often multidisciplinary in nature, which makes them especially flexible, rewarding and interesting. The range of career options in the public and private sectors is broad and not restricted to a specific area.

The work

The Australian Government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) considers science and environment occupations to include environment and agricultural scientists, forestry and soil professionals, geologists, geophysicists and park rangers.

Environmental scientists and others working in the environment sector can be involved in a range of tasks, including: undertaking environmental research; developing conservation plans or programs to minimise the impact of industrial, agricultural and urban processes on the environment; educating the community on environmental issues; investigating and reporting breaches of environmental guidelines; responding to emergencies such as chemical spills and accidents; assisting in developing policies, strategies and codes of practice for environmental management; and conducting environmental audits.

Environmental careers in the public sector are generally grouped in the areas of environmental management, research, regulation and policy development. In the private sector there are many opportunities for environmental specialists. Private companies, especially those involved with petrol, oil and mining, must incorporate sustainable practices (social, economic and environmental) into all levels of their operations.

What you need

  • Environmental science degree or generalist degree with Environmental major encouraged
  • Other degree courses that can lead to a career in the environment: Arts, Environmental engineering, Agricultural science, Journalism, Ecotourism and Environmental law
  • Many degree courses relevant to environmental careers are interdisciplinary and will include units in environmental planning, policy and management in conjunction with studies in one of the biological sciences

Graduate salary ranges for selected relevant occupations are as follows:

  • Conservation officer: $37,000–$51,700
  • Environmental consultant: $43,000–$55,000
  • Environmental engineer: $50,000–$58,000
  • Environmental research scientist: $42,000–$52,000

(Figures are taken from the Australian Graduate Survey 2008, GCA. Ranges refer to the middle 50 per cent of salaries for bachelor degree graduates with permanent residency, in full-time employment in Australia October 2007 to April 2008.)

Industry at a glance

  • 21,500 environmental scientists, 2009
  • 85% male workforce (forestry and logging)
  • Positive outlook (40% growth: environmental scientists, 2008–09)

(Source: www.joboutlook.gov.au.)

 Further Resources

Careers in the Environment