Is an environmental degree for you?

Cynthia Batin
4 min readDec 13, 2023

Climate change is knocking on your front door. As a concerned citizen, you thought that maybe you are the key to saving this deteriorating world. And what is your first step? Maybe enrolling on an environmental degree — Environmental Science, Environmental Planning, Natural Resource and Environmental Management, and Environmental Engineering — these are only a few of the environmental degrees that may have crossed your mind. But the question is, “Is an environmental degree worth pursuing?”

Photo by Tobias Mrzyk on Unsplash

Who are the environmental professionals?

An environmental professional is anyone who works in an environment-labeled unit. It’s too broad of a subject to find an exact definition. The reason is that there is a wide variety of specializations that you can choose from.

The following are among the general professions that you may encounter in the environment sector. Their roles and responsibilities may overlap, depending on the needs of the project they are working on.

  1. The field workers. They are the forester, the marine conservationist, the park ranger, the community development officer, the tourist guide, or any environmental practitioner who is on the field, performing ground surveys, interacting with communities, performing on-the-ground capacity building, among others. They are the action stars of the environment sector.
  2. The academicians/scientists. They are the environmental science teacher, the academic researcher, the GIS and remote sensing specialist, the microbiologist, the botanist, the zoologist, the conservation biologist, the taxonomist, the marine biologist, the soil scientist, the statistician, the forester, the geographer, the microbiologist, the molecular biologist, the environmental engineer, the geologist, the hydrologist. The academicians/scientists also perform fieldwork but mostly for research purposes. They are the authors of the science articles and policy briefs.
  3. The environmental planners. They are the urban and the regional planners. The landscape architect and landscaper may fall under this category.
  4. The private sector people. They are those hired by companies, particularly manufacturing companies, to perform specific function. They are the pollution control officer, the QA analyst or inspector, the waste management specialist, and the energy auditor. Others may also be involved in corporate social responsibility roles.
  5. The NGO and IGO support staff. They are usually the associate or the officer performing coordination, writing concept notes and activity designs, and assisting the decision-makers in performing their responsibilities. They are the backbone of many environmental organizations.
  6. The decision-makers. They are the economist, the lawyer, the politician, the project manager, the communication specialist, the international development expert. They are the big bosses of most environmental institutions.
  7. Others are not mentioned but their roles are critical. The environment sector is very much multidisciplinary; hence, an exhaustive list is almost unattainable.

What are your expectations after graduation?

Environmental advocacy is a promising and worthwhile sector especially if it is about the expression of one’s passion. However, it is important to identify your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. It is important to ask yourself the following questions:

Do you just want a degree? Or do you feel like the word environment feels like numerous trips and adventures? Perhaps you wish for an overflowing bank account after graduation? Or you are just highly passionate about saving the environment from the threats of climate change?

In a broad degree such as the environment, you may encounter challenges if you don’t know your expected outcome after graduation.

The overlooked factor in pursuing an environmental degree: Money

There is a perception that an environmental career is not lucrative. In my experience, this is true.

Just like any other job, monetary compensation is dependent on which level of the “food chain” are you. Are you the first-degree consumer or are you on the top of the food chain? In general, field workers have lesser compensation than their office counterparts. It’s a rule of thumb: decision-makers get paid more than implementers.

Imagine: You are in a COP event; who do you think among the attendees has collected biological samples? Your guess may be true, many of them are people who have mastered global environmental policies, without actually having experience digging the land to plant trees.

Real talk: An environmental career is not just about planting trees and cleaning the seashore. Sometimes, it is about facing your computer 24 hours a day or networking with potential strategic partners to expand an institution’s operations. Sometimes, it is about inhaling and exhaling economics and policy.


Well, the answer is, “It depends.” The answer depends on the reason why you want to take up an environmental degree.

The great thing about an environmental degree is that you can never be unemployed as long as you are looking for a job.

Is it for the pursuit of knowledge? Is it for the fulfilment of your childhood dream? If your answer is ‘Yes’ for either of the first two questions, then it is worth pursuing.

But if you desire to be financially rich in a short period, my advice is to reflect more on your college course before making the necessary decision.

Note: A few years ago, a friend asked me if it was still necessary to complete her MS in Environmental Science, after a two-year leave of absence. I promised her that I would write a brief article about it. After x years, Aineel, I have fulfilled it. (But yes, she didn’t pursue the degree and moved to a different career path.)



Cynthia Batin

I wander gleefully like a petal in a windy day. Food lover. Food waste hater. Got 19 beautiful cats. I write to remember.