Training and career development
The variations of opportunity and degrees of difference in the many roles on offer in this sector are as wide as the sector itself. You might find yourself engaged in fieldwork, laboratory work, office-based work and indeed any combination of these and more. Hours are more likely to be regular in public sector bodies than private and in the latter especially you can expect that some evening or weekend work may be required.
How your career might progress
Graduates in the environmental field tend to be highly qualified – a recent survey reported that around 90% of ‘green’ job holders have at least an undergraduate degree with 50% of those also having a Masters. As such the level of responsibility in graduate roles is higher than for many other areas. Those with less experience and a lower level of professional qualifications may expect to commence as a trainee or junior officer, technician or researcher. Progression may be subsequently possible into more senior positions as managers, specialists and partners or associates. Many opportunities may be short-term, contract, temporary or project-related so graduates should keep an open mind and have a flexible attitude when researching potential opportunities.
Chartership and professional membership is relevant to many graduates wishing to progress within the wider environmental sphere. Environmental science graduates in Northern Ireland are expected to progress towards chartered status (CEnv) once they have passed their undergraduate degree. This status is granted by the UK’s Society for the Environment. Successful chartership demonstrates your competence and professionalism to prospective employers and thus is the key to opening the door to many employment opportunities. Many graduates also apply for registration with the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).
This is the professional membership body for Training and career development Professional development promoting best practice standards in environmental management, auditing and assessment for all industry sectors. It is a UK body with an international membership. IEMA is the Competent Body in the United Kingdom for the European Union's Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). Apart from those with qualifications in environmental and environmental science-related disciplines, one of the biggest cohorts of graduates working in environmental and green career sectors are engineers. Achieving chartership is crucial in making you attractive to the widest number of employers. To begin the journey towards becoming chartered you need to secure employment with an organisation that runs a graduate programme accredited either by the Institution of Engineering and Technology or Engineers Ireland.
Within the Republic of Ireland the requirements for chartered status are being raised. Until 2013 graduates with an undergraduate degree were considered, but from that year onwards graduates will have to have secured a masters’ degree in order to apply. Alongside this, candidates working towards the achievement of chartered status are required to complete a four year working/training period, essays, a practice report and specific training courses and covering a specific range of topics. The path to accreditation as a chartered engineer in Northern Ireland is similar. You must firstly gain a job with an organisation that runs an Initial Professional Development Scheme accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology. When you and all parties connected to your participation in the scheme are satisfied with your level of competence you can apply for registration. Many other institutes also offer chartership and/or professional registration. These include: Institution of Water and Environmental Management, Chartered Institute of Wastes Management, Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Energy Institute and the Institute of Environmental Sciences. All such organisations offer graduate entry memberships which are cheap and provide a great route to networking with industry professionals.