Case Study: Working for Regulators
Working for Regulators
Regulators are responsible to uphold all environmental laws and licensing for business and society. They typically include the Environment Agency, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Environment and Heritage Service, as well as the Forestry Commission, local and national government departments, Natural England, British Waterways to name but a few.
Whilst not essential, a good background knowledge of the environment from A-levels in Geography, Biology, and Environmental Science is a useful basis to hold. However, skills picked up from other subjects will also prove useful, such as effective writing skills (English); knowledge of how to use evidence to draw effective conclusions (History and Sciences); and an understanding of the application of analytical tools (Sciences, Maths, Economics).
Geography and Earth Sciences are useful as prerequisites for undergraduate degrees.
Any degree that studies one or more of the environmental topics set out in the EU EIA and SEA Directives (e.g. biodiversity, water, air quality, climate, soil, landscape, cultural heritage, human health, etc) can also provide a springboard into environmental assessment. This is because environmental assessment practice utilises environmental specialists on a regular basis, including archaeologists, ecologists, landscape architects, etc.
Many consultancies prefer candidates who have a specific Masters (generally an MSc) in Environmental Assessment, and this is often indicated in job specifications for early career posts. A Masters is not a prerequisite to a job in environmental assessment, but it can certainly help get your foot in the door. Specific Masters in Environmental Assessment / Environmental Management are run by a number of universities, with well established courses at Manchester, UEA and Oxford Brookes.
A Doctorate in environmental assessment and related subjects, whilst not rare, are by no means an entry level requirement for a career in the field.
Consultancy – Consultancies both large and small require a regular stream of graduates to meet the growing demand for environmental assessment services (pre-credit crunch growth in the sector was running at over 10% a year, with growth of around 3% forecast for 2009 - Environment Analyst, February 2009). Some of the large consultancies attend university job fairs to find raw talent, and most consultancy websites include a ‘careers / work for us’ section. Jobs can also be found on environmental job sites, such as our own at http://jobs.environmentalistonline.com.
Local Authority – Planning and environmental assessment are often closely linked sectors. A job in a planning departments development control teams can often have a degree of environmental assessment involved (although this will depend on the number of EIA development planned in that authority). SEA, in the form of Sustainability Appraisal, is a more common role in planning authorities either within a Planning Policy / Strategic Planning Team, or within a specialist Sustainable Development Team.
Statutory Agency – The European Directives that give rise to EIA and SEA require environmental regulators to be involved in the EIA and SEA process. As such jobs with an environmental assessment component can be found in the following statutory agencies:
England: Environment Agency, Natural England, English Heritage.
Scotland: Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Scotland.
Wales: Environment Agency, Countryside Council for Wales, Cadw.
Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
The Environment Agency is the largest of these organisations and currently has around 60 dedicated roles in environmental assessment within its National Environmental Assessment Service (NEAS); there are also wider teams such as the 250 planning liaison staff who respond to EIA and SEA consultations received by the Environment Agency.
The environmental sector is fairly dynamic and it is not uncommon for early career professionals to change jobs / firms every 3 years or so. This is not to say that the grass is always greener on the other side. However, moving around either within a firm or by taking a new job is one way of ensuring you build experience of environmental assessment in different contexts and sectors. IEMA’s Jobs website holds a large number of regularly updated environmental assessment related jobs and is a good place to start for those looking for a new opportunity.
The UK is also well placed in the international environmental assessment market. This is because we have a high number of well established home grown international consultancies, and large overseas consultancies with a strong presence in the UK. As a result opportunities for short and longer-term roles overseas are becoming increasingly available. However, before you fly off to foreign climes you will need to bear in mind that, whilst the skills needed to be a good environmental assessment practitioner are common globally, the legislation behind environmental assessment can vary considerably, particularly beyond the EU.
Josh Fothergill, Senior Environmental Adviser at the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), describes his career on working for regulators, and demonstrates how professional development has had an impact on his career:
The Institute would like to thank Josh Fothergill for his assistance in creating this webpage.