Do You Need A Master’s Degree To Start A Green Career?


The world is changing and, although this may be an inconvenient truth, you’re ready to do something about it.

While the rest of your friends suit up for work, you want to go green and go back to school.

According to ECO Canada’s 2010 profile of environmental employment in Canada, one out of 10 workers in the environmental sector has a graduate degree or higher. The level of education also varies based on industry. Within firms that are trying to cool things off by handling climate change and carbon issues, around one in five workers holds a graduate degree or higher.

According to the report, other areas that usually require higher education include:

  • Research and development
  • Natural resource management
  • Eco-preservation
  • Environmental communication
  • Alternative/renewable energy and eco-efficiency
  • Environmental policy and legislation

When you’re thinking of getting into a green future, graduate degree and certificate programs are the first thing that come to mind. These programs can be course-based, research-based, or a combination of the two, and give you the opportunity to dig deeper into you field of interest.

For instance, Ryerson University offers a PhD and master’s degree program in Environmental Applied Science and Management, where graduate students take courses in both environmental theory and how to respond to the complex environmental challenges in areas ranging from air quality to waste management, culminating in the completion of a final research project.

Recruiters surveyed in the ECO Canada report said they tended to hire based on referrals or co-op programs, building on existing relationships. Green continuing education programs can spark these relationships by putting students in different work environments.

Queen’s University Environmental Studies graduate Hilary Davies says graduate school “was a real hands-on experience. I was able to work in northern Labrador on a project with the Inuit population there. It was an incredible opportunity to broaden my horizons and work with people I never would have worked with otherwise.”

Anand Srivastava liked playing in trees and dirt well enough as a child, but he started seriously considering getting into a greener work environment during his undergrad in Environmental Studies at Queen’s. While looking into graduate programs, he says he found that “everyone’s advice is always: try to find a professor and project that you’re passionate about.”

After graduation, Anand decided to continue his education in a green – but slightly different – direction. During his undergrad, he learned how to apply environmental science to areas like policy and it was a fusion that he enjoyed. As the son of a lawyer, Anand was exposed to law early on and, after graduating from Queen’s, he decided to combine his passion for the environment with his pursuit of the suit.

Law schools across the country have environmental law electives within their programs, and universities such as Dalhousie and the University of Victoria actually specialize in different aspects of going green law.

By definition, the environment is all around us so it follows that there are a number of ways to incorporate it into your education. Whether it’s a specialized environmental law or pursuing a research master’s degree in soil toxicology, it’s just about finding the area of the environment that you are passionate about and continuing your education so you can grow a greener career.

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To learn more about getting a green job and hatching a career in the green economy, visit TalentEgg’s Green Jobs Career Guide.

About the author

Ishani Nath is a proud McMaster alum, aspiring writer and current journalism grad student at Ryerson University. When she's not hammering out articles, she can usually be found on a patio or nestled on a couch trying to keep up with those crazy Kardashians. She hopes to one day have a job that makes her excited to get up each morning, or at least one that gives her free food. Intrigued? Enthralled? Learn more by following her on @ishaninath.