The Best 4 Environmental Compliance Jobs in 2023
The outlook remains sunny for professionals looking to work in the environmental field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for environmental scientists and specialists looks poised to grow five percent from 2021 to 2031, well in line with the national job-growth average. However, environmental science and environmental studies jobs often feature significant barriers to entry. Employers prefer to hire professionals with extensive education and established work experience. If you're seeking an entry-level position in the field, you may find opportunities more difficult to come by. There's one section of the environmental professional field, though, that newer employees should consider: environmental compliance jobs.
In this article, we will discuss what environmental compliance is, the kinds of prerequisites you'll need to acquire, and four of the best environmental compliance jobs in 2023.
What Are the Best Entry-level Environmental Compliance Jobs?
In the early 20th century, English economist Arthur Pigou formalized a concept known as externality. He defined an externality as either a benefit or detriment imposed on people due to the actions of others. In short, they receive good or bad things through no action or inaction of their own. Pollution is an oft-cited example of an externality, and whereas Pigou suggested implementing a tax to deal with externalities, our society has chosen to use regulation and fines and/or legal action to mitigate environmental issues.
Environmental compliance jobs involve ensuring that various entities comply with regulations imposed by municipal, state, and federal governments. These regulations span multiple fields and many different natural resources, industrial products, and quality-of-life concerns. They're complex, specific, and costly if not properly adhered to. Small businesses, corporations, and even governmental bodies often struggle to properly comply with required regulations, and when they need to know what applies to them, what doesn't, where they're measuring up, and where they're falling short, they turn to an environmental compliance professional.
There are various different types of environmental compliance positions, and many will help businesses and bureaucratic entities perform various tasks, such as the following:
- Inspect and audit specific sites
- Secure permits for different kinds of operations and materials
- Register hazardous materials, holding tanks, and other containment measures
- Facilitate required reporting to governmental offices and affected communities
- Certify site safety for employees
- Formulate environmental compliance plans
- Implement and execute on environmental compliance plans
For students and new professionals seeking employment, the field of environmental compliance offers several opportunities. Following you'll find more information about four of the best environmental compliance jobs.
Environmental Regulatory Compliance Officer
As we have written elsewhere, "No environmental compliance officer enforces the entirety of the regulatory load of every federal, state, and local statute. The field is simply too complex, and different kinds of private and public organizations will intersect with environmental regulations in different ways." Still, environmental regulatory compliance officers specialize in understanding the breadth of regulation required for whatever sector in which they work. While this will look different from position to position, here are some of the typically expected duties:
- Ensure that the organization in question complies with major environmental regulations such as the Clean Air Act, the Montreal Protocol, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1970.
- Investigating the status of an organization's current compliance
- Attending applicable local, state, or national government meetings
- Demonstrating adequate technical knowledge of organizational operations and how they intersect with applicable regulations
- Offering expert guidance to organizational decision makers
- Assessing whether organizational impacts follow accepted regulatory requirements
- Notifying appropriate authorities of any environmental violations or harmful incidents
- Undertaking additional training to maintain technical and regulatory knowledge as needed
Environmental Compliance Analyst
An environmental compliance analyst shares the same end goals as a compliance officer, but occupies a significantly different professional niche. Where an environmental regulatory compliance officer is more often concerned with legal matters, compliance analysts focus on analyzing data and implementing strategies suggested by it or passing along recommendations to decision makers. Like officers, analysts can work in almost any field and may analyze general environmental matters, air quality, water quality, soil quality, hazardous materials storage, site cleanup, and more. Unlike officers, though, they are expected to conduct information-driven work, such as the following:
- Collecting and analyzing all applicable environmental data
- Synthesizing informational reports by using said data
- Preparing recommendations based on available data
- Preparing compliance-related correspondence
- Compiling and investigating reports regarding organizational environmental compliance
- Estimating the time and expense required to execute various environmental projects
- Assisting with and interpreting audit efforts
- Assisting with compiling and submitting regulatory reports to authorities
- Assisting with required and voluntary inspections
- Analyzing legislation that could impact regulatory requirements
- Working with external environmental consultants
While many environmental compliance analysts occupy advanced positions, you can also find entry-level opportunities for those just getting started in the field.
Environmental Compliance Specialist
Environmental compliance specialists often serve as "boots on the ground" professionals, moving from site to site to personally inspect and gather data about an organization's conformity (or lack thereof) to required guidelines. Specialists may find themselves investigating contaminated sites; water sources; governmental, professional, and residential properties in various states of care; manufacturing facilities; wastewater plants; construction sites; demolition sites; and more. Some of their additional responsibilities include:
- Collecting data from specific sites, including data on water quality, soil contamination, lead presence, air quality, presence of radiation, and the presence of toxic materials
- Providing information to management of inspected sites regarding various regulatory requirements
- Contacting and ensuring ongoing communication with various governmental agencies
- Communicating with external auditors and conveying their recommendation to appropriate parties
- Following up with audited organizations to ensure that remediation efforts are implemented
- Aiding in the development of various organizational compliance policies
- Examining changes in the regulatory landscape to ensure ongoing compliance
Environmental Compliance Technician
If environmental compliance specialist jobs require an employee's physical presence at a particular place, then environmental compliance technicians are those who travel with them and get their hands dirty. Technicians specialize in the sorts of manual tasks that generate the data from which decisions are made. They are frontline personnel who are the first people to interact with samples, arrive at sites, conduct inspections, and ensure that specialists, analysts, and officers have the information that they need in order to make proper decisions. They require specialized training in order to conduct their required tasks properly, but much of that training occurs on the job. Typical tasks may include:
- Assisting with the physical collection of environmental samples by using best collection practices at inspection sites
- Sampling and monitoring sites such as gas wells, composting areas, landfills, special waste disposal areas, waterways and more
- Communicating applicable waste restrictions, permit requirements and acceptable waste-disposal requirements
- Creating proper documentation that records regulatory compliance efforts
- Performing announced and unannounced site inspections
- Inspecting the construction, management and maintenance of equipment designed to facilitate regulatory compliance
What Qualifications Do You Need to Secure One of These Environmental Compliance Jobs?
Though the four environmental compliance jobs listed above are typically easier to get into than other types of positions, they still require different kinds of qualifications. Most entry level environmental compliance jobs will still want you to have a high school or college diploma in an applicable field (e.g., biology, agriculture, geology). Regulatory and technical knowledge of the field in which you will work also helps, as does actual on-the-job experience such as prior employment or an internship. And one of the most valuable things that can help you secure environmental regulatory compliance jobs is an environmental certification.
Since 1987, NREPSM has specialized in providing numerous types of certifications for environmental professionals. Our work is recognized by both the EPA and the Department of Energy. Browse our certifications page to see which option would work best for your future career!