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University of Rhode Island — Environmental & Natural Resource Economics
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Be Successful
Is this field for me?

Are you passionate about our environment, its many challenges and its vital role in our health and welfare? Are you interested in creating a new green economy that can protect the environmental and the economic vitality of our communities? Are you interested in understanding why individuals, firms, and governments make decisions that lead to unsustainable outcomes for the environment and what we can do to fix it? Are you interested in learning analytical tools that can help identify the root causes of, and solutions to, environmental problems?

To be successful as a student, and eventually as a professional in environmental economics, you must be passionate about understanding environmental challenges and their consequences for human health and welfare. You must have a strong interest in learning and applying analytical tools to evaluate the likely success of proposed solutions to environmental problems. You must be interested in contributing to a new green economy that promises a sustainable future for our generation and those who come after us.

Academic Strengths

The Environmental and Natural Resource Economics major is where “green” and “economy” come together. The major is based on a synergy of ecology and economics. Students in the major first take a foundation of two semesters of biology, math, natural resource economics, and natural resource science. Upper division courses build on this foundation with resource management, policy, ecology, statistics and natural sciences. The major also provides an option to sample broadly from courses across the University or to develop a related focus area (e.g. green business).

Personal Qualities

At the core of a successful and effective environmental economist is a person who is sincerely interested in caring for and promoting both the environment and human welfare. Environmental economists need skills like:

  • Critical thinking to assess environmental challenges from multiple perspectives
  • Strong problem solving skills
  • A passion for learning about the many different dimensions of environmental problems
  • Perseverance needed to resolve problems that seem to have no ideal solution
  • Willingness and ability to work as a member of a multi-disciplinary team
Job Market

Recently, we have witnessed an increased awareness of the complex environmental challenges that our society is facing. Climate change, congestion, air pollution, oil spills and exhaustible energy source dependency have all made the mainstream media news almost on a daily basis. All of these problems are complex, and the solutions to these problems require a broad approach involving the many different dimensions of the problems, ranging from chemistry, physics, ecology, economics, ethics, and management, among others. Environmental economics major involves studying all of these dimensions, and provides a strong background for a host of careers that seek to address these complex problems.

The complex nature of this grand environmental challenge has created job opportunities for people with broad training and problem solving skills. Government agencies at the federal, state and local levels are implementing ecosystem policies and other environmental management decisions. In addition, most environmental policy assessments are now required to analyze the economic implications of government decisions. Environmental managers are also finding that environmental problems are often driven by economic incentives. These factors suggest that environmental managers of the present and future will need an ever-increasing appreciation of how economic factors impact environmental management decisions. Furthermore, private sector business, industry, and consulting companies will have an increasing demand for environmental specialists who understand both the natural sciences and the economy, particularly as the private sector faces new regulations on environmental quality.

A career in environmental economics can be exciting and fulfilling. You might be hired by a government agency to lead, plan and conduct analyses to assess alternative approaches to protecting the environment in the face of land use change. You might be asked to evaluate different regulatory and incentive-based options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. You might work collaboratively as part of an interdisciplinary team to forecast how the sustainability of natural and human communities might be affected by a new way of managing fisheries. Or you might be asked to provide advice on how to design new tourism developments so as to ensure environmental sustainability and the long term economic viability of a community.