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How to Become an Environmental Manager | A Thorough Examination

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There have been constant concerns over the rate of environmental degradation in the last couple of decades. Each year, humans extract an estimated 55 billion tons of metals, fossil energy, biomass, and minerals from the earth. Also, at least 1,692 acres of arable land become deserts every hour. More and more organizations and communities strive to implement environmentally friendly practices. If you have a strong passion for the environment, you can channel this passion to helping preserve the environment. But first, you need to learn more about becoming an environmental manager, their duties, skills, and salary expectations.

What is Environmental Management?

Environmental management is an expansive field that focuses on monitoring, controlling, and minimizing the adverse effects of human activity on the environment. Most professionals in environmental management work with specific industries and businesses to improve their environmental friendliness and make essential contributions to the eco-space.

Environmental management cuts across all sectors, from government agencies and major technology manufacturers to renewable energy firms and automakers. Another field closely related to environmental management is environmental engineering.

Who is an Environmental Manager?

An environmental manager is a trained professional who provides eco-friendly solutions to businesses and organizations. Environmental managers have a solid knowledge of environmental policies, sustainability methods, occupational health, and safety guidelines. They also use their knowledge to apply scientific approaches in conserving the qualities of the earth in places such as mountain ranges, forests, parks, and other natural locations.

Duties of an Environmental Manager

Environmental managers perform different tasks, depending on their work and job demands. However, their primary role is to ensure that organizations stay within the frame of sustainability practices. These are some of the responsibilities of an environmental manager:

  • Teach industrial workers about environmental programs and policies.
  • Supervise coworkers’ day-to-day activities, maintaining environmental management systems (EMS).
  • Meet with clients to understand their needs.
  • Respond to questions and challenges concerning environmental management systems.
  • Carry out regular environmental regulation audits to ascertain the level of emissions, contamination, and damages.
  • Analyze environmental problems and generate workable action plans.
  • Stay updated with the latest environmental trends and legislation.
  • Adhere to, and enforce environmental policies and procedures.
  • Evaluate and suggest new methods to improve existing environmental strategies.
  • Research the environment and create reports.
  • Suggest cost reduction measures for environmental projects without compromising quality.
  • Design waste management processes, research waste treatment procedures, and supervise pollution reduction measures.
  • Offer job training and help to other team members.
  • Develop operational budgets and timelines for environmental projects.
  • Read scientific reports and environmental topics to educate people on local ecosystems, environmental best practices, and emerging technologies.
  • Communicate with previous team members and clients to offer direction when needed.
  • Supervise employees provided by a client for the environmental effort of the organization.
  • Study clients’ construction projects and highlight potential environmental risks and solutions.

Steps to Becoming an Environmental Manager

These steps will provide all the information needed to kickstart your environmental manager career:

Step 1. Get a Bachelor’s Degree

Prospective environmental managers should look for bachelor’s degree programs in related fields. A four-year program covers ecology, geology, environmental science, or environmental conservation coursework. Students will also learn about biology, biochemistry, prevention, disaster, and sustainability in environmental issues in these degree programs.

Step 2. Consider Internship

While studying for a bachelor’s degree, and even after earning a degree, prospective environmental managers can improve their knowledge of the industry through internship programs. Internship programs also provide valuable opportunities to gain professional experience. Additionally, interns have the chance to get hands-on experience in research and how to work with non-profit organizations and government. Many colleges offer internship opportunities, but you can connect with a professional if your college does not provide such.

Step 3. Earn a Master’s Degree

Although a master’s degree is not required to get environmental manager positions, earning one can significantly improve your resume and stand you out to hiring managers. Also, pursuing a master’s degree allows professionals to concentrate on a specific field of environmental management. Master’s degree programs in environmental management generally offer advanced coursework in energy and sustainability management, environmental management, and health, among others.

Step 4. Gain Experience in Related Position

Gaining experience in a position related to environmental management can provide valuable insights that can prove helpful throughout your environmental manager career. Those looking to enter the profession can work as energy auditors, conservation managers, environmental technicians, environmental scientists, and water treatment plant managers.

Step 5. Determine Your Work Environment

Environmental managers can work in different environments. These environments range from government firms and environmental law offices to environmental management firms and non-profit organizations. They can also be self-employed. While searching for roles in the field, go for work environments that suit your personality type. Alternatively, you can set up for private practice.

Step 6. Get Certified

Certification is an optional step for environmental managers. Earning a certification demonstrates competence to employers and can help you land top-tier positions. Professionals with one or more certifications are generally more knowledgeable and trusted by their organizations.

Certifications for Environmental Manager

OSHA Safety Certificate

The OSHA Safety Certificate is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It covers the General Industry 1910 and the Construction 1926 Standards. The 40-hour program exposes candidates to lessons on recognizing physical hazards that violate OSHA standards, interpreting the Federal Register, and dealing with work-related health issues. Applicants also learn how to implement employer safety and health procedures.

Certified Environmental Systems Manager (CESM)

The Certified Environmental Systems Manager (CESM) credential is designed to help professionals who operate environmental management systems (EMS). Professionals with this credential can operate these facilities according to the ISO 14001-type principles and guidelines.

Registered Environmental Manager (REM)

Professionals with the Registered Environmental Manager (REM) credential have demonstrated competence in the environmental management field. Candidates have to meet the current standards of the profession to earn certification.

Associate Environmental Professional (AEP)

The Associate Environmental Professional (AEP) credential is designed for entry-level environmental professionals who do not have a college degree.

Students can apply if they have completed one year in a health/science, hazardous materials management, environmental management, and environmental engineering degree program. On the other hand, professionals with working experience can also apply. In their case, three years of work experience can cover one year of an academic degree program.

Skills for Environmental Managers

Passion for the environment is one vital trait for those seeking to get into the environmental field. But away from passion, environmental managers must have a blend of technical and soft skills to advance in their careers. These are some skills and how they can use them:

Communication

Environmental managers have to speak with clients, other professionals, and business owners who may have little or no knowledge about the environment and the policies and terminologies. Therefore, solid communication skills are required to assist clients in understanding safety measures and innovative measures.

Environmental managers also need to have excellent written communication skills. They often write emails, license appeals, client contracts, environmental reports, and PowerPoint presentations.

Project Management

Environmental managers often have to oversee projects from start to finish. Project management skills enable professionals to help clients deal with green construction projects, environmental assessments, and wholescale sustainability changes.

Public Speaking

Public speaking skills are essential for environmental managers as they often have to make presentations while pitching to clients. Speaking skills help professionals make proposals to clients and appeal to local authorities on environmental compliance.

Attention to Detail

Environmental managers need to pay attention to detail. The role demands that professionals identify vital details that could be potentially harmful if they go unnoticed. They also have to visit construction sites to evaluate the effects on the environment and ensure safe environmental practices in buildings and plants.

Negotiation Tactics

Professionals with negotiation skills can tactfully persuade others to agree with their position, provide alternative plans that favor both parties and advocate for their needs. Environmental managers can also negotiate license terms for clients with local agencies.

Problem-Solving

Professionals can pinpoint problems and map out strategies to achieve set goals with problem-solving skills. In some cases, clients only contact environmental managers after environmental damage has occurred. An environmental manager must be able to provide solutions whenever problems arise.

Work Environment for Environmental Managers

More than 50% of environmental and sustainability professionals work for businesses and industries. Environmental managers may work in large or small environmental/ sustainability teams or as self-employed specialists.

Many environmental managers work in laboratories and offices. They may spend a lot of time monitoring ecological conditions and gathering data. Fieldwork can be strenuous, and environmental managers often work in different weather conditions.

The job also demands that professionals travel to make presentations or meet clients. Most environmental managers work full time and might have to spend more than 40 hours weekly on the job.

Some of the places where environmental managers work include:

Local Authorities

Environmental managers who work for local authorities are tasked with responsibilities in waste transport, waste management, contaminated land, waste disposal, impact assessment, and climate.

Commercial Business

Professionals working in commercial entities can be found in the construction, manufacturing, and civil engineering sectors.

Nonprofit Organizations

Non-profit organizations, especially those concerned about greener cities, deforestation, and other environmental issues often refer to the expertise of environmental managers.

Environmental Consultancies

These firms cover areas such as climate and contaminated land, impact assessment, waste management, and waste transport/disposal. Professionals here can work as a part of a team.

Work opportunities abound for environmental managers. You can search job boards or visit the websites of environmental firms to check if there are any openings. Alternatively, contact a former internship employer to see if vacancies exist in your preferred work environment.

Environmental Manager Career Prospects

There are bright prospects for advancement as an environmental manager. Firstly, professionals are not limited to the role and can take on additional responsibilities within the company. Many environmental managers have other titles and responsibilities within their organization.

For many, an environmental manager role is a great entry-level job. It can allow professionals to get a peek into the workings of a company. After learning about the company, they can apply for senior roles.

Environmental managers hold senior positions in many large companies that have to deal with multiple rules and regulations. For example, an asset disposal company needs to comply with environmental policies. It will often have an environmental director, in addition to an environmental manager.

Educational Requirements for Environmental Management Roles

Many entry-level environmental management roles only require a bachelor’s degree or relevant work experience. However, other positions like state geological survey jobs or research work require a master’s degree. Professionals interested in securing teaching jobs in a university need a doctoral degree.

