Be a Certified Environmental Manager: Certification and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a certified environmental manager. Learn about the job description, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in environmental management.

Should I Become a Certified Environmental Manager?

Certified environmental managers often work for government agencies, environmental management firms and large corporations. Daily tasks can include developing plans for hazardous waste management and implementing plans to reduce a client's pollution emissions. They might also be responsible for ensuring an organization operates in compliance with state and federal environmental laws or overseeing the staff members tasked with carrying out environmental remediation projects and site monitoring. Certification for environmental managers is available from the Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals and the National Registry of Environmental Professionals.

Environmental managers should be comfortable working in both office and outdoor environments. When conducting fieldwork, they could be expected to put in long hours and be exposed to various types of weather. These professionals generally work full time.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Environmental science, environmental engineering, chemistry, geology or a related field
Certification Professional certification is voluntary
Experience Varies by employer; typical requirements include around five years of experience
Key Skills Technical communication skills, multi-tasking and decision-making abilities, analytical and problem-solving skills, detail oriented; proficiency with Microsoft Office software
Salary $72,050 (mean salary for environmental scientists in 2014)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program

Environmental managers need an extensive knowledge of the natural sciences, so many individuals start their career path by earning a bachelor's degree in an environment-related discipline. Certification agencies, such as the National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP), prefer applicants with majors in environmental science, engineering or one of the biological and physical sciences. These bachelor's degree programs typically provide students with the tools necessary to evaluate the efficiency of an organization's environmental health and safety programs. While in school, students typically take courses in biology, ecology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and environmental law.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

To qualify for environmental manager positions and certifications, applicants could need anywhere from three to 12 years of related work experience. After earning a bachelor's degree, prospective environmental managers can enter the job field as environmental scientists or research assistants with larger environmental management firms or government agencies, such as fish and wildlife departments or forestry departments. Individuals in these positions can get experience collecting and analyzing the air, soil and water samples used to solve environmental problems associated with pollution or land use.

Step 3: Pass a Certification Exam

Though not necessarily required for employment as an environmental manager, obtaining certification can demonstrate a strong level of commitment to the profession to potential employers. The Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals offers a Certified Environmental Professional (CEP) credential in five different concentrations, including environmental planning and environmental assessment. Qualifications for certification include nine years of work experience, a bachelor's degree in a related field, acceptable responses to exam essay questions and several letters of recommendation.

The NREP awards the Registered Environmental Manager (REM) designation. This certification requires five years of professional experience, a bachelor's degree in a related subject and passing scores on a multiple-choice test.

Step 4: Consider Additional Education

Certified environmental managers interested in going into consulting or advancing their career may benefit from earning a master's degree in environmental management or business administration. Courses for a master's degree in environmental management often include ecological epidemiology and land management, as well as business courses in accounting and finance. Another option for those with experience in environmental management could be to earn a law degree or a master's degree in library science. The specialized knowledge of an environmental policy and management professional can be a valued asset to environmental law firms and academic libraries.

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