If you can't stand the idea of being behind a desk all day (or you're sick of being in front of a computer right now) an education or outdoor conservation career may be for you. These people interact everyday with the environment we're all trying to protect and work to make it better or safer for people and wildlife.
Air Quality Inspector
Field: Air Quality Management
Air quality inspectors are the police officers of our air, monitoring and regulating its quality. They make visits to businesses and factories to ensure that pollution laws are being followed. Inspectors respond to complaints and are sometimes called to assess possible emission risks when a new manufacturer is ready to begin operations. After an emergency, such as a chemical explosion or a fuel leak, inspectors also assess air quality damage. While air quality inspectors do spend a lot of time on the road, they spend just as many hours doing paperwork. They write permits and review permit applications for businesses that expel pollutants into the air. They also write reports and manage teams of technicians.
- Educational Requirements: minimum of a bachelor's degree in chemical or environmental engineering
- Necessary Skills: knowledge of chemistry and chemical applications; familiarity with air quality laws and trends; proficiency in analysis, communications, and negotiations
- Related Careers: air quality engineer, air pollution control technician, hazardous waste technician
Field: Ecotourism and Adventure Travel
If the great outdoors, travel, and meeting new people appeal to you (and a desk job does not), ecotourism could an exciting industry to explore. The demand for "learning" vacations – in which tourists visit remote, delicate environments – is on the rise, as is the need for well-traveled, knowledgeable, enthusiastic guides. Guides escort paying tourists on a journey to diverse parts of the globe – from rainforests to isolated sanctuaries – perhaps to observe and learn more about wildlife, migrating birds, or horticulture. Some excursions target aspiring photographers or documentarians. Others are active trips involving hiking, biking, rafting, or another outdoor activity. Ecotour guides are relied upon not only for their wisdom about routes to travel and where to stay but also for their expert knowledge and experience in a particular field, such as ornithology (the study of birds).
- Educational Requirements: bachelor's degree in natural resource management, earth science, anthropology, or park management is helpful, but not as necessary as subject expertise and experience
- Necessary Skills: subject expertise; leadership, outdoor, and survival skills; physical fitness in various areas (walking, biking, hiking, rafting, etc.); good verbal and interpersonal skills; flexibility and willingness to travel for long periods of time; fluency in additional languages is a plus
- Related Careers: adventure travel guide, recreation manager, park ranger, environmental educator
EXPEDITION: Follow along with our correspondents on a trip to an ecotour lodge.
With rising interest in environmental education for both adults and youths, environmental education is a rapidly growing field with many career options. Environmental educators are often elementary or secondary schoolteachers or college professors. Some work as guides and educators in zoos, aquariums, nature reserves, or national parks. Other educators serve as consultants for government-funded education programs or environmental groups. No matter which route an educator chooses, he or she is responsible for disseminating factual information about conservation and the environment to others. Enthusiastic environmental educators love the subject matter and working with people, but as in most of the teaching profession, salaries in this field are humble.
- Educational Requirements: bachelor's degree in education or the natural sciences
- Necessary Skills: leadership; verbal and interpersonal communications skills; enthusiasm; creativity; fluency in additional languages is helpful
- Related Careers: public affairs officer, ecotour guide, lobbyist, activist
ARTICLE: Meet Sitha Som, who leads aspiring biologists through his native Cambodia in search of turtles
News about environmental and conservation issues is ever present – and environmental journalists are the "watchdogs" of this tumultuous field. The public relies on journalists to report on trends, breakthroughs, and dangers. Environmental journalists work for various media – newspapers, magazines, web sites, or television news – and write hard news stories and feature articles. Like all journalists, environmental writers/reporters research, investigate, and objectively weave together information from many sources. Creating a network of contacts within government agencies, corporations, and environmental groups is crucial to success. While some environmental journalists are on staff with one publication or television station, many work independently for multiple media. Freelance journalists are self-starters who often develop their own story ideas and pitch them to editors.
- Educational Requirements: bachelor's degree in journalism and communications
- Necessary Skills: knowledge of environmental issues, trends, and regulations; conceptualization, research, writing, and interviewing skills; creativity; sales and presentation skills; interpersonal communications skills; motivation and persistence
- Related Careers: public relations manager, public affairs officer, marketing manager, environmental educator
Foresters are versatile, dedicated conservationists with a broad job description. Their duties include managing and caring for forest resources, planting and harvesting forests
(which includes deciding which trees should be cut down and which should be left standing), supervising land crews, constructing trails and facilities for visitors, monitoring water quality
, and protecting wildlife and plant habitats. One of the many hats a forester wears is that of firefighter, battling forest blazes as they arise. Work in forestry is physically taxing and often requires living a rugged, minimalist lifestyle.
- Educational Requirements: minimum of a bachelor's degree in forestry or natural sciences, with a concentration in geology, engineering, or computer science
- Necessary Skills: love of the outdoors, especially remote areas; survival skills; understanding of natural resources and forest ecosystems; analysis, negotiation, communications, business, and decision-making skills; stamina and physical fitness
- Related Careers: forest ranger, park ranger, parks planner
ARTICLE: Read about foresters in China who are paid to protect.
With increased demand from consumers for food safe from harmful contaminants, the organic food industry is booming. Organic farmers produce and sell these types of crops, particularly vegetables and fruit, which are guaranteed to be free of chemicals found in some fertilizers or pesticides. Among an organic farmer's duties are nurturing nutrient-rich soil, selecting, planting, and harvesting crops, and running the day-to-day operations of a farm. As with most farmers, organic farmers spend long days outdoors and wear many hats – from harvester to business manager. It is not enough to simply tend land and grow hearty crops; independent organic farmers actively market and sell their products to achieve a profitable farm business. Some organic farmers work exclusively for large food manufacturers.
- Educational Requirements: bachelor's degree in agriculture, botany, or soil science recommended
- Necessary Skills: knowledge of natural resources, agriculture, economics, and marketing; sales and communications skills; stamina and physical fitness; love of the land and the outdoors
- Related Careers: organic farm inspector, botanist, horticulturist, soil scientist
You've probably seen or spoken with park rangers on visits to places like Yosemite National Park or the Statue of Liberty, but you may not realize everything a ranger does. Park rangers manage the conservation and use of resources in parks, recreation areas, and historic sites. This includes monitoring water quality and pollution, planning trails and roads, and studying plant and animal inhabitants. Park rangers are also responsible for the safety and education of visitors. They enforce safety laws and regulations and often provide aid or rescues when needed. As guides on tours and hikes, rangers explain historic and ecological details of an area. Throughout their careers, park rangers can end up working in many different locations around the country (rural, isolated, urban) and live in conditions ranging from comfortable to rugged.
- Educational Requirements: bachelor's degree in parks management, natural resource management, or anthropology
- Necessary Skills: knowledge of geography, geology, biology, botany, horticulture, and history; verbal, public speaking, and interpersonal skills; management ability; stamina and physical fitness; love of the outdoors; willingness to move frequently
- Related Careers: recreation coordinator, natural resource manager, forester, forest ranger
ARTICLE: Risks to Rangers
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