Environmental Career Paths

Environmental Career Paths

Background to the profiles
As part of research associated with Education for Sustainability at RMIT University, in 2016 an invitation was sent to Environment Professionals seeking information about their backgrounds and work.

The invitations to participate in the survey were distributed using the electronic data bases and networks of the Centre for Sustainability Leadership and the Environmental Jobs Network, for the May 2016 survey, and using the electronic network of NRM jobs in December, 2016.

As part of the survey respondents were asked if they were willing to provide a profile of their career, and 129 provided their contact details to arrange for a profile to be lodged. To facilitate their responses a list of headings was provided.

Overall, 585 participated in the survey and 29 provided a career profile.

The following profiles have not been edited, other than to remove any information that may identify the participant, and to format the material to provide a degree of consistency.

Grouping of the profiles has followed the categorisation that had been developed within ‘The Guide to Environmental Careers in Australia, 2010’ which provided a base for the 2016 survey, and can be found on our publications page.

Within each grouping the individual profiles can be found by the title of the position given by the participant. These profiles have not been placed in any specific order.

This report was completed in 2017 and gives a really realistic overview of the different career paths that are available in the environmental and sustainability arena.

 

Associate Professor Ian Thomas
School of Global, Urban and Social Studies
RMIT University, Australia

Environment Profession Career Profiles Research
August, 2017
Contents

Conservation and management of biodiversity4
Position: Manager, Major Projects4
Conservation and management of biodiversity5
Position: Project Manager – Western Sydney5
Conservation and management of biodiversity6
Position: Landcare Project Officer6
Conservation and management of biodiversity7
Position: Bush For Life Field Officer, Trees For Life7
Energy efficiency and renewable energy8
Position: Energy auditor and Sustainability consultant8
Environmental consultancy9
Position: Principal Consultant – Environmental, Sustainability & Quality Management9
Environmental consultancy10
Position: Principal Environmental Consultant10
Environmental consultancy11
Position: Owner and Director, consulting firm11
Environmental consultancy12
Position: Senior Environmental Scientist12
Environmental consultancy13
Position: Manager, Climate Change and Sustainability Services13
Environmental consultancy14
Position: Consultant / Contract Ecologist14
Environmental consultancy15
Position: Project Controller, Project Manager, Team Leader15
Environmental consultancy16
Position: Environmental Consultant16
Environmental education and training17
Position: Ecological Sustainability Manager17
Environmental education and training18
Position: Project Lead, Education (delivering ResourceSmart Schools)18
Environmental impact assessment19
Position: Environment Manager – New Developments19
Environmental sustainability policy, legislation, protection and enforcement20
Position: Coordinator Water and Waste Strategy20
Environmental sustainability policy, legislation, protection and enforcement21
Position: Program and Policy officer21
Environmental sustainability policy, legislation, protection and enforcement22
Position: Health Safety and Environment Specialist22
Land management23
Position: Land Management Officer, DNRM, QLD23
Land management, quality, protection and site restoration24
Position: Land Services Coordinator24
Natural resource management25
Position: Analyst Forest Contracting25
Natural resource management26
Position: Corporate Fire Manager26
Natural resource management27
Position: NRM Manager27
Natural resource management28
Position: Natural Resource Management (NRM) Coordinator28
Natural resource management29
Position: Senior Forester29
Natural resource management30
Position: Assistant District Manager30
Sustainability communications and public awareness31
Position title: Digital Engagement Lead31
Sustainability communications and public awareness32
Position title: Urban Forester32
Conservation and management of biodiversity
Position: Manager, Major Projects

Part of the economy in which you work: State or Territory government
Salary bracket: $ 140,000
Employment Arrangements: Full Time permanent
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: interest in wildlife
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: technical officer – ecological surveys
Career path since then: field ecologist, conservation planning officer, manager, senior manager
Main activities you undertake in your role: staff management, budget management, project management

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
Good communication skills, strategic thinking and planning skills, good organisational skills

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
Academic training is essential to get the concepts and basic research and inquiry skills. All the rest is on the job.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
Having to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge and the challenge of learning outside my area of professional training.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:
40 hours a week, prioritisation and learning to let go of the detail.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
Delivering benefit to the public (being a public servant), positive feedback and recognition from stakeholders

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
Get a degree, get some experience, build your networks.

 

4

Conservation and management of biodiversity
Position: Project Manager – Western Sydney

Part of the economy in which you work: as a contractor company working with private sector, local government and NSW state agencies
Salary bracket: $53,000
Employment Arrangements: Casual
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: I was initially employed casually for my bush knowledge and was then encouraged to continue because of the extent of my previous knowledge and encouraged to complete further education
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Threatened species surveying, bush regeneration
Career path since then: primarily bush regen, but with regular vegetation consultancy work throughout
Main activities you undertake in your role: people management!!!, admin (invoicing, reporting, client liaison), managing project implementation

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role: people skills, flora identification skills, time management

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: Some skills were acquired as part of my upbringing in the bush, but otherwise the rest was learnt by reading and attending workshops and just plain figuring it out by myself. I found Environmental Science at university did not provide the skills required for working in the environmental industry at all, either in respect to project management, people management, accounting or flora identification.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: that there are still talented people in the bush regen industry despite the appalling pay conditions and job insecurity.
As an industry in Australia it is seriously undervalued despite being so crucial. Am seriously hoping the industry continues to become more professional and insist on better conditions. The industry deserves better than minimum wage when doing important environmental work. It is tragic that our government so undervalues the skills required in bush regen that they think a few unemployed youths (Green Army) could do the same job as a seriously skilled and qualified tradesperson

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: can be up to 70-80hrs/wk, but with only 40hrs actually paid. Requires strict time management as there is always a deadline and never enough time to do the job to the quality you desire. I never really ‘turn off’ from my job, and have to regularly manage my own burnout and that of others I manage

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: I love working around native flora and around others who are equally passionate. People who work this hard for an industry so maligned make for interesting and highly passionate people

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: unless you are truly obsessed with the field, DON’T do it as it has poor pay, poor conditions, very hard work, poor prospects, no recognition and can ruin your health. Do it as a hobby and lobby governments on our behalf instead.

 

5

Conservation and management of biodiversity
Position: Landcare Project Officer

Part of the economy in which you work: Not for profit community organisation
Salary bracket: $78,000 - $90,000 (FTE)
Employment Arrangements: Currently part time (by choice, as I have young children!)
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: I had always had a strong interest in nature, the environment and sustainability, and wanted to work in a field where I could work to protect and improve our environment
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: A graduate position as an Environmental Scientist

Career path since then: After working as an Environmental Scientist for around 4 years, I decided that I wanted to move more into the natural resource management sector, so commenced a Master of Sustainable Agriculture by distance (while still working full-time).
On completing my Masters, I got a position with the NSW Department of Primary Industries as a Technical Assistant. I worked in this role for several years, then took on my current role with Landcare, where I have been working for the past 8 years

Main activities you undertake in your role: I work with farmers who are interested in protecting and/or enhancing the native vegetation on their properties. I meet with each landholder on their property and work with them to design revegetation or protection works, taking into account existing remnants and links to surrounding native vegetation (with the aim of promoting landscape-scale connectivity), while also incorporating their production needs.

I also help write and produce many publications and other resources designed to provide landholders with easily understandable and accessible information regarding native vegetation, wildlife, sustainable management practices and many other related topics.

In conjunction with this, we run regular workshops for landholders, and undertake regular visits to each landholder to discuss what they’ve done, how the works are going and help work through any changes to management.

