Study Environmental Management: Bachelor, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in an environmental management degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of associate and bachelor's degrees, and potential careers.
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Environmental Management Associate and Bachelor's: Degrees at a Glance

Issues in environmental health and sustainability are the focus of programs in environmental management. In this field, you might collect water samples for pollution studies and later implement plans to keep that environment healthy. Human safety is also a factor because your health can be negatively affected when you interact with a polluted environment. Depending on the degree you earn, you will most likely work with the federal or state government and with private industries, such as logging companies and consulting firms.

The job outlook for the field varies widely, depending on how you develop your education and what position you decide to apply for. Between 2010 and 2020, environmental science and protection technicians are projected to have a faster-than-average job growth rate of 24%, which is the highest in the environmental field. This information is compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who are interested in the technical aspect of environmental management. People who want to pursue a career with more responsibility in managing the environment.
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Forest and conservation technicians ($35,000)*
- Environmental science and protection technician ($42,000)*
- Forester ($55,000)*
- Conservation scientist ($60,000)*
- Environmental scientist ($63,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4-5 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Volunteer or paid work experience - Internship or other work experience
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- High school courses in biology or chemistry
- High school transcripts or GED
- SAT or ACT scores (or take ASSET and COMPASS exams)
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate Degrees in Environmental Management

With an associate degree in environmental management, you'll essentially act as the caretaker for a specific environment. Depending on the job description, your duties might be to observe, protect, maintain, and modify. Some jobs might require you to work in a remote forest or other environment far from populated areas, but increasingly more jobs are found in urban settings. You'll most likely work under the supervision of a person with a more advanced degree in the field. The job outlook for forest and conservation technicians is a one percent loss in jobs between 2010-2020. The BLS states that the reason for this little or no change in growth is due to lack of funding in state and local government in the current economy. Better job prospects can be found with private companies, a fact which also applies to environmental science and protection technicians.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Your degree will only take about 2 years to complete
  • Jobs might have you working in diverse ecosystems
  • You might be involved in studies that can have a positive impact on environmental health

Cons

  • Some job positions might require additional training or a license
  • You might be exposed to hazardous pollutants while collecting and analyzing research materials
  • Jobs openings with the government are expected to be low for the years 2010 through 2020*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (projections for the years 2010-2020).

Common Courses and Requirements

Associate degree programs in environmental management usually have a general degree requirement in addition to courses required for the major and electives. Major requirements might include biology, chemistry, geology, and math. These courses will give you a knowledge base in the sciences that compliment environment specific courses. Courses specific to environmental management will differ widely depending on the focus of the program and if you're able to specialize your degree with courses in a specific subject, like safety or technology.

Examples of course topics specific to what you might encounter in the field of environmental management:

  • Air and water quality management
  • Business
  • Ecology
  • Ethics
  • Evolution
  • Health and safety
  • Management of hazardous materials and pollution
  • Politics
  • Resource management
  • Wildlife management

Online Degree and Course Info

Online degrees in environmental management are available. An online program may be much the same as a traditional one, with both general education and major courses, although it might not have a work experience component. Some traditional programs have certain courses available online, allowing you to have both classroom experience and online convenience.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

If your program doesn't require work experience, look into your regional environmental agency for possible internship positions. Not only might you receive compensation for your work, you'll gain important hands-on experience in the field. In addition to any required licensure for a certain position in certain states, certification with a professional environmental safety board might raise your chances of getting a job with higher wages. Note that some of these certifications require a certain number of years working in your field in addition to an accredited degree.

Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Management

A bachelor's degree in environmental management will prepare you to enter a field focused on studying and protecting the environment. The human factor is also considered because certain environments might be harmful if polluted, so you'll learn how to determine whether an environment is healthy or unsafe and how to maintain that health or get rid of pollutants. Air, water, and soil are among the mediums you might focus on. Technology related to the field is something you will learn to utilize as well.

Most jobs in the field are found in private industries. Job duties might include collecting data for research and developing conservation or safety plans based on your research. In positions with more applied duties you might find yourself working outdoors, monitoring environments, and implementing plans for proper utilization of the land and its resources.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The health of environments you work with might benefit from research you conduct.
  • Human exposure to pollution or hazardous materials might be minimized because of safety plans you develop.
  • You are more likely to find a higher paying position with a bachelor's degree in the rather than an associate degree.*

Cons

  • Certain jobs might require you to work outside in remote locations and perform work that is physically demanding.
  • Exposure to unhealthy substances might be possible while conducting research on pollution.
  • Jobs in more applied fields, including forestry, aren't in very high demand because of lack of funding.*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (occupational statistics for the years 2010-2020).

Common Course Requirements

Bachelor's degree programs consist of courses that are meant to teach you about the kinds of environments you might work with, how certain environments are utilized, who comes in contact with these environments, and how to collect and interpret data. You might also have courses in the subjects of safety and risk and learn the management and procedural aspects of the subjects. Writing courses are also important in some programs because many jobs in the field require you to communicate information, directions, and plans to other workers, employers, and the public. A certain number of internship credit hours might be required as well.

Online Degree and Course Info

In addition to traditional programs conducted onsite at a university, some universities offer environmental management bachelor's degrees completely online. This might be a good option if you are already employed in the field and want to earn a more advanced degree with which you can apply for a different or better paying position.

Stand Out with This degree

Because internships and other work experience for students aren't required of every program, you could seek out this experience on your own. Some environmental agencies in certain states have work experience opportunities for students working on degrees in related fields. The experience will add to your knowledge, so you might be more productive when you actually enter the workforce after graduation. This is also a good way to make personal connections and network, which might help you get a foot in the door for the position you plan on pursuing.

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