Why Get an Environmental Management Degree?

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - April 18, 2017
Reading Time: 8 minutes
Reading Time: 8 minutes

It is difficult to define exactly what is environmental management because it can be either a vision or a goal, or it can either be an application or a steering. It is very diverse, which can be seen in the fact that environmental managers are found in government department, NGOs, nonprofit organizations, multinational conglomerations, and more. All of them, however, make decisions based on protecting natural resources to some degree, with some focusing on how these are used, others on how they are obtained, and others still on how they can be conserved.

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What is Environmental Management?

Environmental management is multidisciplinary at its heart. It has both a local and a global impact, aiming to optimize how resources are used, while minimizing the degradation of the environment. Often, environmental managers have to work together with people and companies who have opposing and conflicting views, which means they must be diplomats as well.

What brings everything together is that environmental managers are decision makers, and that they focus on the earth system as a whole and on how human beings can relate to this. They take note of what the environment is currently like, and how it will change over time. Most importantly, they use this to drive policy change and make other types of decisions that improve the environment, albeit from their personal view point. As such, it can be said that environmental managers are politicians as well, but also advocates. The perspectives, however, are hugely different. Some, for instance, focus on deforestation, while others focus on driving profits. Some focus on the distribution of resources, while others focus on finding shale gas in various locations. Those are the conflicting issues that people in environmental management have to deal with on a daily basis.

Environmental Management Degree Opportunity

Because the field of environmental management is so vast, it can be  difficult to project its growth. This is also due to the fact that President Donald Trump has made significant changes to how climate change is being viewed, throwing the field into disarray on a global scale. That being said, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that environmental scientists and specialists earned an average of $67,460 per year as of May 2015 at the bachelor’s degree level. They have also predicted that there will be an 11% growth in demand for their skills from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the national average. This will translate into approximately 10,200 new jobs.

Environmental Management Degree Career Paths

Because environmental management is so broad, it can also be difficult to pinpoint exactly what type of career paths are available to them. The BLS, however, has reported that:

  • 23% of environmental scientists and specialists worked in management, scientific, and technical consulting services, earning $68,410 per year on average.
  • 22% of environmental scientists and specialists worked in state government, excluding education and hospitals, earning $60,280 per year on average.
  • 13% of environmental scientists and specialists worked in local government, excluding education and hospitals, earning $65,320 per year on average.
  • 10% of environmental scientists and specialists worked in engineering services, earning $67,830 per year on average.
  • 6% of environmental scientists and specialists worked in federal government, excluding postal service, earning $99,260 per year on average.

Meanwhile, Payscale.com has reported on various careers suitable for those with a master’s degree in environmental management and their average earnings. This shows that:

  • Environmental Scientists earned an average annual salary of $53,359.
  • Sustainability Managers earned an average annual salary of $78,200.
  • Environmental Project Managers earned an average annual salary of $64,709.
  • Sustainability Consultants earned an average annual salary of $55,989.
  • Program Project Managers earned an average annual salary of $111,000.
  • Energy Managers earned an average annual salary of $74,025.
  • Environmental Consultants earned an average annual salary of $53,458.

Environmental Management Degree Salaries

According to the BLS, the average annual salary for all environmental scientists and specialists was $67,460 as of May 2015. The bottom 10% of earners had annual salaries of $40,350 or less, while the top 10% of earners had annual salaries of $118,070 or more. Of great importance to how much they can earn is the geographical location. Hence, the BLS has reported that the top five states to be employed as an environmental scientist and specialist are:

  • The District of Columbia, with average annual earnings of $109,620.
  • Texas, with average annual earnings of $90,000.
  • Colorado, with average annual earnings of $88,830.
  • Alaska, with average annual earnings of $86,760.
  • New Mexico, with average annual earnings of $85,880.

Meanwhile, according to Payscale.com the average earnings in certain cities for those with a master’s degree in environmental management are as follows:

  • Washington, District of Columbia: $66,028 per year
  • Seattle, Washington: $55,968 per year
  • Chicago, Illinois: $56,341 per year
  • New York, New York: $55,000 per year
  • Denver, Colorado: $54,988 per year
  • Raleigh, North Carolina: $42,994 per year
  • Portland, Oregon: $60,000 per year.

Environmental Management Degree Employers

The employer people work for also greatly influences their potential salary. Payscale.com has surveyed a number of employers for people with a master’s in environmental management, and they have reported average earnings in certain companies:

  • Ecology and Environment, Inc. pays $53,695 per year.
  • ICF International pays $74,745 per year.
  • Dynamac Corporation pays $60,000 per year.
  • Hitachi Consulting pays $55,495 per year.

Indeed.com has also reported on common employers of environmental managers. They state that:

  • Bott & Associates pays $144,230 per year.
  • Elias Associates, Inc. pays $131,692 per year.
  • Southern Recruiting Solutions, Inc. pays $132,397 per year.
  • The California State Personnel Board pays $10,147 per month.
  • CyberCoders pays $108,853 per year.
  • FPC National pays $108,857 per year.
  • Shirley Parsons pays $102,037 per year.
  • Elias Associates, Inc. pays $99,860 per year.
  • Hire Resolve pays $102,779 per year.
  • Robert Half Finance & Accounting pays $92,516 per year.