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:

  1. Communication skills are essential – talking one-on-one with people, presenting to groups, and preparing written documents and articles for different audiences
  2. Time management, and the ability to organise your days and your workload efficiently
  3. Curiosity, and a desire/ability to constantly stay aware of new research and optimum management practices across a range of areas

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: I would say that the vast majority of my current knowledge and skills have been picked up on the job.
The main skills which I got from university which I still use today would probably be:

  • Basic botanical understanding and identification
  • Research and report writing skills
  • Critical thought, and the ability to understand (and question) existing management practices.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:

  • Meeting all the amazing farmers who are dedicated to improving their environment, and getting to look around their properties at the native fauna and flora
  • The diversity of days in the field and in the office, doing research and doing on-ground works, running workshops and designing resources

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: I work around 18 hours a week, usually over 2 days, although the days/times vary depending on what is on. I need to be quite flexible and work additional hours as required during busy times.

On the other hand, my employer is also very flexible, which is fantastic for me as I have young children, so it is important for me to be able to balance my days with the kids with work.
Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: It is incredibly satisfying to work with landholders who have not previously undertaken any natural resource work on their properties. Farmers such as this often come to us with a desire to “plant some trees”, and by meeting with them on their farm, and talking with them about how native ecosystems work, we are able to build their knowledge to a point where they understand the importance of aspects such as biodiversity in plantings, connectivity and the impact of surrounding land use impacts.

It is also fantastic to meet with farmers who have been undertaking NRM work on their properties for many years, and to see the results of their dedication in terms of incredible areas of native vegetation, with abundant native birds and other wildlife present.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: My role involves a combination of expertise in environmental science and agriculture, so I would suggest that if you want to work in a field which covers multiple disciplines such as this, you should supplement your studies with work experience or other volunteer work. You may need to start in a role which does not exactly fit your long-term goals, but if you are prepared to spend time to learn in the role, you have a good chance of being able to work your way into the career of your dreams.

 

6

Conservation and management of biodiversity
Position: Bush For Life Field Officer, Trees For Life

Part of the economy in which you work: Not for profit
Salary bracket: $45-50k
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Desire to have a career that also gives back to the environment and the community
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Bush For Life Support Officer, Trees For Life
Career path since then: Promoted to Bush For Life Volunteer Coordinator after 6 months, moved into current role after 3 years, currently coordinating a new project for the organisation as well as holding my existing role.
Main activities you undertake in your role: Supervising volunteers undertaking bush regeneration activities, report writing, grant writing, scheduling, WHS

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role: Communication/people skills, IT skills, environmental knowledge

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: A great deal, particularly plant id, bush regeneration strategies and getting to know the sites.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: Always changing, every day is different in some way, have to be very flexible and willing to participate in the organisations activities across the board.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: Generally 37.5 per week but it varies wildly from week to week. Workload is managed through flexi time agreements. Workload is huge, so it is all about prioritisation with smaller less important tasks dropping down the list pretty quickly!

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: Huge! I get much satisfaction from seeing the health and size of patches of native vegetation improve, as well as being surrounded by passionate like minded people who are all working hard to selflessly make a difference.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: Be prepared to make a financial sacrifice. While the money is less the flexibility is more. Get lots of volunteer experience in the field of bush regeneration as that is respected by the organisation. Be prepared to work in a dynamic and ever changing space where everybody has to pitch in and help.

 

7

Energy efficiency and renewable energy
Position: Energy auditor and Sustainability consultant

Part of the economy in which you work: Own business working in Local Government, domestic and business sectors.
Salary bracket: $80-$110K
Employment Arrangements: Consultant and contract
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Being a part of the solution.
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Teaching Renewable Energy in TAFE sector.

Career path since then:

  • Writing and delivering Sustainability courses and subjects in the TAFE sector
  • State Government domestic energy audits
  • Contract work project managing EPC for Government sector
  • Further education
  • SME lighting and sustainability upgrades
  • Delivering energy audits for 14 local government Councils

Main activities you undertake in your role:

  • Auditing facility/home
  • Establishing a baseline as to current energy use situation and habits
  • Bill and interval data analysis
  • Make recommendations with some detail of solutions. Quantify benefits both financial and environmental.
  • Provide report that is matched to the client’s level of understanding
  • Help establish action plan
  • Implement recommendations if required

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role: Listen to what the client has to say. Often they won’t actually know “what” is wrong – just that something is not right or could be better.

Have a good understanding of the tools available for you to work with. Most clients have one chance of improving their situation from a Sustainability perspective, so it needs to be correct the first time.

Interact in a manner that matches the client’s level of understanding.

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: Education was purely a means of facilitating my own learning. Much of what I have picked up has been “on the job” learning.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: Interacting with people at their level of understanding. Making sometimes complex recommendations and solutions in a relatable manner to clients. Recommendations that end up with win:win scenarios – clients make savings and reduced environmental impacts.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: 40+ hours per week. Not managed too well as it is sometimes hard to stop something you’re passionate about when there is always so much more to do.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: Interacting with people who have seemingly insurmountable problems, breaking down those problems and showing solutions. Seeing recommendations turn into reality i.e installation of PV panels, timers on commercial refrigeration, water tank installation.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:

  • Never stop learning. Some basic psychology is implicit in the Sustainability field. Sometimes an energy solution can be just a subtle behaviour change modification required rather than expensive technological solutions.
  • This industry is not just about the application of technologies; it is also about understanding the specifics that relate to that particular situation. The same solution may fit different applications, which can only be picked up on through experience.
  • Take a holistic approach to solutions – there is no point in recommending one solution if it impacts detrimentally in another area.
  • Remain open to all opportunities. It may sound cliché, but one door opens at the same time, or just before the other closes. This field is growing and most people are not even aware that they are looking for someone in this field of expertise. Who doesn’t need to be more efficient in the way they do things – even if it’s just living your life.
  • Clients recognise and appreciate you having their best interests at heart. They really aren’t after being pigeon-holed with a “one size fits all” solution.

 

8

Environmental consultancy
Position: Principal Consultant – Environmental, Sustainability & Quality Management

Part of the economy in which you work: Own business
Salary bracket: $50 – $55 K
Employment Arrangements: Consultant
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work:
To be of benefit – to do work that I think is meaningful
First role in the environment/sustainability sector:
Environmental Compliance Coordinator (2 years)

Career path since then:

  • Environment & Compliance Team Leader (3 years)
  • Principal Consultant (current)

Main activities you undertake in your role:

  • Management system gap analyses and audit
  • Policy and process development
  • Data collation, synthesis and reporting
  • Risk management activities

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:

  • Organisational and time management
  • Effective communication (context specific, stakeholder relevant, listening and professional writing skills)

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
~70% ‘on the job’, ~30% through formal study and professional development activities

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:

  • The variety of clients – from different industries, different organisational activities, size, purpose etc.
  • Observing and contributing to positive change and improvement

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:

  • Varies widely – sometimes very busy and sometimes very quiet
  • I manage my workload by trying to be as flexible and realistic as possible and being aware of my wellbeing and capacity to work effectively in different circumstances.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
I receive very significant satisfaction from the majority of the work I do

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:

  • Say yes to as many different work and professional development experiences as you can.
  • Develop as wide a professional network as possible.
  • Consider and plan for your financial stability (to get you through the quiet times without having to experience undue financial pressure).

 

9

Environmental consultancy
Position: Principal Environmental Consultant

Part of the economy in which you work: Business
Salary bracket: $50,000 – $100,000
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Always had a connection to the “land” growing up on a farm.
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Environmental Trainee
Career path since then: Worked as a consultant, in industry and government. Recently started my own environmental consultancy business.
Main activities you undertake in your role: Development of Environmental Management Plans, monitoring and auditing, environmental advice.

