Hi Gina. We need more environmentalists...good for you! For 'hands-on' experience right away I'd suggest looking into the work of the Sierra Club in your area. They have a variety of volunteer experiences in everything from hiking trail maintenance to tackling oil polluters. My point is that in doing this volunteer work you may very well see your career path/options become more evident for you. In doing this volunteer work make note of what excites you the most, or makes you the most upset. You are getting in touch with your passions on this issue and when you can combine passion with livelihood you are likely to be the most comfortable in that career.
Good luck, Gina.
I felt the same way, which is why I studied Environmental Science. I started working in non-profits doing more hands-on work. For example, I worked on science-informed policies to protect coastal wetlands with the Gulf Restoration Network. I provided free services to low-income residents that reduced both financial and environmental impacts through energy efficiency initiatives with Green Light New Orleans. I taught kids and families about ocean ecosystems and how to preserve them at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.
All of these experiences were incredible, but I personally didn't feel like I was making the best use of my skill-set. So, I ended up getting a masters in Environmental Management and Sustainability. From there, I got a different perspective on the types of fields, sectors, positions available around the very interrelated subject of sustainability. The one that spoke to me the most was Corporate Sustainability, as businesses have the potential to drive real change for sustainable development. In particular, I went into technology, as technology is growing and changing exponentially, threatening to consume an unsustainable amount of resources. Technology can also enable greater efficiencies and solutions, and I greatly enjoy my work and impact.
However, my classmates work in all sorts of different positions sectors. I have friends who are in the field studying the effects of climate change on ecosystems. I have friends who work on maintaining renewable energy infrastructure, from wind turbines, solar panels, and more. I have friends who work on designing more efficient and connected public transportation networks, soft transportation infrastructure (walking, biking). Friends who work on climate action plans for cities. I can keep going!
I recommend exploring all of these topics and finding out which one speaks to you. Tom's suggestion to volunteer more is a wise choice! Volunteering is a great way to try on different hats, all while bettering your community. I also recommend looking at existing job ads and seeing if any of them sound interesting. If they are, look at the requirements, responsibilities, etc to see if these things sound appealing. Pick a few different 'tracks' for yourself and go from there.
Lesley recommends the following next steps: