Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a trans-disciplinary field that integrates public policy, qualitative analysis, quantitative and statistical analysis, GIS mapping, stakeholder engagement, long-range planning, scientific expertise, and many other knowledge areas. Some professionals come to EIA practice with a natural science or urban planning background, while others come from postgraduate academic programs such as those offered by Concordia University or the University of Manchester that are specifically designed to incorporate the diverse specializations within the environmental assessment field.
Once a student finishes his or her master’s program in environmental assessment, there is a wide range of career paths that he or she may choose to take. Broadly speaking, these paths include environmental consulting; environmental advocacy organizations (generally non-profit or nongovernmental organizations); government jobs (at the local, provincial, or federal levels). These three paths are explained in brief below.
An entry-level position for an EIA graduate within an environmental consulting firm will expose the new professional to site visits, data collection and analysis, and technical writing. He or she will work as part of a multidisciplinary team alongside engineers, architects, and environmental and social scientists on projects ranging in size from site-specific actions to oil pipelines stretching hundreds of kilometers. Examples of possible employers include large international firms like URS or small, local firms like D & G EnviroGroup.
Non-Profit and Advocacy Organizations
EIA students may choose to work for an organization that promotes sustainability, rather than a private company that may potentially harm the environment through its actions. These organizations stand to benefit from the strong research and analytical skills as well the data visualization and mapping strengths that an EIA program graduate gains in school. Job duties may include research on environmental regulations or outreach to communities or corporations in efforts to encourage them to be more sustainable. An example of a non-profit organization that might hire EIA graduates is Pollution Probe. Inter- and non-governmental organizations that could benefit from the diverse skill set of an EIA graduate include the United Nations Environmental Program and the Nature Conservancy.
Because EIA is often mandated at the government level, there is no shortage of government career opportunities for graduating students trained in environmental assessment. A government position for a recent EIA graduate may involve contributing to environmental impact assessment reviews or to the development and implementation of legislation. He or she may also participate in writing, research, or analysis for environmental assessments conducted by the department or agency in which he or she is placed. In Canada, government EIA jobs are available with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency or the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.