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
        - Problem solving
        - Good communicator both within and outside of organiation
        - Good writing skills

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
       - Most of my knowledge of operations has been developed at work. This is important for understanding the potential environmental risks.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
      - Travel and working in different environments
      - Working with all types of people
      - Being involved in projects from planning through to rehabilitation

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:
     - Depends on position – fieldwork can be 50 hours plus a week while office work is closer to 40 hours a week
     - Priortise important tasks. Understand deadlines/operational constraints.
     - Being a business owner the work is never completed!

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
     - Influencing people and operations
     - Looking for opportunities to go above regulations
     - Learning

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
    - Get an appropriate degaree and then try working in a range of industries. I believe there is the right position for everyone.

 

10

Environmental consultancy
Position: Owner and Director, consulting firm

Part of the economy in which you work: Own business
Salary bracket: $100-$150 K
Employment Arrangements: Consultant
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: wanting to do something meaningful to contribute to conservation
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Regional Specialists with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Career path since then: Regional Operations Manager, Project Director, Regional Director, Senior Executive Service, Consultant
Main activities you undertake in your role: provide strategic consultancy services

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role: strategic problem solving, project management, communication skills

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: while university studies develop some generic skills (such as research methods, report writing), most ‘practical’ skills are developed and refined ‘on the job’ or through industry–based short courses.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: variety of locations and people I deal with

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: My role is more part-time these days. As a consultant I work more when I have secured more work, so the ‘part-time’ aspect is inconsistent – I am often working many hours, sometimes not at all. In the senior executive role I worked 50+ hours each week and was on call 24/7.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: helping clients by solving their problems and bringing a new perspective to their organisation. As a senior manager achieving the design and delivery of several major projects, oversighting expansion of the reserve network, leading a large team of 600+.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: Get a degree – it doesn’t really matter exactly what you study, pick something you are interested in so you can maintain focus and enjoy it. When you are at work, stay focussed, avoid negative people, stay busy, actively seek out new opportunities, attach yourself to positive role models, always take opportunities for new experiences as they arise, always ask for clarification, be friendly and open to new people.

 

11

Environmental consultancy
Position: Senior Environmental Scientist

Part of the economy in which you work: Business – as a consultant
Salary bracket: $90,000
Employment Arrangements: Full Time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work:
Get paid to go camping. I like to learn about the work around me.
First role in the environment/sustainability sector:
Student Environmental Town Planner with the local council
Career path since then:
Moved to a consultancy because that’s where you learn the most and apply your knowledge. I have worked in 3 consultancies since switching from local government.
Main activities you undertake in your role:
GIS, report preparation, water monitoring, groundwater monitoring

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
GIS, data analysis, good knowledge about at least one environmental discipline (i.e. soils, flora, fauna, geology, water, hydrology etc)

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
90% of what I know has been picked up on the job. My university degree (generic Environmental Science degree) did not teach me much.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
It’s possible to be near the leading edge of applying new technology. I am currently investigating 3d scanning small features using an iPhone to incorporate into environmental site inspections, particularly for measuring erosion etc.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:
I am now working in a position where it is really flexible (I negotiated these working conditions). Minimum hours per week = 32. But I get paid on an hourly rate for extra hours worked over that. Also get sick leave and annual leave.

Previously in other consultancies it’s been an average of 40hrs per week but you can go and do 60-80hrs per week to get the job done in the required timeframe. If you’re with a good consultancy they’ll give you something for doing that (but not pay commensurate with how many hours you do, or time off at a 1hr extra worked = 1hr time off rate)… But I’ve been in jobs where a thankyou is not even said and they just expect you to do it again next time it’s needed.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
Very mixed. I have always wanted to learn more about geomorphology, but there are very few opportunities to work in that field as a consultant. If a potential job comes up you do not get it because there are clusters of specialists working for specialist companies that can provide far more expertise than you… I’ve now been saying this for close to 10 years. However I find satisfaction by applying new technology to my job and then advertising that I’m very good because I can apply the new techniques (i.e. UAVs etc).

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
Get a degree in a specialised science discipline (i.e. geology degree, or ecology degree or similar) rather than going for an environmental science degree. If you want to do anything with water (i.e. flooding calculations, water balances, groundwater etc) its better to have an Environmental Engineering degree rather than a science degree. Queensland is preventing people with science degrees from undertaking any hydrology/flooding/geomorphology assessments.

 

12

Environmental consultancy
Position: Manager, Climate Change and Sustainability Services

Part of the economy in which you work: Business or corporate - consulting
Salary bracket: $50 – $500 K (range from graduate to Partner at big 4 firm) (as manager I’m at $100k)
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: I grew up in the southwest US, spending weekends and holidays in the stunning national parks and mountains where I developed a strong connection with nature. I've also always had a strong curiosity of how the world works, which drew me to science.
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Lab rat! I worked in a lab in uni to test water samples and in a construction lab over the summer to test soil samples. My first permanent job was Graduate Environmental Scientist at URS (consulting).
Career path since then: With my first grad role, I was able to experience a range of types of projects for clients in different industries. I chose to focus on corporate sustainability strategy, avoiding impacts from the start by embedding environmental considerations in business decision making, and then did one project focused on improving suppliers' performance through purchasing. I was so interested in the potential for change and influence of businesses as the buyer that I took a role with a non-profit that focused on sustainable procurement. Eventually that organisation was acquired by a small sustainability consulting firm, and another two years later that firm was acquired by EY, where I currently work.
Main activities you undertake in your role: I work with companies and governments to understand their environmental, social and ethical impacts, develop strategies, policies, systems and internal training to reduce them, and report and verify performance. To achieve this, I do research, conduct interviews, analyse data, write a lot (reports, proposals, emails, articles), present, manage teams, and meet with clients (existing and potential).

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
Curiosity - consultants need to be on top of the most recent developments and best practices so you must always be reading and asking questions.

Professional scepticism - there is always room for improvement no matter how 'sustainable' any organisation claims to be.

Thinking on your feet - in meetings with clients regarding a project or potential clients you're hoping to work with, there will always be a question you're not prepared for. Staying cool and coming up with a good answer on the spot can be the difference between success and failure!

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: Nearly all of it. My training in ecology and environmental engineering are a useful foundation (and got me into this career), but everything I do on a daily basis I have learned in multiple roles across 10 years.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: My job never ceases to be interesting! I learn every day and am generally juggling 5-10 projects, so there’s no getting bored. Sustainability is a new and developing field, so we are often at the cutting edge of establishing new best practice.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: 35 – 60 hours, depending on the week. Late nights and weekends can be tough, but they are occasional and usually balanced by a few easier weeks.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: are what keep me going. I am lucky and motivated to know the work I do is directly contributing to a more sustainable world. And it's pretty awesome to get paid to do something I would spend my spare time reading and talking about anyway!

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: Consulting is a fantastic way to start your career as it gives you exposure to a wide range of industries, topics, and work tasks. You’re surrounded by many different experts in their fields to learn from and choose which topics interest you most. It also teaches you important skills like time management, communication, writing, documenting and organising your work, and working with a team. I would recommend starting in a large consulting firm where there is the most variety and specialising or moving into industry/government from there.

