Everything You Need To Know About Environmental Consulting

Co-authored by Neha Bhalla

Not sure which environmental field is right for you? Have you considered environmental consulting? We’ve researched everything you need to know! Read on to see if it’s right for you.

What is environmental consulting?

Although environmental consultants (ECs) can fill many roles, their general job function is to ensure that their clients abide by all environmental regulations. This includes a broad range of services, such as compliance testing, sampling, technical tasks, report research, and writing. Consultants can work in various industries, focusing on waste management, pollution control, environmental policy, etc. 

What are the benefits of being an environmental consultant?

Environmental consulting is a great way to explore many different sectors within the environmental field, pursue freelance opportunities, and gain a lot of transferable skills. ECs can often have more flexible hours than others, and depending on the type of work they are assigned to, may get to travel a lot. Consultants often have access to a company car or credit card, allowing them to purchase meals for clients or make business-based transactions. Finally, ECs work with many clients, which allows them to build a vast environmental network through their jobs. 

What are the downsides to being an environmental consultant?

Like any career, there are some notable downsides that are worth considering; it is imperative to ensure that any job allows ample work-life balance and aligns with your values. Some companies may require you to track your billable hours and work overtime to get the job done. With this level of autonomy comes a lot of expected trust and self-motivation. On that note, it can be difficult to stay motivated, as some aspects of environmental consulting (collecting samples, analyzing data, etc.) can be monotonous to some. On the other hand, it may be hard to stay motivated when dealing with difficult clients. 

Some consulting agencies work with initiatives that may not be all that environmental in the long run; before you apply, be sure to evaluate all of a business’s practices to make sure your values align.

How much money do environmental consultants make? 

According to Indeed, the median average salary for ECs is about $69,000 per year. However, as with any job, this figure varies widely depending on how many years you have spent in the field, your location, the type of work that you do, and the type of company you work for. 

ECs do typically make more than their peers with similar experience working in non-profits or government positions. 

What skills are required to become an environmental consultant? 

Environmental consulting is a type of job — not necessarily a job title. For example, you might be a project manager that works for an environmental consulting or engineering firm. That said, there are some basic skills that all ECs need that will be combined with the technical expertise required for the specific job description.  Many ECs need to be just as skilled behind a computer as they are presenting to clients. ECs need to be skilled in collecting and analyzing environmental data regarding contamination, pollution, radiation, etc. After evaluating whether those levels meet environmental regulations, the consultant will have to communicate their findings to their clients. A key part of this job is being able to condense very complicated information into understandable points so clients can understand why the consultant is making their recommendation. 

What kind of educational background do environmental consultants come from?

ECs often major in fields like environmental science, chemical engineering, or geology. You might also benefit from a minor in business, communications, or public relations. No matter what ECs major in, they must have a thorough understanding of environmental policies and regulations, taking pollution samples, data analysis, etc. as well as soft skills like communication and writing. 

However, one of the reasons environmental consulting is so appealing is because it is a great bridge into the environmental field from other industries. Since the soft skills of environmental consulting can be acquired through other consulting roles, individuals who have these soft skills, and certain certifications that showcase environmental knowledge, can still be eligible candidates for these roles. 

What certifications can environmental consultants get?

If you have the skills to become an EC through your previous line of work, there are a variety of ways to learn the environmental knowledge you need. The most efficient way to show employers you are knowledgeable enough to work in environmental consulting, despite not having any formal environmental education, is getting a certification. Some relevant certifications include the Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professional’s CEP Certification, the LEED AP, or OSHA’s Certified Environmental Professional course.

Who is hiring environmental consultants?

Consultants may work independently or with large and sometimes global conglomerates. Although private companies are usually the ones who employ consultants, those consultants often work with government or defense contracts. 

Additionally, environmental consulting opens the door to work in many industries.  ECs traditionally work in construction or real estate; consultants can either work directly for the construction or real estate company, or will work for an environmental consulting agency and have several companies as their clients. However, demand for this type of job is growing rapidly, as companies ranging from Fortune 500s to small start-ups begin to understand the need for this field. 

How to get started:

If you are a student and interested in this emerging field of environmental professionals, you might be interested in The Environmental Career Coach’s new Environmental Consulting/Management Training Program. This program is designed for career seekers to learn the skills they will need to be an environmental consultant or manager (for example, communication, project management, GIS, web design, etc.) while working on a range of projects and learning how to manage themselves as a freelancer. We plan to launch in fall 2021, so if you’re interested, fill out our interest form to be the first notified of any updates about applying! 

Beyond our program, if you’re looking to start in environmental consulting, the best way you can learn about the job is by connecting with ECs on LinkedIn and leveraging your network to learn about the day-to-day tasks in this job. Get some opportunities to learn the skills mentioned above, through volunteering, joining a board or advisory committee, or job shadowing working environmental consultants.



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