Thursday, August 02, 2007

Career Possibility 1: Environmental Consultant

I don’t exactly know what at environmental consultant is. Or at least, I didn’t know four days ago. I just knew it contained a word I liked, “environmental”, and a word I didn’t like, “consultant”. Similar combinations, such as “nasal” and “spray” or “poached” and “egg” have had mixed to positive results, so why not give it a shot?

According to the UK website Prospects, an environmental consultant:

“works on client contracts in areas such as water pollution, air and land contamination, environmental impact assessment, environmental audit, waste management, environmental policy, ecological/land management, noise and vibration measurement and environmental management. The sector continues to expand in response to a mix of regulation, corporate risk and reputation management. Consultants operate in a very commercial environment and senior staff may be required to help attract future clients for the business.”

So basically…an environmental consultant could do anything and everything. From other sources, I have gathered that some environmental consultants sort through masses upon masses of data, others get their boots wet tromping around in toxic spills, and others advise schools on how they can install more efficient heating systems. It all depends on where you end up, and your firm’s specialties.

Some environmental consulting firms are huge. And by huge I mean offices in 20 different countries and all 50 states. The Environmental Careers Organization has a great “Career Tips” section, and tip number 1 is, you guess at, all about careers in environmental consulting. They have a list of the "top" 65 environmental consulting firms in the United States. (Although it is unclear whether "top" means “biggest” or “best” or “highest hit on Google”.)

Of those 65, the following firms (with headquarters from Long Beach, CA to the Netherlands) have offices in the greater Boston area (yeah, I am still doing this for me, remember!). The list goes roughly from big enough to dwarf the Titanic to a sizable two-engine motor boat. Unless noted, offices are in Boston proper.

CH2M Hill Companies
IT Group
Earth Tech
Parsons Corporation
Black and Veatch
Montgomery Watson
Camp Dresser and McKee (CDM, headquartered in Cambridge)
Jacobs Engineering Group
Tetra Tech
The ERM Group
Weston Solutions
AECOM Technology Corp.
ENSR International (headquartered in Westford, MA)
Malcolm Pirnie
ATC Associates
TRC Environmental
ThermoRetec Consulting (now merged with ENSR, in Concord, MA)
SECOR International (Chestnut Hill, MA)
Michael Baker Corporation
Hazen and Sawyer
EA Engrg., Sci., and Tech (Southborough, MA)
LFR Levine Fricke (Braintree, MA and Lawrence, MA)
Bureau Veritas
GeoSyntec Consultants (Acton, MA)
DLZ Corporation (Waltham, MA)
Parsons Brinckerhoff (headquartered in Weston, MA)
Haley and Aldrich

After looking at all those websites, and dozens of pictures of men and women in hard hats and goggles scrutinizing plans, highways in “fast motion” with the lights all blurry, close-ups of handshakes, people sitting under bridges as the sun is setting (and yes, the sun is always setting…), aerial photographs of construction sites, clear lakes with reflections of cloud-filled blue skies, test tubes filled with jello colors, and hands holding soil that is sprouting seedlings, I think I have a better idea of what goes on at an environmental consulting firm. (Side note: only one website had annoying “intense” background music.)

Now, the next step is to see exactly what each firm specializes in (waste water management? air pollution? energy auditing?) and send out unsolicited (ah! so scary!) cover letters and resumes accordingly. This is obviously just the beginning…

P.S. An environmental consultant is not quite the same thing as an environmental engineer, which I may or may not cover some time in the near future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said... consultants are good people, too! Consultant just means you work for people and that you are hired to do the work they either don't have the skills or inclination to do. It means that you have to be good at communicating and no, we aren't used car sales types---that's a managing consultant!

BTW, my friend Mary's daughter who has a geology masters does environmental consulting, too. She wears a hard hat and puts together those required environmental impact statements companies need to do before they tear up the environment and build something. She loves her job.