 

13

Environmental consultancy
Position: Consultant / Contract Ecologist

Part of the economy in which you work:
Local, State and Federal Govts, own business, private sector (individuals and corporates)
Salary bracket: $60 – $160 K
Employment Arrangements: Consultant and contractor
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work:
Conservation ethic; ethical employment; local issues; regional issues; plant ecology
First role in the environment/sustainability sector:
Catchment officer with regional catchment management authority
Career path since then:
Local govt catchment officer; NPWS project officer; consultant (20 yrs); contractor to NSW OEH
Main activities you undertake in your role:
Vegetation mapping; threatened flora profiling and conservation / research; environmental impact assessment and mitigation

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
Good memory, good vision, landscape interpretation

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
80% or more learnt on the job, initially through volunteer work for conservation groups seeking to expand national park estate.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
Finding new species or range extensions, and describing new ecological communities.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:
Vary variable. Consulting is patchy, whereas contracting is more like being a ‘charge by the hour’ employee, so provides more reliable income. My contract is 28 hours per week but can range from 2 hours to 60 hours (rarely) depending on project needs. Consultancy can be an adjunct or can be a few days per week. Balancing two jobs can be challenging, especially when some work is time-critical e.g. based around a plant being in flower.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
Providing good public interest science that can have conservation benefits for species, communities and beyond. Adding new knowledge; improving management outcomes.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
Public service options can provide relatively more reliable income than freelance consultancy. Working for a consultancy is very variable depending on the firm’s ethics. Most firms are dependent on income from ‘developers’ so you may be pressured to serve the client’s interests even though this is ethically unsound and not good legal practice – it’s the nature of this largely unregulated business. Equally, some government roles can be politicised, and under-resourcing is the norm. It’s challenging finding one niche that is adequate, so I suggest finding at least two.

 

14

Environmental consultancy
Position: Project Controller, Project Manager, Team Leader

Part of the economy in which you work: Business or corporate/ Own business
Salary bracket: $ 80k
Employment Arrangements: Full time, Contract and Consultant.
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: I hadn't studied for a few years and undertook a line of study at Swinburne to do 'Renewable Energy' more as something to keep me busy. Of course I was interested in where renewable would go in the next few years and in the back of my mind if I was out of work then here would be an alternative source of work.
The final motivation came about following a retrenchment so I made a decision to change direction

First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Project Controller for the research and development company Solar Systems in Abbotsford working out of the Project Office and directly assisting the Product Development manager on the CPV solar dish. This role had me across all of the tasks assigned to the engineering teams, completing project reporting (progress- issues- risks- test plans- FMEA- RASIC- LCOE- wall charts and all things project related).

Career path since then: Project Manager at Energy Matters and key achievement was to build a 200kW power station for Johnson&Johnson which at that time was the largest privately funded power station. Other smaller projects followed typically of 30 - 40kW size.
. Beacon Solar (part of Beacon Lighting) - Project Manager on Contract. Working with a team to prepare quotations for medium size PV projects and coordinating domestic PV installation.
. Consulting at Shine-On-Solar - adhoc engagement mainly providing assistance in management and preparation of quotations for PV project. Some direct personal coaching for a junior PM.
. Consulting at iSolar - short term contract to help the business best understand how the "Solar in Schools program' works and coordination of an EOI for potential installers to work with iSolar.

Main activities you undertake in your role: Project Management process applied as need depending on the size of the project and the type of customer. For example at Johnson&Johnson where they employed a Project Consultant the full suite of process and tools were used. I have AIPM and Prince2 qualifications and many years PM experience in IT at Coles Myer so the project management requirements were easily achieved.

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role: Should have extensive or general experience and knowledge of electrical systems
Educational - Solar Design grid connect, Electronics Cert 4 and Grad Dip Data Comms qualification in my case plus: Excellent communication skills and people management.

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: The role at Solar Systems was multi dimensional so the 'pick up was very high'. The engineering disciplines included Structural and Foundations, Electrical, Optics and Mirrors, HMI / SCADA, Software development (which I directly managed), Cooling, procurement, PV (Receiver) technology and 'how to build plans'.

The learning hear was that the Engineers have a very specialised area of expertise and the desire to make the product 100% was heavily challenged by my role to get the product into the market. It was necessary to quickly understand the terminology and the development plans so that an overall product development plan could be achieved.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: Being part of a team working on a leading edge product. The product was in revision 5 when I joined so there were many lesson learned that need to be incorporated yet the company being in development mode ran many Proof of Concepts all of which I was across.

The joy of working with highly skilled Engineers in a non-threatening environment has not been surpassed in my career.

An interesting element was in having an holistic view over the product being developed and when I had this understand then greater inter-skill group cooperation and test site utilisation was possible.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: 40 - 60 hours per week would be a guess. The workload was within my capabilities so it really wasn't a problem.

The greatest challenge can from some areas of the business that were suspicious of my role to allow the creation of a delivery plan or 'task assignment documents' and was only achieved after some time and the levels of trust and understanding had been established.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: Bringing project disciplines' into the renewable energy industry in the hope the industry would become successful and main stream technology.

It certainly was not the financial reward, I made this my 4th career move knowing it would be my last and had the expectation I would be successful

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: I would not advise anyone doing IT Project Management to make this career move, the financial reward is much less, the lack of clear direction from the policy makers is a great concern and the cap in hand approach to R&D creates uncertainty.

If renewable energy project management was early in a person’s career then it would be a good starting place assuming large scale project gain momentum.

 

15

Environmental consultancy
Position: Environmental Consultant

Part of the economy in which you work: Private Business
Salary bracket: $ 65 K
Employment Arrangements:
Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work:
I enjoy the outdoors and being involved in the construction industry.
First role in the environment/sustainability sector:
Technical officer
Career path since then:
Technical officer
Graduate environmental scientist
Senior technical officer
Research Assistant
Spatial Analyst
Environmental consultant

Main activities you undertake in your role:
Environmental impact assessment, biodiversity surveys and onsite construction advice.

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
GIS – is essential to most reports I prepare. A little knowledge in being able to make a simple map will go a long way.

Soil and erosion – Erosion and sediment control is a risk on all project sites.

Communication – being able to effectively communicate with clients will make or break a project. If the client feels like the communication was poor there may not be any follow up work.

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
90%, most of my learning at Uni was science based, with very little on construction and impact assessment.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
I am interested in the design process for our projects. I enjoy being able to provide input into the design to help minimise impacts to the environment. Another interesting aspect is monitoring impacts, either long term bird monitoring or soil and ground water..

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: 38hrs/week.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
Seeing project turn from an idea on a set of design drawings to a road, a weir or even a single house is satisfying.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
Get involved, when I was an undergrad I volunteered with PhD students to help with fieldwork, along with gaining great knowledge and skills I travelled to some great parts of the country. There are also some great non for profit organisations (Bush heritage) that offer internships or work experience.

If I was an undergraduate now I would approach the local Roads and Maritime Services office and ask to tag along with the Environment Officer on some inspections. This would introduce you to the industry and how the environmental approval pathway works and how the environment is manage during construction.

 

16

Environmental education and training
Position: Ecological Sustainability Manager

Part of the economy in which you work: Vocational Education
Salary bracket: $90-100k
Employment Arrangements: Part Time 4 days per week
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work:
Passion for working with people to manage our resources (natural/renewable & man made) sustainably
First role in the environment/sustainability sector:
Studied Agric. Science – first job was working on a farm followed by a long career in Soil Conservation and Catchment Management. The last 3 yrs work for Landcare 1 day per week and TAFE backfilling the Sustainability Managers role 4 days per week.
Career path since then: above

Main activities you undertake in your role:
AWARENESS – Increase sustainability awareness with staff & students
PROJECTS – Implement projects ie water use efficiency, waste systems, ICT & installing solar cells In 2016 installed 120kW cells across 3 campuses. Total 440kW ie 1860 panels across all campuses.
MONITORING – monitor electricity, water, gas & waste. Total cost annually $1.5mill.
SUSTAINABILITY INFO – input into decision making on replacement of appliances to ensure they meet the NSW GREP criteria.
REPORTING – annual reporting of electricity, water, gas & waste for GREP.
POLICY – input into policies such as air conditioning, new buildings, lighting, heating, etc.

