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Overview
What is this career?

The major prepares students for careers in the public and private sectors that address environmental and natural resource management, business, or public policy. Such professionals play an important role in coordinating interdisciplinary teams to help solve complex environmental problems.

Students in our program learn skills necessary to work for organizations to ensure that essential natural amenities such as clean air, tropical rain forests and biodiversity are given due consideration in decisions. These considerations ultimately determine whether firms will adopt green practices or technologies; whether new regulations will achieve stated goals for economic growth and environmental outcomes; whether new market-based management (such as cap-and-trade initiatives) will be effective; or whether unintended consequences may arise from the economic system and environmental policies. Often, these analyses must take into account competing interests, such as how offshore wind farms affect fishermen, boaters, marine transportation, seafood consumers, coastal residents, and traditional electricity suppliers.

Jobs in the Public Sector

A significant percentage of environmental and natural resource economists are employed in the public sector, at the state and federal level. All states have environmental departments, whose members are engaged in the management of state resources and the environment. At the federal level, environmental economists can pursue careers in research, environmental management, and policy design, implementation, monitoring and compliance. Federal organizations that most commonly employ environmental and natural resource economists are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Departments of Interior, Transportation, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Environmental and Natural resource Economics major can qualify you for careers that include but are not limited to:

  • Environmental Protection Specialist
  • Program Analyst
  • Resource Analyst
  • Natural Resource Specialist
  • Natural Resource Management Specialist
  • Fishery Policy Analyst
  • Economist
  • Statistician
  • Economic Assistant
  • Energy Program Analyst

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as a general category, Economists held roughly 7,700 jobs in governmental institutions. Among those, about 4,500 were employed in federal agencies and the rest of 3,200 worked for state and local governments. While the salary can vary significantly depending on many factors, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average salary for economists employed by the Federal Government for year 2009, as $108,010 per year. According to Apply for a Government Job.com website, an Economist position in a federal agency is ranked the 5th highest paying job. However, these positions usually require an advanced degree in economics or related fields.

As of 2011, entry level jobs corresponding to qualifications achieved by students graduating in this field can pay anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 per year or $15 to $25 per hour. More detailed and up-to-date information on remuneration, you can check out the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Salaries & Wages. Aside from increasingly competitive salaries, governmental jobs come with a unique and generous benefits package, among which, student loan reimbursement, tuition reimbursement, telecommuting /flex time, fitness programs and 13 to 26 vacation days, depending on the number of years of employment.

Professional advancement in the public sector depends on whether the hiring agency is federal or state and many other factors such as performance and further training/education, department and location. Many governmental agencies offer professional development or training programs that give their employees the opportunity to obtain the knowledge that enables them to advance in their chosen fields. These programs comprise of in-house training or support for training activities elsewhere outside the public agency, including graduate school studies.

A good source of information for college graduates seeking employment in the public sector is the following website: