Environmental consultants work on commercial or government contracts, addressing a variety of environmental issues. They cover a wide range of disciplines such as: assessment of air; land and water contamination; environmental impact assessment; environmental audit; waste management and the development of environmental policy; and environmental management systems.
Major clients include the government (including local government and national regulatory organisations) and water-related organisations.
Typical Work Activities
- Managing legislative issues for clients and maintaining an awareness of how legislation impacts projects.
- Conducting field surveys: collecting data to establish a baseline condition for levels of pollution or contamination for a site or area of consideration.
- Interpreting data: this can include detailed assessment of data, often using software-modelling packages to identify whether ‘contamination’ exists in accordance with current legislation.
- Development of conceptual models: this involves identification and consideration of the potential contaminant sources, critical pathways and receptors that could potentially have an adverse impact on the immediate and wider environment.
- Report writing: completion of detailed scientific reporting, written in a manner that can be understood by non-technical people.
- Communicating with clients, regulators and sub-contractors, e.g. Analytical laboratories.
- Researching previous investigations of a site to provide information to clients considering purchase.
- Undertaking field work to identify previous activities on the site and any contamination.
- Business skills and commercial awareness, as consultants operate in a very commercial environment.
- Communication and presentation skills.
- It skills, such as word processing and use of spreadsheets and presentation packages.
- Project management skills, as time and resources are allocated to projects and need to be monitored and adhered to.
- Organisation and time management skills, to manage several projects at one time.
A driving licence is usually necessary.
The first two years of consultancy are typically spent gaining site-based experience, e.g. intrusive ground investigation, ecological surveys, ground and surface water sampling. You will also be involved in: data assessment; desk-based research; liaison with sub-contractors, clients and regulators; and report preparation and writing.
With experience, consultants may be asked to manage small projects in order to take on more responsibility. Consultants generally progress to senior consultant grade when they have around five years’ experience. Senior consultants are usually responsible for the management of staff, site investigations, contracts and the allocation of resources. They are involved in business development, with responsibility for marketing the business to new clients and developing relationships with existing clients, as well as identifying and submitting tenders for new work. After a number of years at senior grade, consultants can move on to principal consultant grade, where responsibilities are mainly team management, commercial development and technical specialist.
Some consultants may progress further to director level. Some vacancies are filled through personal contacts and word of mouth, so it is important to keep building up and maintaining contacts during the early stages of your career. However, many vacancies are handled through specialist recruitment agencies. Willingness to relocate, may help to increase opportunities for career progression.
Original content at prospects.ac.uk