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
COMMUNICATION – important to engage people
PERSUASIVE/NEGOTATION skills – important to get people to “buy in” on sustainability
ORGANISATIONAL – sustainability is applicable across most aspects of the work place hence you are involved in most facets of the business and so it’s important to be well organised

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
With over 70% of TAFE staff casual or temp it’s a case of working out things for yourself hence significant learning on the job.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
Most interesting component is working with people – 15yrs ago sustainability was seen as exclusively green - now it’s mainstream in peoples’ minds.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: 28hrs p/w. You have to manage your time – like any job.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
The results of your work are tangible and sometimes subtle ie changings someone’s view about resource use.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
RELATIONSHIPS are critical in this job and hence INTERPERSONAL skills are very important to engage with people and get them to buy into sustainability.

 

17

Environmental education and training
Position: Project Lead, Education (delivering ResourceSmart Schools)

Part of the economy in which you work: Victorian State Government
Salary bracket: $89 - $99K + super
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Two reasons. Firstly, I was studying applied science and not enjoying it at all and secondly, I had an environmental science teacher steer me towards studying environmental management as he believed there were better job prospects.
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Litter Champion for the Victorian Litter Action Alliance
Career path since then: Moved from the Litter Champion role into Project Lead, Education (delivering ResourceSmart Schools)
Main activities you undertake in your role: To manage the ResourceSmart Schools professional learning program for teachers, educators and sustainability practitioners and stakeholder management.
Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role: Project management, communications, engagement and influencing skills.
Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: 60% picked up on the job, 40% personal attributes, values and beliefs.
Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: Working through stakeholders to achieve sustainability outcomes – it’s hard, but super rewarding.
Hours worked and how you manage your workload: 38-45 hours per week depending on work priorities.
Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: Knowing that you are helping people and helping the environment makes my job one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet.
Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: Do it!

 

18

Environmental impact assessment
Position: Environment Manager – New Developments

Part of the economy in which you work: Resources Industry
Salary bracket: $150 – $180 K
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: By being involved at the start of a project I could guide the Company towards minimal environment impact and direction of the best rehabilitation measures. In my career at a Consultancy it was good to be part of remediation projects (cleaning up the mess) instead of leaving a legacy for the future.
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Environmental Consultant
Career path since then: Environment Manager Resources Industry

Main activities you undertake in your role:
Strategic input on environment issues, Input to schedule and budgets for the cost of environmental issues and providing cost effective, fit-for purpose environmental solutions to the big issues

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role: Understanding the cost of environmental services and making a business case to the Company, Understanding the technical details of a project to be able to provide practical environmental outcomes, Always being positive – see every thing not as a problem but an opportunity to learn and solve.

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: 90% is picked up on the job – my Masters in Environment provided some theory and where to find information but generally most university courses do not have lecturers with industry experience. Most companies prefer postgraduates

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: Determining the long term strategy to improve environmental outcomes for projects and then getting the business to recognise that it is worthwhile to “do it right” in the short term for a better bottom line (and environmental outcome) in the long term.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: Work my butt off generally but once I realize I won’t deliver everything I go to my manager with a solution (how long, how many people and cost it will take to deliver) and get them to decide priorities and/or to give me more staff.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: Seeing environmental programs come to fruition over the long term and seeing good environmental practice embedded in the Company.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: Do an undergrad degree in science or engineering so you get a good scientific background (geology, ecology, chemistry, engineering) and depth of knowledge and become good at problem solving. Do a postgrad in Environment. Start in a Consultancy so you get exposure to many different environmental problems/projects. That diversity from Consultancy gives you a good “can do” attitude and you can use the experience of other projects for many environmental issues. Gives a good holistic view.

 

19

 

Environmental sustainability policy, legislation, protection and enforcement
Position: Coordinator Water and Waste Strategy

Part of the economy in which you work: Local Government
Salary bracket: $115 –$ 125 K
Employment Arrangements:
Full time

Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work:
I was worried about what was happening to the world from the hole in the ozone layer to climate change and wanted to do something to stop this happening/getting worse

First role in the environment/sustainability sector:
NGO – Environment Victoria, Water Projects Officer, while I was still studying

Career path since then:
Other roles at EV in the same area – Water Campaigner and Healthy Rivers Campaigner;
Local Govt – Water Project Officer/Sustainable Living at Home Coordinator;
Sustainability Victoria – Waste Policy Role (don’t remember it’s name);
Local Gov – Coordinator Water and Waste Strategy

Main activities you undertake in your role:
Strategy/Policy creation and implementation, project design, development and management, strategic planning, staff management, community engagement and education (mostly via my staff), waste information promotion/media etc (again, mostly via staff)

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
Strategic planning ability, clarity and organisational skills, staff management, ability to coordinate diverse projects and roles, ability to take responsibility and be accountable.

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
The learning curve was steep initially – mostly around the policy that we have and understanding the lay of the land for future strategic direction. I would say beyond that though about 60% of what I’m doing was picked up on the job.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
Developing new projects and programs from looking at problems and working out how to fix them, working in regional groups/activities, learning more from conferences, workshops, others etc.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:
76 hrs per fortnight spread over a 9 day fortnight. I take very, very little work home. If I have extra work to do I stay at the office and put it down as work. This keeps my home life free of work thoughts and worries (as far as possible). It also means I am reimbursed (or get the time back) that I have given work from my personal time – which keeps the work/life balance more balanced!

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
Seeing things completed and knowing that there are going to be good environmental outcomes from it, finishing project, recognition from others that something the work of my team has produced is valuable (eg: when other Councils replicate projects or programs we’ve developed).

Helping staff to do their best and bring their best to the fore.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
Don’t expect to start off where you want to be. Where you start can open many doors that you can’t forsee before hand, so if you get an opportunity take it.

Get the best university scores that you can so that it puts you in good stead to do further study if needed. Post grad qualifications are very common in the workforce nowadays, so you will be competing with others who have them for future jobs. It is also likely that you will want to retrain to extend skills at some stage and shape your enviro skills in a new direction (eg: communications, public relations, business management etc..)

Keep your eyes open for what’s happening in the industry and where the jobs are.

If you can’t get a job near by, consider moving for a start to get a foot in the door.

Volunteer in an area/position that you want to develop practical skills in. Try doing this while studying if you can.

Get a part time job in an organisation you’d like to end up in – preferably while you’re studying – or even if you can’t get a full time job, get a part time one after you’ve graduated. You’ve got to start somewhere.

 

20

Environmental sustainability policy, legislation, protection and enforcement
Position: Program and Policy officer

Part of the economy in which you work: Commonwealth government
Salary bracket: $62K-65K
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Concern for environmental issues, interest in science
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Green Army Participant

Career path since then: Since then I have been a team supervisor and worked on bush regeneration crews before entering the public service d as an executive assistant. Once within the department I sought internal opportunities to work in policy and program teams. This career part has not been linear, and has definitely depended on knowing about the right position and applying at the right time.

Main activities you undertake in your role: In my current role I liaise with stakeholders, perform secretariat duties and manage administrative tasks and budgets. I write briefs and organise and prepare for bilateral meetings.

