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Master of Environment graduates: Which careers will suit you best?

James Davis

Careers Commentator
The enormous scope of opportunities unlocked by this degree make career decisions hard. Fortunately, we’re here to lay out some of the most desirable choices and who they’re best suited to.

Master of Environment programs, like those offered by Macquarie and similar institutions, provide graduates with numerous opportunities to make the world greener. Units in relevant science, environmental management, air and water quality control, pollution control, environmental health and many more create branching pathways. So, this article will guide you through three popular careers, what professionals in those fields do and what sort of person the careers are best suited to. Each salary mentioned is drawn from Payscale Australia’s average annual salary for that role, roughly representing a mid-career package based on user submitted data.

Policy advisor - $81,240 pa

These professionals advise government bodies on what policy actions to take, which in your case will be policy in regard to the environment. They make use of broad socio-economic knowledge in addition to climate science, making the job ideally suited to graduates from these programs. Due to the varied nature of problems governments experience regarding public works, infrastructure and sustainability initiatives, the services of policy advisors are sorely needed across a spectrum of tasks. They provide essential knowledge of what the consequences of any given environmental policy may be.

This role is ideally suited to those who enjoy pondering complex problems and don’t mind thinking broadly. Policy advisors must be willing to engage with knowledge from many domains to be as informed as possible. They must also possess exceptional communication skills, for they must regularly boil down their complicated reasoning into page-long briefs that can be easily understood. If you don’t mind continually updating your socio-economic, political, environmental and scientific knowledge and have a penchant for breaking down complex ideas into simple explanations, this could be a perfect role for you.

Environmental consultant - $64,162 pa

These professionals can serve a similar role to policy advisors, but can work in the private sector advising corporations as to how they can be environmentally conscientious. They answer key questions, such as how we can reduce water contamination, air pollution or dispose of waste properly. They can be the moral compass pointing to practical, green solutions. Environmental consultants can’t expect a standard, well-defined day-to-day set of activities. The problems they deal with and the manner they go about solving them vary between sectors, times, locations, financial and societal positions. They must act not only in the best interests of their employer, but stakeholders in wider society too.

As a result, this is a job for the adaptable. Environmental consultants must be prepared to go anywhere and tackle all manner of complex problems. If you see yourself as a capable problem solver, don’t get overwhelmed by pressure and adapt quickly to new surroundings, this could be the job for you. Those with an unwillingness to frequently uproot and change routine may find the job intolerable. By similar token, it could also be a chance to escape one’s comfort zone.

Environmental scientist - $66,734

These are the people working on the specifics. How do we go about cleaning up the environment? What’s causing air pollution in this area? What’s causing the contamination in the water? Environmental scientists hypothesise, test and evaluate problems and solutions to pressing environmental issues. Their insights often factor into decisions made by the previous two professions. They spend their time in the field gathering data or conducting experiments in a lab. There’s a lot of cross-pollination between these professionals and more advisory professions too; governments and private bodies may regularly seek your findings and expertise.

This broad domain is best suited to those who are comfortable with experimental rigour, patience and persistence. Although there’s plenty of variety, being able to stick with one problem at a time for extended periods, perhaps months or years, is an essential quality. Strict adherence to order of operations and procedures are necessary. If you’re someone who craves regular breaks from routine, this may not be the job for you at times. Curiosity and genuine interest in your work is paramount. Without the burning desire to discover the origin of a pollutant or how it can be combated, it’ll be hard to stick with the job.

You should now have a better idea of a few popular environmental career pathways. As you can see, the opportunity for overlap and horizontal mobility is possible. You can spend time developing solutions as a scientist and later advise public policy or CSR-compliant decision making. Whatever you choose however, you’ll be in one of the most important fields of our century. For that reason, we wish you all the best.