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How do I narrow down focus on a career if I want to work in environmental science but also study how to mitigate its effects on society (environmental justice)?

I am a rising senior in high school and I am trying to figure out where I should apply to college and what career path I should pursue. I know I have time to decide what major, but I feel the need to focus my activities and classes on a more specific topic so my effort can go further in helping people. I am involved in environmental activism and am passionate about saving the planet. #environmental-science #activism #socialjustice #policy #datascience #environmentaljustice #climatechange #environmentalengineer

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Kalyani’s Answer

One of most important thing is one step at a time. Whether it is a decision to choose career or do anything.
I suggest two ways to get done your job
1) pay attention to achieve one goal at a time and if another is inter-related to that then you can do that one also side by side.
2) fully Achieved one goal and focus on next that definitly help you.
But whatever you are going to do do it by heart. Whatever it is.
Pay attention to small things
I am also a nature lover i would like to observe small things that nature teaching us and environmental science is aswesome field to contribute.
Thank you comment icon Thank you! Margot
Thank you comment icon Hey Kalyani! I like how you mention some tips on making a career decision. But this response doesn't fully answer Margot's question on working "...in environmental science but also study how to mitigate its effects on society (environmental justice)". Any advice you can share about how to narrow Margot's decision down specific to this career path? Jordan Rivera, Admin COACH
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karthik’s Answer

First of all, you should ask yourself a few questions to find out what type of job you really want and whether it’s something you’re suited for.
As we’ve already said, environmental policy careers are in abundance as they essentially develop and create policies which aim to limit, reduce and prevent any damaging effects and actions on the environment.
If this is something which appeals to you, the next thing to consider is your work personality.
Are you more of a hands-on, practical type of worker, or do you prefer an office-based environment role where analysis and research are your main duties? Are you a team player? How are your communication and interpersonal skills? Are you resilient and adaptable? There are many things to consider as career paths within environmental policy tend to overlap.
Do you want to work in government, or in the private sector for a progressive corporation? Working for a non-governmental organization is very popular thanks to their environmental agendas, but they’re merely one option.
One thing is for sure though - you definitely don’t need to be the outdoor type to pursue a career in environmental policy
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Asha’s Answer

It seems like you have a clear passion but just need to find some tangible ways of spreading that passion to others!
1. Look at your school community. Are there environmental justice clubs? Environmental microfinance clubs? Activist clubs? Thinking even more generally, Model UN or Debate could be a great place to refine public speaking and speak about issues you care about. If there's no club that you think fits with your interests, start your own! Look to other clubs/organizations that you admire and mirror them.
2. Look at your town, city, and state community. I'm sure there are a ton of environmental activism interest groups wherever you live at some level. Reach out to people in organizations via cold calls and emails and try to get any spot you can working with them (volunteer, unpaid, etc)
3. Check for internships or volunteer opportunities at local parks, wildlife preserves, even government internships with parks departments
4. Reach out to professors at local universities who have interesting research and ask if they would take you on as a (probably unpaid research assistant)
5. Try to take courses at your school or local community college on the topics that interest you!
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James’s Answer

Your interests really suggest you should explore college options in Environmental Studies or Geography . Environmental justice also can be explored from sociology and political science. Many programs may have concentrations in topics such as environment and society, social justice, environmental justice and course work often takes you into a range of areas from urban studies, sustainability science and planning to environmental history and even the physical sciences as well. As you explore your interests more, you will probably find areas that really capture your interests and those may be places your college studies will focus on. I would suggest that as you get closer to college applications, I would look at the web pages of faculty that have teaching interests that seem to compliment your interests and send them an email introducing yourself and what your general plan may be for college. Nothing has to be exact now, but its good to make connections that might also give you more to think about. There are also useful profession groups with web pages that provide information for students such as the Association of American Geographers, American Planning Association, National Association of Environmental Professionals to name a few. You will be surprised at what a simple Google search can uncover!
Thank you comment icon Ok, thanks for the tip on looking into those websites! Margot
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Vern’s Answer

Environmental Science can be extremely broad both in terms of degree and possible employers. Three general degrees come to mind.

- Environmental Policy with the intention to get a law degree or an advanced science degree such as chemistry, biology, or economics.
- Environmental Education with the intention of teaching
- Environmental Engineering for the purpose of working directly on technologies to solve environmental challenges faced by the world.
- Sciences ( for the purpose of gathering data to justify environmental policies.

Possible employers include:

- Government Regulatory Agencies - Policy, Law, and Engineering - e.g. air pollution control districts. regulatory agency simply carry out the Federal, state, or local Political and social goals, objectives, and economic limitations established.
- Advocacy Organizations - Policy, Law, and Education - e.g. Sierra Club. Advocacy organization spend their trying to create a political and social will.
- Consulting - Engineering, law, and technical degrees - e.g. Environmental Planners Consultants. Consulting organizations are simply acting at the direction of the organization that hires them.
- Operational organizations - Engineering, science degrees, and law. e.g. Caltrans, Boeing, city water provider, or US Forest Service. Operational organizations are in the business of delivering a product, service, or accomplishing a mission.

This is probably all very confusing. The key to being success in each of these area is to work toward a degree that give you very technical skills such as engineering, biology, chemistry, or law so that you are prepared to understand and address difficult technical questions using science. You also need to be well rounded enough to understand how society functions. Be careful to avoid ideological perspectives over facts. For example many people believe air quality is getting worse in Los Angeles when in fact data clearly shows that air quality has greatly improved in the last 40 years.


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Vern recommends the following next steps:

Suggest you get a copy of the the book "Designing Your Life" by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. You might want to read the book with a study group. Don't expect to understand everything but try to use the ideas that resonate with you.
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karthik’s Answer

As we’ve already said, environmental policy careers are in abundance as they essentially develop and create policies which aim to limit, reduce and prevent any damaging effects and actions on the environment.
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Christian’s Answer

This is a very good question that has many elements in how you can get involved. There are three pillars that stand out to me when speaking of the environment and the disastrous effects on human caused climate change: 1. Economics 2. Science 3. Policy. I would recommend you read books that can help guide your decision: The Overstory by Richard Powers outlined many aspects as they pertain to the Environment. I also minored in Environment and Society, but ultimately decided to focus on Economics because it studies how people make decisions in a free market. Even things like marketing or web design could help in this cause, as it is so broad, so my recommendation is to dig deep into what your passion is and apply it into this cause. There are many areas seeking people like you!
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