Environmental & Sustainability Management

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Roles and Work Environment

Today, environmental concerns, such as climate change, are among the most urgent challenges facing our species. Tackling these problems may prove vital to our economic success, our health and safety, and our national security. There are myriad ways that this enthusiasm can be channeled into productive work on behalf of the environment—through government, private industry, nonprofit work and the efforts of individual citizens. Developing clean forms of energy, using policy and technology to remove toxic chemicals from our food, water and air, and ensuring that future generations benefit from preserved parks, forests, watersheds and greenways, are some ways that today’s environmental workers help create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable future. Environmental workers span a diverse range of career types, skills, goals and backgrounds, and their ranks, by all industry estimates, will continue to expand, making the environmental field an excellent career choice well into the future. (Vault Guide to Environmental Careers)

Environmental and Sustainability Management professionals find themselves engaged in work that can connect to policy, education, advocacy, legislation and current events. When we talk about Environmental and Sustainability Management in the Career Center we focus mainly on non-scientific roles.

Below is a sample of job titles you might find:

And below you can find a selection of the types of organizations that typically recruit for these roles

  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Peace Corps
  • Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
  • Southern Environmental Law Center
  • VMDO Architects

Skills and Training

Because the roles that align with this industry area are so varied, there are many potential pathways that can help develop skills in this arena. It is always helpful to have long standing evidence of interest in environmental issues and sustainability. Additionally there is not one surefire major or concentration that can prepare you for entry into this sector. It is best to pursue volunteer, internship, and part time opportunities that relate to the industry.  The field of sustainability is still comparatively new, in addition to experiential opportunities there are increasing opportunities for graduate education in the field.

The following combination of education and skills will be helpful for you as you explore opportunities in this field, but may not be necessary for every role. Be sure to familiarize yourself with requirements for specific positions.

  • VAService.org: Offers free and affordable access to workshops and conferences to assist with volunteer recruitment and management, grant writing, marketing, accounting, financial reporting and many other skills needed for nonprofit and service-based work.
  • +Acumen: Led by a UVA alumna, take free courses on everything from Human-Centered Design to Social Impact Analysis.
  • Data Literacy Courses: Being able to collect, review, analyze and tell a story with data is vital in public service and government. The UVA Library offers FREE courses to help students develop their data analysis skills.
  • Grant Proposal Writing Guide: Free guidebook for writing a grant for funding.
  • US Green Building Council Education Portal - Through Sustainability Plan funding, all UVA students, faculty, and staff now have access to the U.S. Green Building Council’s unlimited education platform. It features more than 600 hours of green building and sustainability education. This library highlights best-in-class courses and resources to establish a foundational knowledge of green building and sustainability concepts.
  • EdX Environmental Studies Courses - Learn about environmental studies and more from the best universities and institutions around the world.
  • EdX Sustainability Courses -  Learn about environmental studies and more from the best universities and institutions around the world.
  • List of Sustainability Focused Grad Programs

Industry Timeline

Except for established fellowships or bridge year programs, recruitment for these types of roles occur as the need arises in the organization. Unlike consulting or finance, there are not predictable surges of recruitment activity. It is helpful to look throughout the year for opportunities, conduct informational interviews and follow organizations of interest on social media. For positions in federal, state or local government, most agencies will post or recruit according to their needs, therefore opportunities are available on a rolling basis throughout the year.

Find Opportunities



Applying and Interviewing

Resumes and Cover Letters

Your resume will often be the first impression for a potential employer.  You want to make sure that your resume is succinct, direct, active and specific.  It's also a good idea to ensure that your resume is tailored for the position and for the industry.  Because many positions will also be looking for you to have some content mastery, highlighting relevant coursework can demonstrate your fit for a particular position.

Cover Letters

A cover letter introduces you to a potential employer. Use the position description to make explicit connections between your skills and experience and what the organization is looking for in a candidate. A cover letter could also serve as your introduction to an organization, even if they do not have a position posted. The cover letter should be concise and well-written—if a potential employer reads your cover letter and is intrigued, they will then read your resume. So your cover letter should not repeat your resume verbatim, but enhance it. Together the cover letter and resume can help land you an interview. Review our section on cover letters for more information on how to construct one.


Most interviews will contain a mixture of resume based questions (questions about your past experience) and behavioral based questions (your ability to handle prospective situations at work.  Most positions will begin with an interview that has a mix of these questions,  and these may take place in person during On Grounds Interviewing, or via skype or telephone..  Review our section on interviewing for more information on how to navigate an interview for a job or internship. You can schedule a mock interview with a career counselor to practice or use Interview Stream to prepare as well.

Additional Industry Resources

If you are interested in exploring and learning more about your industry of interest, then news articles, blogs and professional associations are an invaluable tool in deepening your understanding.  Student memberships in professional associations are often free or offered at a very nominal fee, and can give you access to unique resources, job boards and opportunities that you might not see anywhere else.  Take the time to explore these unique resources.

Blogs and Industry Research

Professional Associations

More to Explore

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