Employing around 10,600 people in 14 areas across England, the Environment Agency (EA) offers a number of graduate careers - for geologists, planners, hydrologists and more
Intense bouts of flooding across England and the rest of the UK are one of the nation's major threats, and thanks to climate change are set to become even more frequent over coming years, the Environment Agency has warned.
The executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), launched a Flood Action Campaign in February 2018 to encourage people to be prepared for flooding and to sign up for free warnings.
Since flooding has become such a prominent national issue, long-term measures have been put in place to ensure the country's flood defences remain strong. This has opened up a range of Environment Agency jobs for those considering flood risk management (FRM) careers.
Working in flood risk management
For those looking to enter the UK's environmental sector, there's no escaping the fact that floods have the potential to damage property and businesses, devastate lives, and topple infrastructure networks which serve to keep societies and local economies functioning.
'Flood risk management is one of the most significant engineering and societal challenges in the UK and worldwide,' says Chris Kilsby, professor of hydrology and climate change at Newcastle University.
The issue is only set to heighten as climate change takes effect and, despite our technological advances, society seems ever more vulnerable to the impacts of flooding.
Chris adds, 'Flooding is not just a 'water problem' - it's also a 'people problem' and requires a holistic approach, using science and engineering to address human and socioeconomic issues.'
Skilled professionals are therefore needed in all areas of FRM, with flood risk jobs including:
- water quality scientist
- water engineer
- environmental consultant
- environmental manager
- project manager
By becoming a flood professional with the EA, you'll get to play a key role in working on flood defences that can protect people and properties, enhance the environment and improve local communities.
Discover more about what it takes to become an environmental engineer.
If you're ready to start applying, search graduate jobs in environment and agriculture.
Routes into the Environment Agency
With most graduate roles requiring specialists, to best position yourself for an Environment Agency job you'll need the right qualifications, skills and a strong dedication to the industry.
Fortunately, there are structured pathways to follow when working for the Environment Agency that manage to combine work with study, and these are available at all stages of the career journey - whether you're at college, university, or in the workplace.
If you're just starting out in the environmental sector, the EA offers apprenticeship programmes in finance, facilities management and assistant scientist roles, with applications accepted through its online recruitment system.
The latter two are available at Level 2 and Level 3 respectively, and workplace training for the assistant scientist apprenticeship takes place at one of the organisation's three laboratories in Leeds, Nottingham and Exeter.
Another work-based learning option is the flood and coastal engineering foundation degree offered by Brunel University London in partnership with HR Wallingford. Over two years you'll have your tuition fees paid for by the EA, plus you'll receive a tax-free allowance of £1,000 per month while training.
Each year is split into two sections - following six months of full-time study, you'll spend another six months working at an EA or risk management authority office. This is in addition to a week's attendance at HR Wallingford's summer school. At the end of the two years, the foundation degree allows you to study for the BSc either full time (one year) or part time (two years).
There's also the BSc Flood and Coastal Engineering - a two-year part-time top-up degree for those with sponsorship, or a one-year full-time programme for those who self-fund their studies, offered through Brunel University London.
Students in the penultimate year of a relevant remote sensing and/or geographical information systems (GIS) undergraduate degree can apply for a year-long work placement at the EA's Bath office. This paid opportunity is ideal for those set on working in geomatics or the wider environmental sector.
Studying towards a postgraduate qualification
To get onto the EA's structured Engineering Graduate Programme, completed over the course of three to four years, you'll need a Masters in civil, electrical or mechanical engineering. On the programme you'll develop relevant skills and capabilities in many areas, including project management, asset management, planning, design and site supervision. Following this path can lead to chartered engineer status.
However, if you're looking to study civil engineering at Masters level, you may be interested in the postgraduate course available through the EA. The technical-focused MSc Flood and Coastal Engineering course at Brunel University London has been designed to enhance your experience in flood management initiatives that provide communities with protection from flooding. It's for those who've studied a related subject such as environmental science, mathematics, engineering, geology or geography, and are aiming to achieve chartered engineer status. A limited number of places are sponsored by the EA.
Alternatively, the MSc Hydrology and Water Management at Newcastle University contains a strong FRM component, which can be selected as a specialist pathway, with the programme informed by scientific and mathematical understanding of the processes of rainfall, rivers, coasts and catchments.
Chris explains how the Masters course addresses practical issues, including planning, design, flood forecasting and warning and options for defence and risk management. The professional training encompasses hydrology, hydraulics, mathematics and computer modelling as well as project management, socio-economics and communication to the public.
As well as taking up positions with the EA, graduates also go on to work in the UK and internationally for engineering consultancies, local and regional government, and environmental companies, with some choosing to embark on further academic study.
Becoming a chartered civil engineer
As you develop your career, guidance and training is available from industry organisations such as the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).
For instance ICE, which has over 92,000 members around the world, is an organisation dedicated to supporting civil engineers and technicians through the award of professional qualifications, industry training, knowledge-sharing and networking.
'By achieving a professional qualification with ICE, a civil engineer can prove his or her knowledge, skills and experience,' explains Seán Harris, Director of Membership at ICE. 'It's an internationally-recognised standard, demonstrating to employers that the engineer is highly capable and committed. It also puts engineers in a stronger position when it comes to potential promotion and pay.'
He adds, 'As well as helping civil engineers to become professionally-qualified, ICE offers support to members throughout their professional lives. We provide extensive access to events and resources, including a range of online learning programmes through the ICE Learning Hub. Our members can gain the knowledge they need to both grow in their careers and make a real difference in society.'
Members who are qualified with ICE (MICE) or attain an ICE Fellowship (FICE) may also be eligible to become a chartered environmentalist (CEnv) through an association ICE has with the Society for the Environment. It confirms expertise in environmental matters, giving employers, clients and peers trust in professional capabilities.
To help explain the diverse range of careers available within civil engineering, and to demonstrate how civil engineers help to transform lives and safeguard the future, ICE has published more 200 case studies on its web portal What is Civil Engineering? These include the Environment Agency flood defence projects, the Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project and Torcross sea defence.
To learn more about entering the profession, get some tips on becoming a civil engineer.