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What is an Environmental Consultant?

they provide regulatory insight, data analysis and technical guidance

Have you ever wondered what an environmental consultant does? Or what the qualifications and educational background are for this fast-paced and exciting career path? Environmental consulting requires a diverse array of skill sets, training, research and analytical experience, and regulatory expertise towards work across a broad spectrum of public and private industries, government sectors and organizations.

One of the most common educational backgrounds for environmental consulting is environmental science. This field comprehensively covers many of the core scientific disciplines that are key to environmental assessments and analysis., including chemistry, biology, geology and physics (any of which individually would still make an excellent major for this work). Many environmental consultants also study engineering. Collectively, these provide the educational framework for the bulk of an environmental consultant’s technical proficiency.

There are many career paths for this type of work. Environmental consultants provide analysis and insight on environmental concerns for public and private industries; property acquisition, development and construction; public works and infrastructure; health compliance and safety regulations; sustainability and energy efficiency; and so much more! Work in compliance is a great foundation for a career as an environmental consultant, because you get comprehensive working knowledge of regulations governing the environment, human health, hazardous substances, and what details are needed for various audits and assessments.

What does an environmental consultant do?

An environmental consultant combines rigorous scientific knowledge, familiarity with regulatory requirements, and technical expertise to conduct thorough environmental assessments to identify and minimize risks that would result in legal action or fines, ensure compliance with current laws and to preserve health and safety. An environmental consultant conducts both field and desk-based research, and prepares detailed scientific reports on their findings and/or recommendations for a variety of clients and projects. 

Generally, they are hired to identify whether water, air, or land contamination will have an adverse impact on people, habitats, or sources of groundwater, for example. They will assess and interpret available data, paired with local, State and Federal guidelines, and provide solutions based on those findings.

For example, if someone is considering buying a piece of land for commercial development, an environmental consultant is hired to fully assess the site and research previous investigations and historical uses prior to a transaction. Or they may conduct field surveys and collect data to establish baseline pollution levels for an industrial infrastructure project. They may be called to testify as expert witnesses for cases involving environmental liability.

There has been an increased trend towards implementing renewable sources of energy, while lowering emissions and overall energy use. This has been reflected through tighter government regulations regarding energy efficiency standards, and incentives for sustainability initiatives. Environmental consultants are in demand at organizations and companies investing in research, development and implementation of energy and sustainability solutions for the future.

When might you need an environmental consultant? 

An environmental consultant can provide insight and expertise on issues including:

•property assessments for potential contamination concerns
•environmental impact assessments
•environmental audits
•air, water and soil assessment
•environmental management and remediation solutions
•dealing with biological and chemical hazards
•regulatory and legislative compliance
•waste management policies
•sustainability and energy solutions
•identifying unknown contaminant sources
•human health and safety guidance

To learn more about environmental consulting for stakeholders involved in property transactions and development, visit Partner’s environmental consulting services page. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in environmental consulting, explore our open opportunities and consider joining our dynamic and talented team