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
Clear communication – interpersonally and in writing Working with people – including communicating within your team and negotiating externally Project management and organisational skills – with a focus on process

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: All of the corporate knowledge for my organisation has been picked up on jobs from within the department, especially as an executive assistant. Nevertheless, without the generic numeracy and literacy skills learnt at university I would not have been able to complete my work as efficiently. Having a general knowledge of environmental science and issues and some analytical skills are essential for engaging with my work at a higher level and picking up extra skills for the future of my career.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: The most interesting aspect of my position is the many stakeholders and people management. Each pose their own unique challenges – whether they be an international organisation or another team within the agency. My work gives me an insight into government business and the real stories behind media hype – the show “Utopia” is a little close to home sometimes. A close second would be exposure to the subject matter, which involves environmental science projects, international environmental aid, environmental grants and conservation.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: The standard hours are 7.5 hours a day between 7am and 7pm but most people work some variation of 9 -5. At my level it is not expected that you work long hours unless absolutely necessary. Working arrangements are flexible and you can negotiate to leave early/start late depending on workloads. In terms of managing my workload, I negotiate with my supervisor and peers if I feel I have too much work on. I can either delegate tasks to other people or identify a priority with direction from executives.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: As our work is quite detached from the on the ground management most of the satisfaction and rewards from my work comes from working with people. We have to navigate a range of internal processes and external stakeholders to progress our projects – the challenging nature of these negotiations provides a lot of satisfaction when a program or policy progresses.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: If you are interested in working in a government agency that works on environmental issues, enter it as a general role such as an executive assistant. This will give you a better picture of what the agency does. Often there are interesting positions that you would never have heard of. More importantly, the culture of different teams will give you the best indication of where you would like to work, subject matter is largely secondary.

 

21

Environmental sustainability policy, legislation, protection and enforcement
Position: Health Safety and Environment Specialist

Part of the economy in which you work: Technology, automation and service in Pulp, paper and energy industry.
Salary bracket: $ – $ K
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Pollution prevention and best practice to health safety and environment.
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: -
Career path since then: 2015 but working with other firms since 2005 in environment management in factory.
Main activities you undertake in your role: To comply local regulations, corporate policy and customer requirements.
Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role: Good personal relationship, communication skills, and to be the role model in HSE.
Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: -
Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: -
Hours worked and how you manage your workload: 8 hours per day, and managing work load by prioritized on works.
Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: -
Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: -

 

22

Land management
Position: Land Management Officer, DNRM, QLD

Part of the economy in which you work: Qld Gov
Salary bracket: $ 75-85K
Employment Arrangements: Full-time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Born in Brisbane and raised at The Gap in Brisbane, I undertook volunteer work with SOWN through school on Enoggera Creek and always had a passion for environment and conservation; from this and finishing school the chance to work as a Ranger in the NT came about.
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: NT Parks and Wildlife Ranger 7 years
Career path since then: 2007-10- Land Management Advisor SEQ Water Wivenhoe Dam, 2010-13- Mining roles in Qld and WA as Environmental Advisor, 2013- Fire Management Advisor WA DPAW, 2014-NOW- Current Role
Main activities you undertake in your role: fire management and prescribed burning, land management assessments, customer support and feedback,
Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role: listener, planner, multi-skiller
Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: All my life I have been a hands on person so learnt as I go, didn’t see university as the best way to go and still don’t! The more practical and multiskilled you are the better the chances, not just the piece of paper you have.
Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: Going to some amazing places across Queensland and being able to work along-side a array of amazing talented fire officers and land managers
Hours worked and how you manage your workload: 40-50 a week, lots of planning
Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: being able to travel or visit places months after work done and to hear how much its changed, or reduced, issues.
Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: Don’t just study but learn hands on and in a variety of fields, get out and do prescribed burns and land management exercises and learn what goes on in the field. Be open minded to anything thrown at you!

 

23

Land management, quality, protection and site restoration
Position: Land Services Coordinator

Part of the economy in which you work: State Government
Salary bracket: $90,000 – $110,000 (team members salary is $68,000 to $80,000)
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Interest in outdoor recreation and belief in social justice
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Volunteer on bush regeneration projects
Career path since then: Council bush regeneration apprenticeship, completion of a university degree in natural resources and protected area management, and employment by the State’s conservation department

Main activities you undertake in your role:

  • Managing a team of four people
  • Coordinating the Department’s administration of Crown land terrestrial conservation reserves (ie. national parks, conservation parks, nature reserves etc.) and freehold lands
  • Project managing the completion of land assembly processes affecting the conservation reserve system to facilitate development of land for commercial or public works purposes
  • Assisting with the development of a comprehensive, adequate and representative conservation reserve system in accordance with the Commonwealth Government’s National Reserve System program
  • Providing policy advice on land tenure, land use planning, native title and legislative processes
  • Assisting with the negotiation of indigenous land use agreements to facilitate the creation and management of conservation reserves
  • Incorporating State Government project and policy initiatives that affect the conservation estate into the work of the team

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:

  • The ability to research broadly and to find information and link the information together so it can be used as a basis for, or to persuade, strategic action
  • An ability to compromise and find a middle ground between competing interests

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
The work of my team combines aspects of land use planning, conservation biology and land conveyancing. The interpretation and implementation of legislation is the basis for my team’s actions. Therefore the majority of training for employment in Crown land tenure administration is picked up ‘on the job’ by reading, understanding and applying legislation, and statutory processes. Training in conservation biology, ecology, botany and other conservation or environmental disciplines assists with understanding the rationale for conservation reserves’ creation and management.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
The most interesting aspect of my position is using my knowledge of Crown land tenure, natural resource management and public sector processes to develop workable solutions to land tenure projects.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:
The team works a minimum of 37.5 depending on the work at hand. The team’s workload is generally managed through the setting of project actions and milestones (usually dictated by the time taken to achieve the necessary statutory approvals). Work priorities are influenced by political machinations which often dictate a change in focus from routine to urgent.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
The team achieves personal satisfaction and reward through serving the community and knowing that conservation values are protected through legislative processes. The team aims to ensure a legacy for future generations by the creation of protected conservations areas.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
Volunteer work is suggested as a means to develop skills, experience and personal contacts and obtain employment in an environmental field. Crown land tenure administration within a State conservation department is not an obvious career path. If a person is interested in such a career path then they should contact the manager or coordinator of the team for advice. The majority of training is provided in-house and on the job but an ability to understand conservation and environmental principles, to think laterally, and work systematically will greatly assist with a successful career in Crown land tenure administration. For land tenure work some ability or experience in geographic information systems and mapping is highly regarded.

 

24

Natural resource management
Position: Analyst Forest Contracting

Part of the economy in which you work: State Owned business
Salary bracket: $ 90 000 - $ 95 000K
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work:
Providing sustainable food and fibre to the increasing population.
First role in the environment/sustainability sector:
Summer Rangers with Parks Victoria.

Career path since then:
Many field based roles for Gvt to achieve environmental and production aims on farms.
Moved into commercial forestry and undertook a Masters of Forest Science.
Worked in supply chain mapping and wood products innovations and now forest contracting.

Main activities you undertake in your role:
Analysis of data.
Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
Data management and interpretation
Project management.

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
This role, requires quite an amount of prior learning, with respect to the analysis skills required.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
Understanding where are the opportunities for innovation and improvement.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: 40 hr / wk

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
From this role there is very little personal satisfaction. The role would be much more suited to a database analyst or a legal professional, not a professional forester. I think that matching roles to skills is critical, but an area where there are often errors.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
Forestry is a fantastic career, and the opportunities are vast. Being able to supply sustainable fibre to the increasing global need and improving overall forest health is satisfying.

 

25

Natural resource management
Position: Corporate Fire Manager

Part of the economy in which you work: Business or corporate
Salary bracket: $ 100 – $ 130K
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work:
I wanted to work as a scientist in a rural environment
First role in the environment/sustainability sector:
Forester for a State Government Forestry Department

Career path since then:
Worked in various forestry roles in State Government and then Private industry including:

  • Native forest harvesting, regeneration and management
  • Salinity and tree growing on farms
  • Riverine forest management
  • Plantation forestry

All throughout my career I have played an active part in fire management and bushfire response.

