The health of our environment depends a lot on the decisions that governments and companies make. So does our own health, because pollution can make us sick. Often, these decisions are made with the help of scientists, economists, planners and policy experts; ones who specialize in understanding and protecting our environment.
Here’s an example: A few years ago, the New York City government created some rules to help make buildings more energy efficient. That is, to help buildings use less energy to operate, like provide heat and light. Those rules were designed by experts in the field. They understood the complicated ways that buildings use energy and how new rules could help them use less.
Our local, state and federal governments aren’t the only ones who need advice and experts to help them decide about how to protect the environment. Companies and other big institutions, like hospitals and school systems, do, too.
As Americans become more concerned about the environment, there are a growing number of jobs in this field. Almost all of them are for people with college degrees. Often, graduate degrees are needed, as well. Of course, organizations that do this work also need help from office workers and maintenance people, technology specialists, and people in other fields.
Some jobs in this field—especially at not-for-profit organizations, in government, and at colleges and universities can be very hard to come by. Not-for-profit organizations have been set up to carry out a mission, instead of simply to make money. These jobs can also be very rewarding.
There are five large employers in this field. They include government, not-for-profit groups, private companies and community institutions, colleges and universities, and consulting groups. Consulting groups are private companies made up of experts, along with the kinds of support staff many businesses have including clerks, building maintenance, and other jobs. Governments, businesses and others hire consulting groups to learn about environmental conditions. Consulting groups also advise them about how to create and follow laws and policies that protect land, water and wildlife.
Jobs in government: Many of the jobs in this field are in government. That makes sense: Governments make a myriad of rules about how things should be done. And, often, governments are the ones planning for society’s future.
Many federal agencies offer jobs in environmental research, design and policy. These agencies include:
- the Army Corps of Engineers
- the Bureau of Land Management
- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- the Department of Defense
- the Department of Energy
- the Department of Housing and Urban Development
- the Department of Justice
- the Department of Labor
- the Department of the Interior
- the Department of Transportation
- the Environmental Protection Agency
- the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
- the Fish and Wildlife Service
- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- the U.S. Agency for International Development
- the U.S. Department of Agriculture
- the U.S. Forest Service
- the U.S. Geological Survey
- the White House Council on Environmental Quality
(For a link to a full list of federal agencies, check the end of this section.)
New York state agencies are also involved in environmental policy, research, planning and design. New York state agencies include:
- Department of Environmental Conservation
- Department of Transportation
- Dormitory Authority
- Environmental Facilities Corporation
- Metropolitan Transportation Authority
- New York Power Authority
- Energy Research & Development Authority
- Office of General Services
- Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation
- State University of New York
(Again, check the end of this section for a link to a full list of New York state agencies.)
New York City agencies are involved in environmental policy, research, planning and design, as well. These agencies include:
- The Department of City Planning
- The City University of New York (CUNY)
- The Department of Citywide Administrative Services
- The New York City Economic Development Corporation
- The Office of Environmental Coordination
- The Department of Environmental Protection
- The Office of Environmental Remediation
- The Office of the Food Policy Coordinator
- The Health and Hospitals Corporation
- The New York City Housing Authority
- The Department of Housing Preservation and Development
- Housing Recovery Operations
- The Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability
- The Department of Parks and Recreation
- The Procurement Policy Board
- The Department of Sanitation
- The Department of Transportation
(The same goes here: A link to a full list of New York City agencies is at the end of this section.)
Cities and towns on Long Island and in Westchester also have jobs in these fields. You can usually find them listed on the websites of local governments in these areas.
Jobs at Not-For-Profit Organizations:
Not-for-profit organizations often want to influence the environmental decisions that governments, companies and regular people make. For instance, many not-for-profits are working with state governments to figure out how to lower global-warming pollution. To do this work, not-for-profits need researchers and experts in policy and design.
Here in New York City, there are many fantastic environmental not-for-profits that do this kind of work. One of New York City’s biggest environmental not-for-profits is the Natural Resources Defense Council. It is responsible for such important accomplishments as the international mercury treaty, the treaty will help stop mercury pollution around the world, and U.S. energy-efficiency standards that cut pollution as they save us money on energy. Other New York City non-profit organizations that work in this field are the Environmental Defense Fund, Audubon, the American Museum of Natural History, Environment New York, Hazon, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and the Community Environmental Center.
These are only a few of the organizations doing this kind of work. The job listing websites below, especially Idealist.org, can help you find listings at many non-profits. One of the great things about the Idealist website is that it allows you to search using terms that make it easy to find jobs in the fields you’re interested in.
Jobs in Private Businesses and Community Institutions: More and more, private companies and community institutions like hospitals are becoming concerned about how they effect the environment. These companies have begun to hire people to help their leaders and staff understand their effects and find ways to improve what they do. Often, the jobs these companies and institutions have available are for engineers, scientists, architects, supply-chain managers, and sustainability managers.
Jobs at Colleges and Universities: Colleges and universities are involved in important research that helps us understand how the natural world works. Their employees also study the effects of pollution and help figure out new ways to solve environmental problems.
Many colleges and universities in the New York City area are leaders in this field. They include the City University of New York, Columbia University, Fordham University, the New School, New York University, Pratt Institute, and SUNY Stonybrook.
Colleges and universities have jobs for professors. These jobs are especially hard to come by and often require PhDs or other advanced degrees. Colleges and universities also have jobs for laboratory technicians, field researchers, administrators, support staff, technologists, and many others.
Jobs with Consulting Groups: Consulting groups are made up of experts who offer their knowledge and services to governments, businesses, community institutions and others. The New York City area has many environmental consulting groups that work in a wide range of issues, from brownfield remediation, to energy efficiency, to food policy.
For more information about the kinds of training and education you might need to work in environmental research, design, policy and consulting, check out the Research, Design and Consulting webpage of the Green Careers Center at CareerOneStop.org. The federal government put CareerOneStop.org together to help people find work. CareerOneStop.org can also help you learn about salaries and benefits, and other useful information.
Another helpful website is the Green Job Bank. General job-search websites, like Indeed.com and LinkedIn.com, are good places to look, too. To find environmental consulting firms in New York City and around the country, you can do an Internet search for “environmental consulting firms.”
To begin your job search, check out the websites below.
Job Boards and Other Resources
Colleges and University Job Listings and Resources
Local, State and Federal Government Job Boards
Lists of Local, State and Federal Government Agencies