APU Careers Careers & Learning Environmental

Careers Spotlight: Environmental Policy and Management

Have you imagined yourself in a career solving the environmental challenges facing the world today? Are you thinking about a transition to a field of study that impacts the way governments and organizations manage their resources and how they impact the environment? A wave of opportunities has arrived and education may be your bridge to an exciting career in environmental policy and management.

Due to its multiple disciplines, environmental policy and management spans a wide scope of environmental issues, technology and solutions. By its very nature, it appeals to motivated individuals who are self-directed and seek the freedom to specialize in an area of study. A core understanding of modern science, technology, politics, economics, resource planning and management, and how these elements integrate into a constantly changing paradigm is essential. Many who choose this career path are strong analytical thinkers and continually turn to education to stay abreast of emerging trends, innovations and best practices.

Does education pay long-term dividends for environmental careers? The answer is irrefutably yes. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “College graduates age 25 and over earn nearly twice as much as workers who stopped with a high school diploma.” Professionals and new graduates holding environmental policy degrees are in high demand. Today, environmental management is at the core of U.S. consciousness and there is a concerted push among federal and state agencies to spur environmental careers in an effort to supplant the sharp decline in manufacturing jobs. The Pew Charitable Trusts released a June 2009 study entitled, “The Clean Energy Economy,” which states, “The number of jobs in America’s emerging clean energy economy grew nearly two and a half times faster than overall jobs between 1998 and 2007.”

The report follows the signing of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment plan by President Obama, which signifies the country’s commitment to leading environmental policy through job creation. As a result, federal and state governments are accelerating job growth and promoting policy changes that provide grants, investments and tax advantages for businesses that promote clean energy and significantly reduce environmental impact. 

The Pew Charitable Trusts state, “Clean energy economy is creating well-paying jobs in every state for people of all skill levels and educational backgrounds. This includes in Pew’s definition diverse jobs such as engineers, plumbers, administrative assistants, construction workers, machine setters, marketing consultants, teachers and many others, with annual incomes ranging from $21,000 to $111,000.”

Federal organizations supporting environmental policy and management careers include:

Foreign Agricultural Service Department of State, Bureau of International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Forest Service – Environmental Protection Agency Office of International Affairs
-Department of Environmental Network and Information Exchange – House Committee on Energy and Commerce
– Department of Energy – House Committee on Resources
– Department of Health and Human Services  – Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
– Food and Drug Administration – Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
– Fish and Wildlife Service – Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and consulting corporations are also pushing to stay ahead of the curve by attracting the best and talented human capital. Individuals holding graduate degrees demonstrate the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful for private industry and government careers alike. The following jobs are a sample of the many career options available to environmental policy and management graduates in the private and public sectors today:

– Climate and Energy Analyst – Environmental Professional – Project Controls Engineer
– Conservation Coordinator – Environmental Protection Analyst – Project Coordinator
– Consultant – Environmental Specialist – Program Leader, Fuel Science, & Technology Policy
– Criminal Investigator – Environmental or Transportation Planner – Project Manager
– Director Ecological Exposure Research – Executive Director – Public Educator / Professor
– Electricity Analyst – Information Systems Planner – Public Policy Analyst
– Enforcement Officer – Lobbyist – Research and Data Analyst
– Engineering Technician – Natural Resources Manager – Supervisory Life Scientist
– Energy Auditor – Outreach Coordinator – Sustainable Energy Expert
– Environmental Biologist – Physical / Life Scientist – Sustainability Initiatives Manager
– Environmental Lawyer – Policy Advocate – Safety Environmental Coordinator
– Environmental Planner – Program Administrator – Volunteer Coordinator
    – Water Quality Planner

American Public University System is a valuable resource for individuals seeking career change or job advancement. The University System has been at the forefront of online education and has helped link students to their aspiring careers since 1991. Affordability, convenience, flexibility and experienced faculty are key advantages APUS provides students in all areas of study, including its Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Management programs.

“Our program attracts people from all walks of life who want a professional development degree or a career transition and have an interest in the environment,” says Dr. Carol A. Pollio, Director of the Master of Science in Environmental Management program. “We have graduates placed into environmental positions in the federal government, environmental consultancies and as military environmental officers.”

Students are immersed in a program that balances its curriculum with research and problem solving skills, which mirror the profession. Students study ecosystems management, environmental impact of industrialization, environmental law, ethics, policy, conservation, political ecology and environmental technology and management. In addition to the core requirements, bachelor of science students have the option to explore one of four concentrations offered—Environmental Technology and Management, Fish and Wildlife Management, General, and Regional and Community Environmental Planning. 

Master of science students choose from four concentrations—Environmental Planning, Environmental Sustainability, General, and Global Environmental Management. The programs are a blend of curriculum, research and management development, and are applicable to the environmental profession. They also serve as a foundation for advanced studies including doctorate level degrees in related fields.

“What sets APUS apart is that we recruit and hire practitioners in the field,” Dr. Pollio explains. “Our instructors have practical experience and specialties such as environmental toxicology or water treatment. Instructors also work in the field, holding positions at Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to name a couple.”

The Environmental Policy and Management program strives to provide students with the most up-to-date research and training. The program recently introduced a renewable energy course within its sustainability program in support of the Renewable Energy Provisions of the Recovery Act. It has since emerged as a widely popular program amongst incoming students. Dr. Pollio believes this “on-the-ground” approach ensures students are well equipped to advance in their profession after graduation.

Whether or not students have identified a concentration prior to enrollment, the program’s core requirements teach a comprehensive overview of the field of study. As students progress, they are exposed to different specializations. “If someone wasn’t sure where to focus in the big picture of environmental policy and management, they can work towards any concentration. Several students have come in and changed to new programs such as sustainability and global environmental management,” says Dr. Pollio. “Students receive career guidance that best suits their needs.” Graduate student, Marie Raffay agrees, “I was at a point in my life where I wanted to recreate myself and APUS helped me discover where I want to go with my career.”

A key strength of the program is that it challenges students to analyze and propose solutions to environmental dilemmas by utilizing effective program management tools currently used in the workforce. “Students must select a controversial project. They work through public participation to goals and objectives. Their end project is a working draft of an adaptive management plan,” says Dr. Pollio.

Instructors have mentored students to develop analyze and create solutions regarding Cap and Trade, global warming, nuclear power construction and highway proposals. “Students walk through a project in a safe environment. They discuss it with classmates and instructors,” she says. The combination of academic learning combined with practical experience provided by instructors has led to viable solutions. “We had one student propose a recycling program in the hospital where she was working,” says Dr. Pollio. “She went to her leadership with her plan and they implemented it.”

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