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Environmentalists: What does your typical work week consist of? All sub-specialties welcome.

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I'm an undergraduate student struggling to commit to a major, after changing time and time again. After finally settling on a general area of study, it's time to determine a more focused area. The top bachelors degree programs that I am looking at include environmental engineering, environmental studies (ecology, water resource), agriculture, agribusiness, botany and horticulture (possibly vocational cert opposed to bachelors). #science #college #environment #sustainability

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Shelly’s Answer

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Hi Candice,

I did my BS and MS in Biology with particular attention to aquatic ecology. As a graduate student, I got to do field work, lab work, publish research, and present at conferences. I would say that depending on your job, the day-to-day could be going out in the field and collecting data and lots of time in the lab doing data analysis. For me, it was a lot of time spent identifying and counting diatoms (a type of microscopic algae) under the microscope, analyzing the results. I imagine that any environmental studies field you choose will have elements of conducting scientific research. I have friends who studied fields related to environmental studies and now work for government agencies such as Georgia Environmental Protection Agency to the Environmental Protection Agency in DC. Much of the work consists of the same responsibilities as I mentioned above. Doing scientific research allows them to use the data to inform land management decisions to environmental policies.

Good luck on selecting your major!
Shelly

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Katherine’s Answer

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I have a BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering. My typical week is anything but typical!

I've done everything from construction to roadway and drainage design. Most relevant to your interests, I'm actively involved in research about stormwater infiltration in the built environment. I wrote the problem statement under the supervision of a senior drainage engineer and consulted with colleagues leading up to requesting funding for the study. In the future, I'll be serving on the technical advisory committee and I'm very excited about the opportunity to contribute new knowledge to advance the state of the practice in stormwater management.

While it is not part of my job description, I also serve on an internal "wildlife vehicle conflict" task force, which gives me the opportunity to work with other dedicated environmental professionals and researchers in a completely different discipline.

Civil and Environmental Engineering is a challenging field with very transferable skills that rewards persistence, determination, and a desire to improve the world around you.

Katherine recommends the following next steps:

  • Attend a Society of Women Engineers (SWE) meeting on campus. Learn more about engineering from your fellow engineering students!
  • Attend a meeting of your school's student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Civil and Environmental Engineering may be a combined degree program at your school.
  • Apply to research laboratory internships at your school in your areas of interest. This is a good way to find out if lab work and research is something you want to do longterm.
  • If you have math anxiety (like me!) consider taking summer math classes to take advantage of smaller class sizes, greater personal attention from instructors, and a more relaxed campus environment.
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Mike’s Answer

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It is very imprtant to have a science background to be an environmentalist. You dont need to be a scientist but focus on STEM type programs.
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