Environmental Management Bachelor’s Degree

In order to start a good career in environmental management, it is very important to obtain a suitable education. This starts with a bachelor’s degree. Many universities now offer these degrees fully or partially online, which makes studying a lot more convenient. One example of this is the Online Environmental Management bachelor’s degree offered by the University of Maryland. Their curriculum includes courses such as:

  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Environment and Ecosystems Principles
  • Human Health and Disease
  • Environmental Regulations and Policy
  • Environmental Health
  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Environmental Technology
  • Global Environmental Management Issues
  • Focused study in either toxicology and hazard control or sustainability, recommended

Environmental Management Master’s Degree

To really further your career, you should consider obtaining a master’s degree. This is reflected in the fact that Payscale.com only reports on environmental management salaries for those with a master’s degree. Again, there are numerous colleges and universities across the country that offer this master’s degree, some of which are online (fully or partially). A good example is the Master of Environmental Management offered by Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, which is offering the Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree. The school also offers eight different specializations for students to choose from, which are:

  • Business and the Environment
  • Ecosystem Conservation and Management
  • Energy and the Environment
  • Environmental Policy Analysis
  • Human Dimensions of Environmental Management
  • Sustainable Land Management, Use and Policy
  • Industrial Ecology and Green Design
  • Water Resources Science and Management

Environmental Management Degree Admission Requirements

Each school is entitled to set its own admission requirements. However, they are usually quite similar across the board due to the fact that these requirements demonstrate whether or not someone has the academic capacity to complete a program at graduate degree level. The admissions requirements for Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies are:

  • A personal statement
  • A supplemental statement
  • TOEFL or IETLS for non-native English speakers
  • A resume or curriculum vitae
  • Three letters of reference
  • Official transcripts
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Official GRE, GMAT or LSAT score report

Environmental Management Degree Curriculum

Schools are allowed to develop their curriculum as they see fit. This is why it is very important to study with an accredited university, as this guarantees prospective employers that your degree included courses that meet the minimum requirements for the profession. For instance, the curriculum for the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies’ MEM degree includes the following courses:

  • Economics of the Environment
  • Introduction to Statistics in Environmental Sciences
  • Physical Sciences for Environmental Management
  • Ecosystems and Landscapes
  • Society and the Environment
  • The Politics and Practice of Environmental and Resource Policy
  • Social Science of Development and Conservation
  • Foundations of Environmental Leadership and Management
  • Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Skills for Environmental Professionals
  • Environmental Communication
  • Financial Concepts for Environmental Management
  • Life Cycle Assessment Practicum
  • Business and the Environment Clinic
  • Management Plans for Protected Areas
  • Research Analysis, and Communication in Forest Ecology
  • Large Scale Conservation: Integrating Science, Management, and Policy
  • Advanced Readings: Social Science of Development and Conservation
  • Environmental Protection Clinic
  • Land Use Clinic
  • Advanced Environmental Protection Clinic
  • Entrepreneurial Venture Creation
  • The Entrepreneurial Approach to Environmental Problem Solving
  • Building Science Narratives for Climate Engagement
  • Building Science Networks for Climate Solutions

Environmental Management Degree Financial Assistance

Completing an education, particularly a master’s degree, is very expensive. Firstly, you have to invest a substantial amount of time. While the time spent can be reduced to a certain degree by studying online, it will still require a significant amount of time. The second major investment is a financial one. The university of your choosing will be able to signpost you to financial aid, and they may also have scholarships and grants available that you can apply for. At the same time, there are a number of external scholarships that you may want to consider, such as the:

  • Hubert Humphrey Fellowships in USA for International Students
  • Fulbright Foreign Student Program in USA
  • Rotary Peace Fellowships
  • Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD)
  • 2017 Future Global Leaders Fellowship
  • ICSP Scholarships at University of Oregon USA
  • Clark Global Scholarship Program
  • George Washington University Global Leaders Fellowship
  • American University Emerging Global Leader Scholarship
  • Civil Society Leadership Awards

Generally speaking, applying for scholarships means that you have to meet certain requirements. Those may include studying at a certain school, taking on a certain concentration, aiming to work in a certain field, demonstrating financial need, holding a minimum GPA, belonging to a certain minority group, being a member of a professional organization, and/or being of a certain gender.

Environmental Management Degree Certifications

It is not required to become certified in the field of environmental management, but it is recommended. Through certification, you demonstrate that you are committed to your professional development, and to the advancement of the field in general. That said, obtaining a certification does require a further investment of time and money, and you also have to maintain certification through continuous education credits. However, most agree that this is a very worthy investment, as it opens interesting careers doors. Some certifications that you may want to consider in the field of environmental management include:

  • REM – Registered Environmental Manager
  • NEBOSH Certificate in Environmental Management
  • AEP Associate Environmental Professional
  • CEA – Certified Environmental Auditor
  • CES – Certified Environmental Scientist
  • CESCO – Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer
  • CESM – Certified Environmental Systems Manager
  • CIAQM – Certified Indoor Air Quality Manager
  • CNRP – Certified Natural Resources Professional
  • CRCM – Certified Refrigerant Compliance Manager
  • CWMP – Certified Waste Management Professional
  • MAS – Mold Awareness Specialist
  • RELT – Registered Environmental Laboratory Technologist
  • REM – Registered Environmental Manager
  • REP – Registered Environmental Professional
  • REPA – Registered Environmental Property Assessor

Environmental Management Degree Associations

It is a good idea to align yourself with professional organizations as soon as you decide to study towards an environmental management degree, even at the bachelor’s level. This is because professional associations and organizations often offer scholarships and grants that you could then become eligible for. However, more importantly, by being a member of an association, you will always be at the forefront of new developments within your field, ensuring that your skills are always up to date. Additionally, you may be able to complete certifications and continuous education credits. But perhaps the greatest benefit of being a member of a professional association or organization is the fact that you can build a professional network that will serve your further career.

In the field of environmental management, some of the associations you may want to consider include the:

  • National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM)
  • Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA)
  • International Safety Quality Environment Management Association (ISQEM)
  • National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP)
  • Air & Waste Management Association
  • Environmental Management Association


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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