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How do I Become an Environmental Consultant?

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  • Written By: Sarah Valek
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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Environmental consultants help businesses ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations and help industries employ more environmentally sustainable practices. The career is based in science and technology. There are many types of environmental consultants, each with different levels of experience. Generally, the first step to become an environmental consultant is to get a bachelor’s degree in a related field like environmental science, environmental engineering, chemistry, biological sciences, hydrogeology or wildlife management. Strive to maintain an interdisciplinary science background to ensure that you have a wide base of knowledge before you can work as an environmental consultant.

Don’t stop at a bachelor’s degree if you want the upper hand in gaining employment. A master’s degree or engineering degree is increasingly necessary to become an environment consultant, especially as the career becomes more competitive. Now is the time to consider specializing. By carving a niche for yourself, you’ll receive specialized training and easily become an expert in your chosen field. Popular specialties include wastewater management, civil engineering, hydrogeology, organic chemistry, conservation and ecology.

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After you have your degree(s), check to see if your state has any licenses or certificates needed to become an environmental consultant. You may need certification on a project-by-project basis. Next, choose who you want to work for. An environmental consultant can work alone as an entrepreneur, with an environmental consulting firm or be hired by a corporation or government agency either as an employee or a contractor. If you work with a business or government agency, you may receive in-house training upon employment. If you’re working alone, you’ll need to find clients and get the word out.

When hiring an environmental consultant, businesses look for someone with excellent communication skills, who can complete projects on time, who has knowledge and experience completing the project they’re applying for, and who has set quality control and quality assurance procedures. To become an environmental consultant, you’ll need to have business skills, be able to work with spreadsheets and be able to present graphs and charts to clients. You also may need a driver's license. Computer skills, data analysis skills, and ability to use a global positioning system (GPS) are also necessary. To become an environmental consultant, you'll also need to be up to date in the latest environmental rules, regulations and laws to ensure your clients are in full compliance.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be an increasing demand for environmental consultants as more businesses integrate environmental concerns into their development and as more industries employ preventative management practices.

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Alchemy
Post 3

What would it take to become an Environmental consultant in the international arena? I assume that multinational corporations must comply with environmental regulations in a number of countries. How do these companies manage their environmental risk? Should I find some sort of niche to specialize? For example, should I focus on learning Mandarin and Chinese law and policy?

cougars
Post 2

@Aplenty- I cannot tell you for sure, but the salary range is probably somewhere between that of an environmental scientist and an environmental engineer. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the middle 50% of environmental scientists, which can include consultants, earn between $45-79k per year. The middle 50% of environmental engineers earn between $57-94k per year. The tops for both professions are about $115k per year.

I would guess that the qualifications and the employer would determine the salary range. On the federal government job site, I have seen top environmental engineer salary ranges above $125k, but these positions require engineering and management skills. If you were working for an environmental consulting agency, you would probably earn on the lower end of the salary range. If you start your own consulting firm, you would be the only limit to potential earnings.

aplenty
Post 1

What is the salary range that an environmental consultant can expect to make? It seems like environmental consulting is a fast growing industry, especially considering international and federal laws regarding the environment are in a state of uncertainty. I read somewhere that renewable energy is set to see explosive growth because of a number of factors including stricter environmental regulations, so I would assume these regulations would cause growth in other environmental industries.

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