What can I do with a degree in Environmental Science?

Environmental Science_Emma Puloka

Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the environment, incorporating its structure and functioning, and human interactions with the environment. It is an integrative subject that builds on a strong disciplinary base in a major subject such as Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Geography or Geology, with additional study in areas including Antarctic Studies, Fresh Water Management, Forestry, Mathematics, Science, Māori and Indigenous Knowledge, and Statistics. The University's field stations at Cass, Kaikoura, Harihari and Westport are well-equipped for Environmental Science teaching and research.

Environmental Science graduates are in demand for their ability to identify, monitor and solve a variety of problems associated with the environment. Through their degree, graduates gain a valuable set of transferable skills such as:

  • Understanding and integration of a diverse range of perspectives and disciplines
  • Analytical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Good planning and organisation
  • Oral and written communication
  • Cooperation, teamwork and leadership
  • Creative, logical and quantitative thinking
  • Observation, research and development skills.

Opportunities to apply your learning outside the classroom are available in this major, through field courses and trips. These utilise UC field stations at Cass, Harihari and Westport. Such experiences deepen your skillset, awareness of others, working knowledge and employability.

Recent UC Environmental Science graduates have gained roles in:

  • National and regional government bodies eg, Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, Environment Canterbury, New Plymouth Regional Council, Waikato Regional Council, Land Information New Zealand, New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals
  • Crown Research organisations eg, Environmental Science and Research (ESR), Landcare Research, GNS Science
  • Environmental Science Consultancies eg, New Zealand Environmental Technologies, e3 Scientific
  • Professional engineering consultancies eg, Aurecon, AECOM, ENGEO Ltd, Golder Associates Engineering, MWH Global, Parsons Brinckerhoff
  • Geotechnical engineers eg, 4D Geotechnics
  • Engineering contractors eg, Downer NZ
  • Energy companies eg, Solid Energy New Zealand, CRL Energy
  • Mining eg, The Moultrie Group, Rio Tinto Group, BHP Billiton
  • Spatial systems eg, Vicinity Solutions
  • Universities around the world eg, in Australia, Brunei and the United States of America.

Environmental scientists help businesses be more sustainable, work with engineering agencies to reduce the impact of major projects, advise government on environmental risks, and more — see some examples of jobs below.

Note: Some of the jobs listed may require postgraduate study. See the ‘Further study’ section.

Environmental scientist / consultant, ecologist

  • Develops scientific solutions to problems
  • Carries out field and lab tests, records data
  • Conducts analysis and writes technical reports
  • Interprets regulations and monitors compliance

Resource management officer, resource consents officer

  • Ensures adherence to environmental regulations
  • Processes resource/building consent requests
  • Manages stakeholder engagement processes

Field / laboratory technician

  • Plans and carries out research experiments with guidance
  • Maintains and calibrates equipment
  • Liaises with scientists and industry personnel
  • Collects and collates data, and drafts reports

Planner, environmental planner

  • Designs and administers plans for developing an area
  • Examines how areas are changing and the effect of proposed developments
  • Manages projects, including communications
  • Reviews and implements policy initiatives and submissions on a region’s natural resources

Engineering geologist, geotechnical engineer

  • Advises on site selection using geological maps and aerial photographs
  • Uses specialised software to design structures
  • Advises on construction materials and testing

Geographical information systems (GIS) analyst

  • Captures the location of ‘assets’ eg, bridges, street lights using Global Positioning System (GPS) tools in the field
  • Converts data to maps and presents geographical information
  • Administers the structures for GIS data storage
  • Interprets different datasets and investigates patterns for geographical planning purposes

Geologist

  • Studies the Earth’s structure and processes
  • Carries out research to find natural resources
  • Monitors the geotechnical conditions of a site
  • Surveys areas to prepare and design maps
  • Advises on land use and natural hazard risks

Coal / mine geologist

  • Tests ore blending and block modelling
  • Facilitates grade control programmes
  • Liaises with engineers and managers

Graduate hydrogeologist, junior hydrologist

  • Analyses the effect of environmental changes or weather conditions on water flow
  • Forecasts and monitors water usage and rainfall
  • Measures chemical levels or water pollution
  • Administers licences for companies to use rivers

Entrepreneur and CEO

  • Develops an idea to form their own business
  • Offers their services as a consultantrospects.ac.uk

Get started with Entrepreneurship here

As they progress, students and graduates often join professional bodies relevant to their area of interest. These organisations can provide regular communications and offer the chance to network.

Social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can provide avenues to keep upto-date with industry knowledge, networking opportunities, events and job vacancies.

Learn from our students' experiences

For more information

see the Environmental Science subject page