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Environmental Work | The Careers Service Environmental Work – Oxford University Careers Service
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About this sector

The environment is a very broad employment sector, and it is likely to become even larger and more diverse in the future. An increase in environmental legislation has led to a greater number of opportunities within pollution control, waste management, recycling and carbon management. Likewise, increased public awareness of environmental issues has led to considerable investment in sustainable development and renewable energy sources. Many organisations have also realised that it is both practical and responsible to develop more efficient processes, use fewer natural resources and produce less waste. As such, sustainability and environmental work is no longer a niche market and has gradually been becoming more mainstream, with some large companies providing sustainability reports and audits in the same way they provide financial and audit reports. However, competition can be fierce and vacancies rarely exist for inexperienced graduates. Postgraduate qualifications may be required and short-term and/or low-paid jobs can initially provide valuable experience.

The range of employers who recruit in this area is wide and includes the following sectors:

  • Voluntary and charity sector, e.g. wildlife and habitat conservation charities and environmental NGOs, pressure groups, expeditions, and trusts.
  • Public sector, e.g. regulatory bodies, such as local authorities, the Environment Agency, research institutes, educational establishments, and national parks and monuments.
  • Intergovernmental and international sector, e.g. United Nations (UNEP, UNDP, FAO, WFP), international environmental think tanks and research institutes, commissions and consultative bodies.
  • Private sector, ranging from large, multinational companies to those involved in resource management, such as the water and forestry industries, nuclear, gas, chemical, electricity, oil and mining companies, environmental consultancies and research firms, eco-tourism businesses, and companies involved in alternative energy.
Types of job

Whilst the range of jobs in this sector is tremendously varied, people working in any area will be primarily concerned with the impact of people and industry on the environment – below are some examples:

Environmental conservation

Conservationists and ecologists work in a wide range of urban and rural environments to protect and improve the environment. Most begin their careers in field-based jobs, collecting and analysing data, and progress on to managing projects, liaising with stakeholders and developing strategy. There may also be a community education element to conservation roles.

The main employers are government bodies e.g. The Environment Agency, Natural England and DEFRA and local and national charities (find a list at Charity Choice).

It’s a competitive sector. Be prepared to build up experience through volunteering with conservation organisations. If you are interested in a specific organisation try to find out how they recruit (through an agency or specific websites?) so that you can target them in the most effective way. Use the resources listed at the bottom of the webpage to research your options.

Climate change

Many scientists are engaged in analysing and predicting climate change and developing models to assess its potential impact. The range of scientific disciplines is immense: remote sensing, atmosphere sampling and modelling, oceanography, study of ice caps, sea ice, glaciers and the extent of frozen tundra and carbon sequestration studies, to name a few. Experience of handling large datasets can be important. Non-technical roles also exist in creating strategies to mitigate the risks of climate change, in advocacy, campaigning and in education. Your work on climate change could be based in a university, a government body or the private sector. Charities and campaign groups are also active in this area.

Renewable energy

Please see our webpage on Energy careers for information about this popular sector.

Carbon management

Carbon management is a growth area as businesses and governments strive to meet national and EU carbon emissions targets. Opportunities exist in carbon auditing, carbon offsetting, carbon capture and storage, as well as in the development of cleaner industrial processes, sustainable procurement, low carbon energy generation and improved energy efficiency. Many businesses and government bodies are now developing carbon management plans. Some produce these in-house, others turn to the growing numbers of carbon management consulting firms.

Environmental protection & control

This involves pollution prevention and control, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations regarding industrial and other waste. The Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are the UK’s governmental agencies responsible for administering laws to control and reduce pollution. Large companies may have in-house teams looking after this area, but much of the work is undertaken by specialist consulting firms.

Environmental scientists & engineers

People working in this sector apply science and engineering principles to improve the environment, to clean up polluted sites and to provide clean water, air and land. They are often responsible for designing public and industrial water treatment systems, as well as conducting hazardous waste management studies, providing advice and developing regulations. They are concerned with environmental issues, such as the effects of acid rain, pollution and ozone depletion. See the Engineering, Energy and Scientific R&D webpages and the Prospects website for more information.

A large number of companies also promote holidays as ‘Eco-tourism’ – see The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) for more information.

