Pathways to Climate Careers Panel Discussion

The College of the Environment hosted a career panel last quarter featuring alumni who work in various climate-focused roles, both in government agencies as well as industry. The panel addressed careers in environmental consulting, regulatory roles, and research. Climate Sciences is a growing field seeing expansion in both educational and career pathways. As education in environmental and climate sciences expands, so does industry focused on climate and sustainability solutions, so understanding our options to pursue a climate science-focused career is increasingly complex and critical.

Panelists at the event included Carey Schafer from EcoAdapt, Katie Keil from 48 North Solutions, Nicole Briggs from EPA, Carrie Lee from King County Executive Climate Office, Jimmy Krajil from the Washington State Department of Ecology, and Ruby Moore-Bloom from CETI.

The College of the Environment shared a comprehensive recap of the panel discussion on their blog. Read some selected highlights from the panelists’ insights below:

Finding the right job after graduation can be challenging and career shifts are common. One panelist shared they felt lost after finishing their undergrad in geology with no interest in the research they planned for. Others carried degrees and backgrounds in unrelated fields and later decided to fulfill a new passion. Some panelists found their fit in the private sector and others thrived in public and governmental roles. Many of the panelists shared that environmental consulting was a key part of their journey to their current position.

The topic of consulting was popular as many of the panelists currently or previously worked in consulting. They noted that it is a very common job for those in environmental fields. There were mixed reviews of their experiences within consulting. Many said there is a discrepancy in the quality of the work environment with consulting. Managing long billable hours was challenging while having a life outside of work. Others struggled with having different goals and views than the companies they worked for. It was noted that where you work and who you work with play a significant role in the experiences to be had. Many of the panelists thrived and still work in consulting alongside teams that support and uplift them and their projects. One key detail shared about consulting was the depth of knowledge to be learned in such a short time. It was a chance for many to deep dive into niche topics and expand their depth of knowledge, sometimes learning on their feet to satisfy a project. All agreed that this was a very valuable experience, especially in their career growth.

Many noted it is much easier to get hired out of college into a consulting firm than other governmental positions. One panelist shared that government positions are often highly competitive and in their experience the application and hiring processes could take 3 months. He shared he was hired in his second interview with a consulting firm with a turnaround within just a few weeks.

By Kirk Heynen (He/Him)
Kirk Heynen (He/Him) Career Coach