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Read more about working in Environmental ↓

The Environmental sector attracts graduates from a range of disciplines and experiences. It is a broad field which offers challenging and fulfilling careers involving harnessing, monitoring and changing the natural world. The Environmental sector can comprise anything from working with carbon emissions and renewable energy to roles in environmental agencies.

Different positions require graduates from different backgrounds. An understanding of natural resources and how to harness them is essential, but beyond that, each role is likely to have its own specific requirements. For example, a position working with Energy or Fuel is likely to require a background in Engineering, while a position involving surveying may require a background in Construction.

How to Get a Job in the Environmental Sector

With varied applications in the field, there are some specific skills graduates should be able to demonstrate to succeed in the Environmental sector:

1. Relevant degree or experience

Many of the jobs in the Environmental sector require applicants to have a solid understanding of the scientific principles at play. In such a technical field, the right degree is vital. Many jobs require candidates to have studied Chemistry, Biology, Geology or Physics. Some universities now offer specific degrees in Climate Change, Environment and Renewable Energies.

Candidates should be sure to mention specific modules in their courses which are relevant to the position, and regardless of the degree required, candidates can prove their proficiency through excellent academic grades.

2. Communication and presentation skills

Much of the work available in the Environmental sector involves using knowledge and expertise to create reports and make recommendations. For this reason, communication and presentation skills are a valuable asset.

3. Awareness of environmental concerns

The importance of creating a sustainable and environmentally responsible world is becoming more apparent every year, and graduates interested in working in the Environmental sector need to be on top of the important issues. Carbon emissions and renewable energy are among the many challenges facing the Environmental sector. With fossil fuels depleting, graduates are among the next generation developing alternatives to oil, gas and coal.

Applicants should be able to show employers that they have an understanding of different ways of harvesting renewable energy and uses of sustainable or green energy in day-to-day life. Graduates need to be creative and forward-thinking.

4. Understanding of sustainability

Companies worldwide are taking steps to become more sustainable, and graduates at this early stage have an opportunity to forge successful and innovative careers in the sector. Some roles involve working in larger companies to manage the overall impact of their business, and candidates should be able to demonstrate varied experience working with different methods to increase sustainability. Such experience can often come from work experience or placements undertaken as part of a degree.

5. Time management, team working and problem solving skills

Specific training aside, graduates interested in pursuing work in the Environmental sector should be able to demonstrate professional skills such as time management, team working and problem solving. The latter is especially important to an industry focused around coming up with solutions to global concerns.

Environmental Case Studies

Melissa Hopper Chris Jones
"I was successful because I was enthusiastic; I went out to create my own path to get there. I was determined and did well..."

The Employer - Melissa Hopper (Graduate Recruitment Manager - Mott MacDonald)

Melissa Hopper

Name: Melissa Hopper
Job Title: Graduate Recruitment Manager - Mott MacDonald

What competencies do you like to see in candidates?

We look for good communication skills, both written and verbal, commercial awareness, problem solving skills, leadership skills, teamwork, customer and building relations.

Can you talk us through the application process?

Our application process is an online application, Once you have completed an application online, your CV and form will be used to match your skills to our needs. If your application meets our entry criteria it will be circulated to the teams in the sectors and locations you want to work. If you are short listed for a role we will contact you to discuss the position and interview details. Interviews are held in the office where the role is based, giving you an excellent opportunity to meet members of that team.

What is the most common mistake you see in an application, which leads to candidates being rejected?

Candidate referring to other organisations, poor use of spelling and grammar.

What is the main piece of advice you would give a graduate entering the sector?

To try and gain industry experience before you graduate - this will give you a real insight into the role and type of work you would be doing.

What do you find gives a candidate a real edge, in applications for Mott MacDonald?

A candidate that has not only researched the industry, but the organisation too. They have specifically tailored their application for us and you can see that in their answers because all of their answers are relevant to us. They may be giving us an example of a project we've worked on and give us some good examples of research they've done on us as an organisation.

Where do you see the company in two years' time?

Hopefully, winning more graduate awards and be higher on the UK Top 300 Graduate list.

If you weren't a Graduate Recruitment Manager, what would you be?

I would own an animal sanctuary!

The Employee - Chris Jones (Hydrologist - Mott MacDonald)

Chris Jones

Name: Chris Jones
Job Title: Hydrologist - Mott MacDonald
University: University of Leicester (BSc)
Course: Geography (BSc)
Graduation Year: 2012(MSc)

How did you find your graduate job in Environmental?

I did my undergraduate degree in Geography and I always wanted an Environmental sector job. After doing my BSc I did something completely different and went for a career change. I went back to university to study Water and the Environmental sector. I got the job after I did a placement at Mott Macdonald. This was the dissertation part of the Masters I did.

Why do you think you were successful at Mott MacDonald?

I think it was not just the placement. Others on my Masters course were allocated, by the head of the course, onto placements. I went out and found my own because I wanted to work for a company like Mott Macdonald. So I contacted them, got the placement and did my two months at the end of the year. I was pretty successful because I was enthusiastic; I went out to create my own path to get there. I was determined and did well while I was here.

What do you actually do?

My daily job involves deriving peak flows, flood hydrographs and using a technique, which is very common in the UK, called the Flood Estimation Handbook. I come up with these flows and flood hydrographs to then derive and justify that to pass on the information onto the Flood Modellers. They would use that information to derive flood maps to be used in their hydraulic modelling or flows. I also do a bit of research in flood forecasting, which is my new thing.

What skills do you need?

One thing that I have had to become very skilled in is the use of computer programmes. Ones like Excel, I've learnt a ridiculous amount about Excel. Also geographic explanation systems, stuff such as ArcMap. Other extra skills are that you've got to communicate with your team, because if you don't, things don't get done.

Mathematical skills and awareness, I would count myself as more mathematically aware now. I only had a GCSE in Maths, but because I did basically and engineering course, I had to put the work in with it.

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is, I know it's quite cliché, but the people. I really enjoy working with the people and the teams are good. Aside from that, I'd say the kind of roles that change. Since being here I've worked on loads of different projects which involved Ireland, parts of the UK, national infrastructure companies and working with the Environmental Agency. It's pretty interesting and the work you get is part of that.

And what is the worst thing about your job?

The worst part of my job is the amount of time it has taken me to really get into the technical side of the role. For example, I spent a lot of time on certain aspects of the technical side. I'll go onto something new and I'll have to spend a lot of time getting good at that. It takes a long time at first but you gradually get there.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I'd like to be a Senior Hydrologist of some sort and Chartered as well. I'd like to see myself in a company, like Mott Macdonald, in ten years' time with that wealth of experience to go my own way and do things my way.

What advice would you give to graduates applying to Mott MacDonald?

Try and contact Mott Macdonald. Go on their website, have a look at the different divisions, knowing their visions, values and morals. Understand the health and safety side. Go out there and apply yourself and be enthusiastic.

If you want to find out more about graduate jobs with Mott MacDonald, please take a look at their company profile.