Environmental law & litigation

Practitioners are concerned with a body of law that seeks to protect the environment that may be affected, impacted or endangered by human activities. Some environmental laws regulate the quantity and nature of the impact of human activities. An example might be setting allowable levels of pollution or requiring permits for potentially harmful activities.

Other environmental laws are preventive in nature and seek to assess the possible impacts before the human activities can occur. While many countries worldwide have accumulated impressive sets of environmental laws, their implementation has often been poor. Nowadays, environmental law is seen as a critical means of promoting sustainable development. Policy concepts such as the precautionary principle, public participation, environmental justice and the “polluter pays” principle have informed many environmental law reforms in this respect.

The environmental law sector encompasses legal careers in a variety of public and private organisations, including providing legal advice, prosecuting offenders for breaches of environmental law, and advising on environmental law and policy initiatives. For more information see our pages on Solicitors and Barristers, as well as the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) and Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD).

Environmental policy

Policy is usually decided at a national or international level. International Environmental Co-operation involves assessing global, regional and national environmental conditions and trends, addressing existing and emerging environmental issues at the global and regional levels and bringing environmental experts together. For example, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) acts as a catalyst, advocate, educator and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment. It works with other United Nations entities, international organisations, national governments, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and civil society to achieve this.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Environment Directorate works together with the 30 member countries of the OECD and selected non-members to improve country environmental policies.

Organic Agriculture

Research and opportunities associated with Organic Agriculture are increasing, as demand for organically produced food rises. Organic farming systems have been designed to produce food with care for human health, the environment and animal welfare. For more information see World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).

Environmental Pressure Groups

Working with environmental pressure groups often means adopting a highly visible public profile, although not all groups are frontline. Opportunities in many of the smaller groups for paid work are few, but volunteers are often needed. The purpose of the groups is to increase awareness of particular environmental issues, and to campaign directly for change.

Entry points

A postgraduate qualification is often required to follow a career in the environmental sector. Further study may be at either Masters or PhD level, depending on the particular career you wish to pursue. For example, whilst a PhD is important for a career in research, taught Masters courses are popular when entering the field of environmental consultancy. Not all environmental lawyers or consultants studied law, or specifically environmental law, at undergraduate level – however they are all qualified solicitors or barristers (in the UK), so it is worth exploring the different degrees, courses and qualification options available.

There are a wide range of specialist courses at the Masters level, providing a focus on particular environmental issues. Consider:

  • How relevant is the course to the environmental field within which you want to work?
  • What do students leaving the course go on to do? Contact the institution offering the course and ask about destinations data.
  • Does the course have a strong practical element? Often, vocational courses that have a strong practical element and/or project placements in environmental organisations (through which you can make valuable contacts with potential employers) will provide you with enhanced job prospects.
  • Talk to employers and find out which courses they particularly recommend.
Skills & experience

Skills needed

While environmental work is of particular interest to life scientists (eg: those who have studied subjects such as biology, biochemistry, zoology etc.), as the sector expands and diversifies, other disciplines are becoming increasingly involved. Apart from having a good degree and a real commitment to the work, other useful skills include the following:

  • The ability to work in a team
  • Strong communication skills
  • Computer literacy
  • Relevant environmental/practical knowledge and experience
  • Appropriate postgraduate qualifications
  • Self-confidence – particularly if you are in a role in which you need to convince others about an environmental concern
  • In some areas, a degree of commercial awareness
  • And, if you are thinking of working internationally, an additional language.

Getting experience

There aren’t many graduate programmes in the environment sector and they are usually found within large energy, infrastructure firms and environmental consultancies such as AECOM, so it’s essential that you try to proactively find relevant work experience, even on a voluntary basis.

