Case study

Environmental consultant — Helen West

Helen got her foot in the door by completing a work experience placement within an environmental consultancy, which led to a full-time position

How did you get your job as an environmental consultant?

After completing work experience with my current employer Environmental Monitoring Solutions, I was given the opportunity to stay on as a part-time employee. The amount of work increased within the consultancy division, and I was offered a full-time position as an environmental consultant.

What are your main work activities?

My day involves a range of tasks, which can include report writing, creating an environmental management system, undertaking site audits for customers, carrying out internal audits, completing desktop reviews and assisting customers in permit applications.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The variety offered by my daily tasks, as well as the different industry sectors I've had the opportunity to work in, are some of the most enjoyable features of the role for me. The job is never the same on a day-to-day basis.

What are the challenges?

In the beginning, the biggest challenges I faced were a lack of knowledge and environmental legislation. I also had to come to understand that as an environmental consultant I'll always be learning, because every job has unique challenges.

Is your degree relevant to your job?

My environmental studies degree is relevant in many ways, but especially because the writing experience I gained is useful for constructing reports and other professional communication.

Some of the information I learned while studying a module in environmental management systems has been exactly what customers are looking for. Similarly, in the consultant module on my environmental management Masters, I completed a project which is relevant to my work now.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

So far, I've progressed from a placement to a part-time role, and then to a full-time role.

My career ambitions include becoming a senior environmental consultant and gaining as much knowledge and experience as possible.

What advice can you give to anyone wanting to do a Masters?

Don't limit yourself. There are many possibilities when it comes to choosing a Masters programme, so ensure that you're making a decision that aligns with your career goals.

It's easy to get caught up in attending a programme that you have ties with, such as through friends, family or historical connections, but this doesn't always mean it's the course for you. Research multiple programmes and attend various open days to ensure you make an informed decision, and that the modules on the course are suitable for your needs.

What advice can you give to anyone wanting to work as an environmental consultant?

It's important to pursue work experience. Some experience is better than no experience, so don't be afraid to take a customer service job while looking for opportunities in the relevant field. Customer service skills are always transferrable, especially as a consultant.

Join the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) as a graduate during your course. The networking events IEMA organises are an excellent source for leads in the industry. IEMA is a great source of information and access to it will help you keep up your knowledge of what is going on in the industry, which may be particularly helpful in interviews.

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