Environmental Consultant Career Facts

Environmental consultants are achieving considerable market penetration in all major industries and government programs. They have multiple roles in environmental management, acting as problem solvers and analysts.

The Work Environment

Environmental consultants are employed on a commercial basis as expert advisers. They often have to deal with extremely difficult environmental issues, for example:

  • Water contamination
  • Chemical cleanups
  • Industrial site rehabilitation
  • Emissions issues
  • Waste management and landfills
  • Recycling
  • Mining projects
  • Storm water runoff
  • Development issues
  • Wildlife habitats
  • Endangered species

The public image of environmental consultancies is based on well-known situations like remediation and undoing the damage of the past. Now, however, environmental consultancies are fundamental parts of new projects. A major residential development, for instance, will adopt a management plan to put in place environmental safeguards prior to construction.

In many cases, environmental studies are required by law, but having them conducted is also recognized as a wise practice in the construction industry. Environmental site analysis can identify many issues that can become major problems for developers and residents as well as the local wildlife.

For example, the presence of a large maidenhair fern may seem harmless enough, but to an environmental consultant, it means there’s water around, and plenty of it. These ferns grow well only in the presence of reliable supplies of water. Large amounts of water can destroy foundations.

The environmental analysis in this case also tells the developer it is building on a water source that may well be feeding a part of the local water supply. The developer could be at risk of installing drains and sewage pipes that could contaminate the water supply system, a potentially very expensive issue. Any of these problems can cost millions to fix.

The environmental analysis of a site draws a map of issues for the developer. These are examples of such issues:

  • Site risks caused by natural drainage, aquifers and water courses
  • Soil erosion caused by removal of vegetation
  • Subsidence created by removal of trees
  • Water-logging created by construction near wetlands

Salary: This depends on specialty, nature of the work and nature of employment or contract. A median range salary for an unspecified role as an environmental consultant is $50,000.

Hours: Environmental consultants generally work during business hours. However, their jobs include considerable site work and analysis, which may involve considerable extra time and working on contract schedules.

The Career Environment

Environmental consultants are often specialists in areas like hydrology, geology, zoology or other advanced forms of natural science. Their career tracks can be very complex, but in this field, they’re usually senior scientists and highly motivated people.

Many choose environmental consultancy as a preferred field. It’s a potentially lucrative as well as otherwise rewarding career path. The problem solving elements in environmental consultancy can be very valuable intellectual property and, in some cases, groundbreaking technical achievements. For example, one US environmental consultant has developed a way of cleaning up industrial waste using a type of fungus that is more efficient than any other known conventional method.

The professional scientific career tracks also benefit from work in this field. Environmental analysis can be extremely difficult, requiring very high standards of professional expertise. The work acts as a career credential, proving advanced technical abilities.