  • Volunteering: Some environmental charities provide excellent volunteering opportunities. For example, The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) have full details of their schemes on their website. Similarly other organisations, such as the Centre for Alternative Technology or Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trusts, offer voluntary placements. The Environmental Change Institute (ECI) at Oxford University also runs a sustainability internship programme
  • Work-shadowing can also be a useful way of finding out more about a particular area, as well as providing a source of contacts. Be prepared to be proactive in your search and make speculative applications, including to large companies, since many will now also have a specialist department concerned with environmental issues.
  • Internships: Some companies offer summer internships for students in the penultimate year of their university course. Students on postgraduate courses are also often eligible to apply for these. Internships typically last eight to thirteen weeks and are most common in large environmental or engineering consultancies or power generation companies. Applications open early in the autumn and closing dates are usually between December and March.
  • The Internship Programme, run by the Careers Service, offers internships in all sectors, worldwide, including a significant number in the environmental sector. This is open to undergraduate and postgraduate students.
  • Some college JCR/GCR committees have an “Environment Officer” post – undertaking this role could enhance your CV by demonstrating a commitment to the subject area.
  • Expeditions – opportunities to get involved with environmental and sustainable development projects, often in countries that would be difficult to visit independently, offer participants the scope to acquire skills which can be useful. Examples include Raleigh International and Frontier.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Food Programme (WFP) offer internship and voluntary opportunities. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) volunteer programme is designed to expand FAO’s human resources capacity by providing opportunities for individuals to contribute their services on a voluntary basis to FAO. Those selected for the volunteer programme will be utilised in areas according to their qualifications and the needs of the organisation. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) offers internships and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) is a source of internships in the US

There is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer, the status of the employer and the location of your employer as employment laws vary from country to country. To find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship in the UK, visit the Government’s webpages on the National Minimum Wage.

Getting a job

Many environmental organisations are small, and have only occasional vacancies that arise on a sporadic basis, so you may have to be proactive and contact companies you are interested in yourself. See our webpage on Making Speculative Approaches.

The lack of large mainstream graduate recruiters in the sector makes it essential that you network as much as possible, and let your contacts know if you are available for work. Likewise, be aware of current environmental issues. Often, if you are willing to work on a short-term, voluntary basis for an employer, then you are in a stronger position should a paid vacancy arise.

Other sources of job opportunities include the New Scientist and The Guardian, both available at the Careers Service. You will also find vacancies on the internet, for example on the Environmental Data Services (ENDS) website and the environment and sustainability recruitment website ACRE. In addition, many environmental charities advertise jobs on their websites, e.g. TCV and Friends of the Earth. Local and county councils will also advertise environment-related positions on their respective websites.

 

Equality & positive action

  • STEMM Disability Advisory Committee provides support for disabled students and workers in science, technology, engineering and maths. Use the portal section of their website for a comprehensive set of links to relevant groups and projects.
  • WISE promotes female talent in science, engineering and technology. Their extensive website showcases case studies of female role models in technical roles.

A number of major graduate recruiters have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting graduates from diverse backgrounds. To find out the policies and attitudes of employers that you are interested in, explore their equality and diversity policies and see if they offer ‘Guaranteed Interview Schemes’ (for disabled applicants) or are recognised for their policy by such indicators as ‘Mindful Employer’ or as a ‘Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’.

The UK law protects you from discrimination due to your age, gender, race, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act and to find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

Our resources

Books

The following books are available to read in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • Green Careers – Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future, Jim Cassio & Alice Rush

Journals

We subscribe to the following journals in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • New Scientist

Podcasts of past events

Careers in Environment & Renewables

Interested in finding out more about careers in the Environment? Listen to Nick King, an environment professional with over 30 years experience in sustainable development, climate change mitigation and adaptation, talk about his extensive career working in both the UK and abroad and providing advice on developing your career in this sector.

External resources

General information and vacancies

Sector vacancies

Institutes, directories & research councils

Environmental conservation & management

Environmental protection & control

Environmental science & engineering

Sustainable development & renewable energy

Environmental law

International environmental co-operation

Organic agriculture

Pressure groups

This information was last updated on 05 February 2018.
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Recent blogs about Environmental Work

Summer Graduate & Internship Fair 2018

Blogged by Corina Lacurezeanu on May 17, 2018.
  • When: Wednesday 23 May, 14.30-17.30
  • Where: The Careers Service, 56 Banbury Rd

Graduating this year and not yet secured a job? Looking for an internship this summer? Meet over 25 recruiters from a range of sectors, offering either full-time jobs and internships starting this summer.

Whether you haven’t found a place yet, or haven’t started looking, this is a great opportunity to explore careers and available opportunities. Find out more in the fair booklet, now available online.

Explore your options

With over 25 employers attending, the fair has representatives from many different sectors – including  IT, Finance, Social Care, Retail, Engineering, Marketing and more.

All employers have either internships available for the summer 2018, or full-time graduate roles starting this summer or autumn.

