Environmental pollution pic

The First Step to a Career in Environmental Management

I can’t believe that I have been working as an environmental management consultant and trainer for twenty years. Much like a professional footballer who is playing in his early thirties (I wish) I have achieved veteran status! My career has had its up and downs over the years. But I do not regret it for one minute.

When considering the content for this post I thought I would identify what can be more challenging from my experience than carrying out a job. And that is getting a job in environmental management in the first place.

The problem is that in competitive job markets, in order to be successful you need both experience and a recognised qualification. However, it is difficult to land your first job with just one of these and not both. I remember it took me six months of strenuous searching all those years back before I gained my first environmental management position.

Environmental Qualifications

From a qualification perspective the awarding bodies who offer relevant qualifications are IEMA and NEBOSH, both are worthwhile considering. At the entry level gaining either the NEBOSH Environmental Certificate or IEMA Foundation Certificate will provide a good basis of knowledge of key environmental management concepts. The next levels up in general environment qualifications are the NEBOSH Diploma in Environmental Management or the IEMA Certificate in Environmental Management. These qualifications subsequently require more work, but provide a higher-level qualification that is designed for those who want to specialise in environmental management. You can take these higher qualifications without any prior knowledge. If you are a confident learner you would not need to complete the foundation level courses mentioned earlier. I previously wrote a more in depth post about these qualifications here.

The good thing about both these qualifications is that they are recognised IEMA, which is the most popular professional institute for environmental management practitioners. The foundation level courses meet the academic requirements for Associate level membership, and the advanced level courses meet the academic requirements for practitioner membership. Being a member of IEMA will certainly look impressive on your CV!

Education, Skills, Experience - The three necessities for roles in environmental management
Education, Skills, Experience – The three necessities for roles in Environmental Management

Next it might be worth considering a more specialised course. You could chose to take interest in a certain field of environmental management such as: auditing, carbon foot printing or life cycle analysis. Such topics are covered in the more general courses above but not in a great amount of detail. Choose these carefully based on your career choice. For example, if you plan to become an environmental auditor then consider an IEMA or IRCA certified auditor course. As with the more general qualifications these allow you to satisfy academic requirements for environmental auditor registration. Moreover, an IEMA Lead Auditor course is a common option taken by many environmental auditors.

Further Options

I guess people come into the profession from various backgrounds. If you are currently working in a job that doesn’t have much of an environmental component to it; then ask around and see if you can get involved with environmental management in some way. You could join the environmental forum (or even set one up yourself). Alternatively you could carry out some environmental audits (companies are quite often short of internal auditors). Try to find an activity you can partake in that has an environmental component, even if it is a small part of your working day.

For those of you who are totally new to work and are looking for a full time environmental management position you could consider volunteering. For example Groundwork often accepts volunteers and charities are often looking for people to manage environmental issues. You could contact companies directly (LinkedIn is an excellent source), as well as keeping an eye out for positions on the job market from the usual sources.

Groundwork Website, where you can Volunteer to participate in Environmental based Groundwork
Groundwork Website, where you can Volunteer to participate in Environmental based ground work

I think from my experience all those years back it is fundamentally about persistence. Just keep at it. The more effort you put in to finding a position, more likely it will be that you get that first full time post. I’ve found over the years that if people really want something they will work hard for it.

Good Luck.

John Binns BSc (Hons), MSc, MSc, MIEMA

With over 19 years’ experience working in environment management, John Binns BSc (Hons) MSc MIEMA is an experienced environmental tutor and consultant with knowledge of health and safety management.