Main activities you undertake in your role:

  • Develop strategies to manage bushfire risk, including:
    • Risk modelling using computer simulations to identify vulnerable areas and fuel modification strategies.
    • Training & development of skilled forest fire fighters
    • Equipment development, design of new forest fire tankers and response vehicles
    • Close relationships with fire authorities & services
    • Firefighting - directing people & equipment, deploying strategies such as backburning, creating mineral earth breaks and calling in firebombing aircraft.

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:

  • Leadership & liaison skills
  • Ability to think rationally under pressure
  • Good knowledge, understanding & experience of fire in the environment
  • Knowledge & understanding of ecology and natural systems

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:

  • To understand fire in the environment you need to spend a lot of time out in the bush seeing how fire behaves under different weather and fuel conditions.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:

  • Fire is a natural part of the Australian environment. It is part of the natural disturbance cycles that our land needs to remain healthy. However it can also be incredibly destructive so we need to learn how to live with bushfires and use fire to achieve a balance to ensure healthy communities and healthy ecosystems.
  • Fire response can be challenging as you work in a very chaotic environment with very little control over many aspects of fire behaviour. You need to keep a calm demeanour, be aware of what is going on around you and have an ability to think strategically to solve the puzzle of the best options to bring this fire under control.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:

  • I generally work ~40 hour week. However summer brings rostered fire response duties after hours and potentially long shifts (including night shifts) during fire events. It is important to share the workload with your colleagues and ensure you get adequate rest between shifts.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:

  • The hours can be long, the work hot, dirty & dusty but there is great satisfaction to being part of a team of women & men who have been able to bring a fire under control.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:

  • Forest Science gives people a very good understanding of the natural environment and is a great course for people interested in careers in environmental management.
  • Learn the theory but then spend many hours, days and years out in the bush seeing how fire moves through different environments under different conditions. Expect the unexpected and go back over time to see how our natural environment recovers from fire. Get involved managed fires as well as bushfire response so you can see what happens under different conditions.

 

26

Natural resource management
Position: NRM Manager

Part of the economy in which you work:
Salary bracket: $90 – $120 K
Employment Arrangements: Full Time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Desire to work outside in a bushland setting
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Development Officer; WA Dept. of Ag
Career path since then: Geologist – Geophysicist – Agricultural Researcher – Farming/Horticulturist – Vigneron – Bushland Technician – Bushland Team Leader – Project Manager – NRM Manager
Main activities you undertake in your role: Quoting, tendering, consulting, project design, mapping, hiring, client liaison.

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
Very difficult to pin down as I undertake a broad range of tasks. IT skills are essential, and this encompasses everything from windows to GIS to proprietary software. Project Management skills are very handy when doing design work and consulting. Spatial awareness and high level map reading skills are extremely helpful.

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
I have a broad skill set; with much of what I’ve learned being “on the job”. Having said that, at the root of all my skills is a foundation that I was originally taught at a tertiary level. I’ve not stopped learning since then, both on the job and through undertaking short courses

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
I get to work in a wide range of different environments; some of which are closed to the public. I am afforded opportunities to see and experience things in the natural world that are probably quite rare for the average person. Problem solving is integral to my role which provides opportunities for innovation and experimentation.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:
I work 30 – 50 hours per week depending on the tasks I’m doing at any given time. These are generally during daylight hours excepting the odd occasion I’m doing fauna surveys

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
I love my job, and feel very privileged to work in my industry. It is intensely rewarding to visits sites I’ve previously worked on rehabilitating and marvel at the changes that have occurred. To see a dearth of diversity where once existed a degraded site makes me feel that I am making a real contribution to the welfare of the planet.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
My career was largely unplanned and reflected a willingness to follow work opportunities in areas of interest to me. In hind sight this approach was quite successful in that I have a broad skill set and can undertake a wide range of different types of work.

The NRM industry is a fickle beast, and largely reliant on Government funding (although private opportunities are becoming more common). As such when economic times are good, there exist lots of job opportunities. When economic times are tight, invariably the NRM sector is the first to be defunded. This is also true of changes in Government and resultant changes in policy and priorities.
Through undertaking on-ground works, experience is developed which can be very helpful when working at higher levels. Of the NRM Project Managers I’ve worked with, those with on-ground experience where better equipped to design/estimate and manage projects.

“Collect” experiences, and always look to learn from these. Even a mundane task such as revegetation installation affords opportunities for plant ID, design and installation techniques, productivity estimation but to name a few. Keep learning and be sure to have fun on the way.

 

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Natural resource management
Position: Natural Resource Management (NRM) Coordinator
(previously “Environment & Sustainability Coordinator” and prior to that “Sustainability Programs Coordinator”)

Part of the economy in which you work: Local Government
Salary bracket: 79-85K
Employment Arrangements: Full-time Permanent
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work:
Love of the great outdoors/natural environment. Bit of a greenie growing up e.g: sustainability interests
First role in the environment/sustainability sector:
Biodiversity Project Officer (then Department of Water, Land, Biodiversity and Conservation – DWLBC), South Australian State Government
Career path since then:
Moved to local government and have been in same role for approximately 8 years, albeit with restructures and name changes as outlined above

Main activities you undertake in your role:
Coordinate bush regeneration team and project officer staff
Statutory referral authority for planning applications (native vegetation removal etc)
Provide advice to other areas of council on NRM
Manage NRM projects
Liase with other external authorities on regional NRM projects and issues
Everything else related to the environment

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
People Management
Time Management

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
80%. I was very naïve to the workings of Local Government when I made the switch from state Government

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
Never dull, work on such a diverse and complex array of projects

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:
38 hours a week and never enough hours in the day. Diarise everything!!

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
Helping people in the community, doing some wonderful projects and protecting the areas natural values

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
Get some practical experience early and never lose focus of why you do the work that you do

 

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Natural resource management
Position: Senior Forester

Part of the economy in which you work: Corporate business
Salary bracket: $100,000 – $ 120,000
Employment Arrangements: Full time)
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Love of the native bush, desire to be rural based, not city based
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Timber plantation research

Career path since then: 1985 – 1988: Plantation research
1988 – 2002: Plantation management
2002-2008: Project management of a forestry project on indigenous owned land. This included significant environmental management, including EPBC approvals, monitoring of several rare and endangered animals such as red goshawk, masked owl and Butlers Dunnart and other major environmental surveys.
2008 – present: Plantation management under FSC certification standards. FSC certification requires significant input in managing the remnant native forest areas scattered across the estate, including rare species management plans.

Main activities you undertake in your role:
Timber plantation establishment and maintenance, native forest management – developing individual property management plans and enacting these plans, budget management.

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
Thorough computing skills – word and excel
Planning
People management
Project management

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
Planning
People management
Project management

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
Travel to far places
Seeing the results of my labour manifested in healthy, fast growing trees

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:
Usually work around 45 hours – need to work around one hour per day more than my contracted 8 hours to ensure my job is done to the standard I want.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
Always happy to be living in a country town. Always happy to mix office work with outdoors field work.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
Be forthcoming. You should not wait to see a position advertised. Any advertised position usually attracts many applications and so odds are against you being the best candidate from a large pool. Go out and try to knock on some doors and personally introduce yourself. State your skills and how you can benefit the organisation. In my opinion, personal door knocking gives you an advantage over being just another written summary/application. Prospective employers will remember you.Enthusiasm
Love of outdoors
Organisational skills
Communication skills

 

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Natural resource management
Position: Assistant District Manager

Part of the economy in which you work: Corporate body operating within NSW Government
Salary bracket: $ 92 – $ 114K
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work:
         Desire to work in a vibrant industry (forestry) where the challenge was to sustainably balance land management and productivity, while improving the forest health.