Meet organisations including:

  • Bloomsbury Tutors and Bloomsbury Law Tutors
  • Capital One
  • Darktrace
  • Datatonic
  • Department for Education – Get into Teaching
  • Dragon Advisory
  • Emerson Roxar
  • Ensoft Ltd
  • Fat Lama
  • FilmLight
  • Huguenot Services Limited
  • Lonza
  • The Marketing Practice
  • MathWorks
  • Metaswitch
  • NaturalMotion
  • Newton
  • Operis Group PLC
  • Papercup
  • Procter & Gamble Push
  • S-RM
  • Symplectic
  • Tamarindo Communications
  • Teach First
  • TPP
  • Unlocked Graduates
  • Veeva
  • Vodafone

Find out more in the fair booklet, now available online.

Get your CV checked!

Get one-to-one feedback from a visiting recruiter in our CV Clinics. Appointments are on a first-come, first-served basis, so bring your CV along and sign up on the day!

Download our fair app!

“Oxford University Careers Fair” is available for free on iTunes and Google Play, and contains information on all of our major fairs.

Download it and you can:

• See complete employer listings, and star your favourites
• Make notes about the employers before and after your visit
• View the interactive floorplan
• Read tips on how to prepare for the fair
• And more!

Routes into Data Science Jobs

Posted on behalf of Deepak Mahtani of Pivigo. Blogged by Rachel Bray on May 17, 2018.

Data science has been described as the ‘Sexiest job of the 21st century’ and touches all sectors of industry and companies of all sizes.

A career in data science is an easy transition to make for those who have a masters or PhD in an analytical subject because the skills that one learns from academia can be directly applied to a commercial setting.

Find out more by joining Pivigo for:

Break into Data Science in 2018

In this webinar Pivigo’s community manager and data scientist, Deepak Mahtani will discuss what data science is, what tools one needs to learn to start and have a successful career in this exciting field, and why masters and PhD graduates make great data scientists. He will also discuss how Pivigo can help you make the transition into data science. Deepak studied for a degree in Mathematics and Astronomy at the University of Sheffield. From there he went on to gain his PhD in Astrophysics from Keele University where he was researching exoplanet atmospheres. Upon completing his PhD, he participated in the S2DS virtual program in March 2016. He is now the community manager and a data scientist at Pivigo.

  • For the 21 May webinar, register here.
  • For the 22 May webinar, register here.
  • For the 2 July webinar, register here.
  • For the 4 July webinar, register here.


What is Science to Data Science Virtual?

Science to Data Science Virtual is a remote working, full-time data science bootcamp designed to empower analytical PhDs and Masters with the commercial experience they need to transition into a career in data science. During the 5-week programme participants will work on company led projects, which will add real value to the company and give the participants hands on experience in commercial data science. The participants can then talk about their projects on their CVs and at interviews to land a data science job. In this webinar, our community manager Deepak will speak about his experiences on the course, what you can expect from it, and how it helped him accelerate his career.

  • For the 4 June webinar, register here.
  • For the 7 June webinar, register here.
  • For the 9 July webinar, register here.
  • For the 10 July webinar, register here.


How to land a data science job

Understanding how to present your skills in the data science job market can be confusing and daunting. Pivigo’s COO, Jason Muller has extensive experience in the recruitment industry, especially within data science. In this webinar Jason will give his best advice on how land a data science job, including his top tips for structuring your search, crafting your CV, prepping for interviews, salary negotiation, and how to manage direct applications vs working with recruiters.

  • For the 18 June webinar, register here.

 

Third round micro-internships go live on Monday!

Blogged by Rosanna Mills on May 17, 2018.

Good news from the Internship Office – it’s not too late! If you haven’t found time yet to apply for exclusive work experience in weeks 9 or 10 this term, you’ll have the chance next week! From Monday 21 May we’ll open up the third round of micro-internships for applications.

The deadline will be midday, Monday 28 May. Students are allowed one additional application for this late round – so if you have already submitted two applications, you are welcome to apply once more! Please logon to CareerConnect from 21 May to view all late round opportunities. You can find out all the details of the programme on our Micro-Internship Programme webpage.

What placements can I apply for?

Interested? Here are some of the MIPs on offer, but all can be found on CareerConnect!

