Candace, 27, is an intermediate environmental scientist, currently working for an engineering and environmental consulting company in Ontario. She has her honours BA in geography and environmental studies from McMaster University (1997) and a post-diploma in environmental management and consulting from Niagara College (1998).
Stephanie: What made you decide to become an environmental consultant and how did you become one?
Candace: I didn't consciously decide to become an environmental consultant. I fell into it by chance. I was interested in helping the environment; I took geography and environmental studies in university not knowing where it would take me. It took me to Niagara College, where I took an environmental management post-diploma, from which I leapt into my first consulting position with an engineering company.
Stephanie: What do you like about your job?
Candace: The job has many positive aspects. An environmental consultant works with industry and teaches them how to prevent environmental occurrences in addition to helping during times of emergency.
I get to travel a lot, and spend a lot of time working outdoors. I get to meet a wide variety of people, from engineers to contractors to government regulators. It's a great opportunity to network effectively in a short amount of time. There is great job variety, in that I get to work on a lot of diverse projects over a short time span, and getting bored really isn't an option. This means that when you're a student starting out, you can get a lot of experience on a variety of projects and acquire marketable skills relatively quickly compared to other positions in the environmental field. Another good thing is that a lot of companies are flexible and might allow you to modify your working hours (i.e., no set start and finish time), and sometimes you can even work from home several days a week.
Finally, I have the advantage of working with industry, government and the public to actually make a difference. It's not just lip service, I am actually working to improve the environment. I'm not fixing it 100%, but every baby step counts.
Stephanie: What is your least favourite part of the job?
Candace: Timesheets. Every minute has to be tracked and charged back to a client. As a result, there's very little time for administrative and marketing functions, which everyone must do, and often you end up working very long hours to maintain "chargeability". Be prepared to do some serious time - no nine-to-five career here. In addition, Canadian consultants make a lot less than
their American counterparts. For the level of responsibility, educational requirements, vehicle requirements and time, the pay is not very rewarding.
Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming an environmental consultant?
Candace: Love the work, because if you don't you can get discouraged and burn out very easily. Completing a master's degree or having an engineering degree is an asset when it comes to pay scale. Specialists in hydrogeology are in great demand and in very small supply, so look into it! Invest in sunblock. Drive an old car, because otherwise it will get old very quickly. Continue to educate yourself, and expand your skill set, to stay current and competitive in the hiring market.
Stephanie: What kind of an education do you need to be an environmental consultant? What kind of education did you get?
Candace: Environmental consultants come from all walks of life. They are engineers, scientists, industrial hygienists, health and safety specialists, toxicologists, planners, ecologists, etc. The term "environmental" covers a lot of different things, and therefore the individuals in the field do as well. I have an honours BA in geography and environmental studies, and a post-diploma in environmental management and consulting.
Stephanie: Do you have a favourite plant or animal? What is it?
Candace: I don't have a favourite plant, but I love trees. I believe trees are an essential positive energy in life and should be protected. As for my favourite animal, I would have to say dogs. I'm trying to convince my roommate to let me have one!
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