First role in the environment/sustainability sector:
         During my tertiary education years I worked as a labourer, technician and trainee in many activities within plantation and native forest management activities. My first professional role was as a Field Forester working alongside other officers who had specialist responsibility for harvesting, plantation establishment and tending, soil & water management, animal and weed pest control, and research & planning activities.

Career path since then:
        Moved from Field Forester to District Officer/Senior Forester/ Research Forester roles in New Zealand, then across a range of sites in Australia to Planning Officer/ Senior Forester/ Project officer/District Manager/Senior Policy Officer and now Asst District Manager, in both government and private sectors.

Main activities you undertake in your role:
         Varies with the position: primarily manage staff to achieve targets for - productivity, pest animal and weed control, legislative reporting, forest management forward planning (road and infrastructure maintenance, long term harvesting schedules), fire management and control, administration.

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:
        Strategic thinking (ie look at broad picture before being embroiled in detail); personnel management and effective communication; flexibility in problem solving.

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
         A significant amount has been learnt on the job. Different countries, States, organisations have different ways of doing things, even though the tools may be the same. A big proportion of the learning process has been ‘in the field’, which is a process fast diminishing as new graduates want to use electronic technology at their desk rather than ‘get out there’.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
         Involvement in the community; managing for the future; working with good people; suffering the idiocy of senior management.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:
         Varies greatly. Usually work more hours than prescribed (eg 40 hrs in 35 hr week), but can vary from season to season and the role being performed. In one site I was working 60-70 hrs for a 40 hr week, simply because the work needed doing and there was no-one else to do it.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:
        “achieving things” each day; completing a task that has combined personal and fieldworker effort to deliver a plan/report/outcome; feeling good about decisions made.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:
        Well worth it; make the effort to ‘get out there’ and learn from the fieldworkers; understand the trees and the land before adopting technology (eg modelling) to solve problems; do not expect accolades or high wages.

 

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Sustainability communications and public awareness
Position title: Digital Engagement Lead

Part of the economy in which you work: State Government
Salary bracket: $89,327 – $108,078
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Future growth industry, sense of doing something good and contributing towards society
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Town Planner – Local Government
Career path since then: Digital Strategist – Communications Consultancy. Digital Communications Manager – Private Weather Forecasting Company

Main activities you undertake in your role: Digital communications, social media management, website content changes, email newsletter design and distribution, communications and marketing campaigns, reporting on analytics and campaign performance, training others to develop capacity in the above.

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role: Ability to work with wide variety of internal stakeholders, knowledge about digital trends to effectively influence those in higher managerial roles who make budget decisions, awareness of how success can be measured/demonstrated.

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’: This is true of every job. Often more to do with the fact that personalities, processes and politics vary from org to org. It’s something that’s hard to train or prepare for. Being a good negotiator will hold you in good stead.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position: Being able to shape what the role is about. The opportunity to play a thought leadership role in the organisation. Implementing new processes that improve how the org engages online.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload: Up to 48 hours a week. Managing workload is tricky. There will always be people asking for more, and government departments can often be under resourced when it comes to communications professionals. Best approach is to implement more efficient processes for executing marketing campaigns.

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work: Improving results for the internal teams who we service e.g. driving more traffic to their resources, achieving more registrations for their initiative, recruiting more attendees for their events.

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours: Once you have experience in the government sector it becomes easier to apply for other roles. Thus, if your desired role isn’t available or you are unsuccessful, consider applying for other roles in the same department or elsewhere in the public service as a stepping stone.

 

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Sustainability communications and public awareness
Position title: Urban Forester

Part of the economy in which you work: Local Government
Salary bracket: $100,000 – $110,000
Employment Arrangements: Full time
Initial motivation for undertaking environmental work: Making a dedicated commitment to the environment – devoting my life’s work to having a positive impact
First role in the environment/sustainability sector: Project Officer – Growing Green Guide Project

Career path since then:
2013             Placement at City of Melbourne (as part of undergraduate degree)
2013             Employment at City of Melbourne as extension of placement (contract work)
2013 – 14      Vacation program at Melbourne Water (paid, contract position)
2014 – 15      Project Officer urban Water at City of Melbourne (asked to come back for the role, contract position)
2015 – 16      Urban Forester at City of Melbourne (first as a temporary position, then successful in applying for the role permanently)

Main activities you undertake in your role:

  • Community engagement and participation (Citizen Forester Program)
  • Strategic planning for urban forest and ecology work
  • Research
  • Project management
  • Urban forest advocacy and education
  • Program development

Thoughts on the 2 – 3 generic skills essential for working in your role:

  1. Self-motivated and driven to achieve excellence
  2. Innovation, creative thinking and problem solving
  3. Outstanding communication skills in all situations – written, verbal, presentations.

Thoughts on how much of what you know has picked up ‘on the job’:
A huge amount. I am working in a field where most of my colleagues are qualified arborists or horticulturalists, but the field is growing to have more of a social focus too. I’ve had to learn a lot of the technical subject matter to get by, but I had no problem getting the job because I had been working at the City of Melbourne previously so the team knew I was capable of doing that job, or any job. I think that has been the key for me – once I proved I was a good worker who is able to learn things quickly and get things done, I was given roles for which I had no technical expertise (Green roofs, walls and facades, Water Sensitive Urban Design, urban forestry and ecology). People would rather hire someone they know is a good worker and fits with the team, than an unknown person with technical expertise. You can learn subject matter but it is harder to learn work ethic and team-focus.

Thoughts about the most interesting aspects of your position:
It is constantly changing. Every year is different, so there are always fresh challenges to motivate me. The people I work with are fantastic and that is everything – a supportive team and an organisation that wants to build its people up. The work we do is world-leading in this field, so it’s exciting to feel like you are on the cutting edge of something. My role is community focused and I love having the opportunity to work directly with people and make a difference in their lives. I love seeing projects that you work on delivered and seeing the city grow to be a better place. This is best thing about local government – our customers are the community and that makes it rewarding.

Hours worked and how you manage your workload:
I work around 40 hours per week, but I have to work very hard to keep up with everything. The workload is a constant challenge, but City of Melbourne has great flexibility arrangements and encourages staff to have a good work/life balance. All staff have the option to work a 9 day fortnight – I take this option. It means I work an extra 20 minutes per day and accrue days off (one per fortnight).

The longer you work at an organisation, the more expertise you gain in certain areas and the more people come to you for help or advice. I am trying to get better at managing what I commit to and allowing time to focus on the things that will deliver ‘big wins’!

Personal satisfaction or rewards from your work:

  • Working on projects and programs that actually make a difference to people and to the environment
  • Having the scope to be creative and suggest new projects/programs/research
  • Being hands on- getting out and actually doing things

Advice to someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours:

  • Getting your foot in the door is invaluable – it gives an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and worth.
  • Take risks early in your career - sometimes the dream comes along but it is only a three month contract. Look at these opportunities as a way to build your experience and CV. Worst case scenario if the contract isn’t extended, you will be in a better position to apply for other roles with the experience.
  • Networking is critical – getting your foot in the door is all about who you know. Short term opportunities are valuable, but they often are not advertised, so get out and meet people. Think industry events, calling people, etc.
  • Try not to be disheartened if you don’t land something straight away. It is a competitive field and rejection is a reflection of that, not a reflection on your skills or abilities. Try to stay confident in yourself.
  • When you get an opportunity, work really hard. That way when luck comes along (ie a position opens up) you will be in the best possible position to take advantage of it.

 

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