1 Million Women to Tech – Social Media Micro-Internship, Oxford: Are you a self-starter and team player? Brainstorm the best methods with fellow interns to increase social media following for this educational non-profit.

Modux – Penetration Testing (Cyber Security), Bristol: If you have some programming and coding experience, look no further! The development team at cyber security consultancy Modux needs assistance with their automation tool to aid security professionals.

Oxfordshire Recovery College Micro-Internship, Oxford: The College recently won funding to redesign its website, but they need some photos to use! A brilliant video made by a previous intern also needs refreshing. You’ll be integral to improving their online and social media presence.

Pamoja Education – Product and UX Research, Oxford: Pamoja is looking for those who are good communicators and digitally savvy to research into user experience and development of digital features, conducting interviews and delivering a presentation of findings.

Application support

We’ll be running Application Support Sessions on Tuesday 22 May, 2pm – 3.30pm and Thursday 24 May, 11.30am – 1pm. Book your slot on CareerConnect! Don’t forget, you can also receive advice straight from our host organisations with our Employer Feedback on Student Micro-Internship Applications advice document.

Questions? We’d love to hear from you. Just email micro-internships@careers.ox.ac.uk

Good luck with your applications!

Extend your horizons…Internships for researchers

Blogged by Rachel Bray on May 17, 2018.

Internships are an excellent way to ‘test the water’ of a new working environment and build your professional network. These four opportunities are particularly suited to Masters and DPhil students keen to apply their research skills in a team and to add value to an organisation.

Follow the links below to find out more and be quick with your application – the deadline is midday on 22 May.

Cast Consultancy ‘Business Technology Analysis Internship’

Location: London

Length: 8-12 weeks

Areas of study: Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences

Cast is a specialist residential real estate and construction consultancy. This role will be focused on assessing how digital technology tools can improve basic business processes and the outputs that we deliver for clients. This will include extracting ‘problem statements’ from the technical delivery teams, evaluation of external technology platforms & assessment of potential bespoke coded solutions.

 

Climate Law and Policy Postgraduate Internship

Location: Oxford, remote work if required

Length: 12 weeks

Areas of study: Humanities (Law/Policy, Human Rights, or similar)

CLP is currently looking to hire a postgraduate intern to support our expanding portfolio of projects and consultancies. This is an opportunity for a post-graduate student to gain invaluable experience working in international environmental policy and law, with exposure to a fast-paced and demanding work environment and a small, multi-disciplinary team structure.

 

Ministry of Defence, Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre ‘Policy Research Internship’

Location: Shrivenham

Length: 8-12 weeks

Areas of study: Any

An internship at DCDC involves assisting desk officers with research related to Doctrine, Concepts, Strategic Analysis and Futures in a context that is often wider than purely for Defence. Interns will be set a couple of research areas or projects, such as: support DCDC’s Futures Team on their work on the Strategic Trends Programme; support DCDC’s Strategic Analysis Team on the research and production of short occasional papers and think-pieces; support DCDC’s Analysis and Research Team on their work in providing the empirical evidence to support DCDC products.

 

Research Centre for Gas Innovation ‘CO2 Abatement Internship’

Location: University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Length: 8 weeks

Areas of study: Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences

This research project is part of the CO2 Abatement Programme of the RCGI and it aims to analyze the integration of CO2 conversion technologies to thermoelectric plants technically, economically and environmentally, aiming to mitigate the global emissions of this gas, as well as to diversify the list of products manufactured in the complex, resulting in increased profit.

Webinar on Editorial and Publishing Careers for Researchers

Posted on behalf of Katie Ridd, Springer Nature. Blogged by Rebecca Ehata on May 17, 2018.

Are you a science communicator or a PhD student/postdoctoral researcher studying the life, physical, applied or social sciences? Are you interested in exploring opportunities for an editorial and publishing career?

Academic publishing company Springer Nature invites PhD students and postdocs to join a free webinar on 30 May, at 10am and 5pm BST, to learn more about the range of editorial and publishing roles available at Nature Research.

Nature Research is a portfolio of high-quality products and services across the life, physical, chemical and applied sciences – including journals, magazines, databases and researcher services – dedicated to serving the scientific community. For more information about research editorial and publishing roles at Nature Research visit www.springernature.com/editorial-and-publishing-jobs.

To register for the webinar go to go.nature.com/2rhTZmO.

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