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.
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.