Environmental science or environmental management degree programs are ideal for a career in this field. Environmental management degree programs typically cover coursework in environmental health risk assessment, biology, chemistry, environmental technology, environmental policy, ecosystems, environmental policy, and environmental law.

It is also common to encounter land, water, air, and wildlife management courses. Students can also expect to undergo internship periods and carry out hands-on projects.

However, students can also major in the following courses to prepare for a career in environmental management:

  • Geology
  • Chemistry
  • Life science
  • Hydrology
  • Atmospheric science
  • Geophysics
  • Physics

Students who desire to work in environmental management consulting can also take marketing and business classes.

Why Do Businesses Need Environmental Managers?

Many businesses aim to manage their environmental risks and develop necessary measures to minimize the adverse effects of their operations on the environment. Depending on the organization’s goals and its importance on environmental management, there will be different needs. Here are the most common reasons why businesses need environmental managers:

Legal Compliance

There are many environmental laws and regulations for businesses to follow and comply with within every state and region. When organizations pay attention to these legal requirements, they can adjust their environmental behaviors to align with requirements. They need environmental managers who identify applicable regulations and ascertain the specific requirements. After that, they can evaluate whether the organization is compliant or not. In cases where they have not complied with the existing requirements, an environmental manager draws up a strategy for compliance and ensures the business follows it to the letter.

Competitive Edge

When companies participate in bidding or tendering processes, they will often be asked to provide proof of compliance. Organizations with an environmental manager will find it easier to ace this phase and demonstrate that they are environmentally responsible.

It is Cost-Effective

Taking care of the environmental part of a business can often directly impact the budget. This is one of the reasons why many organizations hire an environmental manager in the first place. Areas of concentration often include waste and transport and utility (electricity, water, and gas). Improved environmental performance in these areas and others can cut spending and save costs while also helping the business to avoid sanctions and possible prosecution.

Publicity

Every business has a legal obligation to ensure that its activities do not constitute environmental pollution. But beyond the legal obligation, a more vital driver for environmental protection is moral obligations. More often than not, the public is interested in how local businesses deal with ecological issues. One wrong move can easily lead to boycotts and apathy from the public. On the other hand, organizations can foster goodwill by improving the environment by planting trees, encouraging biodiversity, and cleaning up polluted areas.

Staff Morale

People view organizations with an excellent environmental record as ideal workplaces. Prospective staff will have confidence that the organization is taking the proper steps and can those working at the company are more likely to stay. Additionally, these actions can attract the best talent to the organization.

Salary for Environmental Managers

The Bureau of Labor Services (BLS) categorizes environmental managers into the environmental scientists and specialists group. According to the BLS, the average pay for environmental scientists and specialists for May 2020 was $73,230. Those at the top end of the food chain earn up to $129,450, while the lowest 10% earned below $42,960.

Environmental scientists and specialists working in the federal government earn an estimated $103,180, while those working in management, scientific, and technical consulting services earn around $71,690.

Job Outlook for Environmental Managers

The BLS projects that employment rates for environmental scientists and specialists will see an 8% growth between 2020 and 2030, the same as the average occupation in the United States.

For every year over the decade, there should be an estimated 9,400 job openings, resulting mainly from the need to replace retired workers and those who switch careers.

Most environmental scientist and specialists jobs will be based in state and local governments and environmental consulting services. Professionals who can analyze environmental challenges and proffer solutions will be in high demand.

Overall, businesses will rely on specialists and scientists to draw up measures that reduce the effects of their operations on the environment.

Benefits of Becoming an Environmental Manager

You Can Make an Impact

If creating an impact and helping others appeals to you, you might be an excellent fit for environmental management jobs. Working as an environmental manager provides you the platform to supervise the environmental performance of private, public, and non-profit organizations to ensure compliance with waste, water, and air quality regulations.

Environmental managers also have to coordinate public hearings, arrange consultations in the field, and manage budgets. With many open sectors in the field, there are more than a handful of ways to bring about lasting change.

Whether it is wildlife, clean water, or air pollution, organizations out there need your services.

Exciting Job Outlook

Increasing awareness of the effects of environmental hazards on the planet and a push for more sustainability is an excellent sign for prospective environmental managers. To add to that, the growing global population means that more specialists would be needed to tackle environmental challenges.

Global Career

Although environmental challenges are unique to every location, the general problems are the same wherever you look. As an environmental manager, you have the skill set to work anywhere globally. Depending on your role and location, you might conduct field research, monitor land management activities, maintain biodiversity conservation, prepare procedures and policies, and design a strategic framework.

Begin your Career Today!

As environmental issues have come to the front burner in human history, environmental management is increasingly becoming one of the most prominent and vital roles worldwide. If you’ve always wanted to make a difference through a global career, then environmental management might be the ideal pursuit. Check out our education resource center to find online courses and related career paths.

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