Natural Resources Policy and Management

Natural resources policy and management involves studies in ecological systems, economics and government. Read on to learn more about career options, degree programs and salaries for specialists in natural resources management and policy development.

Is Natural Resources Policy and Management for Me?

Career Overview

Professionals who are employed in natural resources policy and management use their knowledge of natural and environmental sciences to help the government, businesses and industries make decisions. As a natural resources management specialist, you'll create sustainable solutions for a range of complex conservation problems. You might choose to become a natural resources policy expert and develop new or reform existing conservation and natural resource management policies. To succeed in this field, you should have a genuine passion for environmental issues, strong statistical skills and an understanding of how government systems operate.

In natural resources policy and management programs, you'll develop an understanding of how natural resource policies affect the public and private sectors and how these sectors, in turn, influence policies. Programs typically combine courses in natural and physical science, such as botany, ecology, chemistry and geology, with courses in management, government, economics and environmental law. You might also study public administration, policy development, wildlife management and environmental impact assessments. Internships, volunteer positions or summer work experiences may also be available.

Career Options

The government employs the vast majority of natural resources experts, and opportunities may be found through the U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition to working as a natural resources manager, you could pursue a job as an urban planner or forester. Depending on your academic background, you might qualify for a position as an environmental lawyer or conservation biologist. Other career opportunities may be found within non-profit environmental organizations and consulting firms.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of conservation scientists and foresters was projected to grow at a slower-than-average rate of 3% nationwide from 2012-2022, while employment of environmental scientists and specialists was expected to increase at a faster-than-average rate of 15% during the same period. The development of new soil and water conservation programs, the demand for new urban planning and the overall need to reduce environmental degradation may have a positive impact on job growth. As of May 2013, the median annual wage for conservation scientists was $61,220, while environmental scientists and specialists earned $65,090, as reported by the BLS (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Natural Resources Policy and Management?

Undergraduate Programs

Completion of a bachelor's degree in natural resources policy or a closely related discipline like water resources management, forestry or environmental sciences is the first step to obtaining a job in the field. Many schools offer policy and management as concentrations within natural resources programs.

Graduate Programs

Graduate programs that lead to a Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Natural Resources Management can help you prepare for a research or teaching position, as well as for advanced work in government, business or industry. If you're not interested in an academic career, you might consider a professional Master of Natural Resources. Graduate-level certificate programs in environmental policy and management, environmental justice and restoration ecology are also available.

If you're interested in environmental law or policy, you could pursue a joint Master of Science in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and Juris Doctor program or combine your Master of Science program with a Master of Public Policy. Voluntary certification can be found through the Society of American Foresters or the National Registry of Environmental Professionals, and can help with professional development and advancement.

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