As the world population grows, human societies are increasingly challenged to find a way to balance development needs of communities with maintenance of a healthy and sustainable natural resource base. Growing communities require construction of new highways, housing and businesses, and these projects influence the quality of the environment. Local, state and federal environmental laws require compliance by corporations, contractors and even state agencies such as Departments of Transportation as they implement projects that impact the landscape. Environmental consulting firms employ a staff of professionals that perform site-based studies in order to conform to the legal requirements for these projects.
Studies performed by environmental consultants include wetland delineations, biological assessments, stream geomorphological surveys, and field monitoring of restoration projects. In order to prepare for a career in environmental consulting, students should develop a skill set that includes proficiency in plant species identification, geospatial data analysis and knowledge of soil properties and hydrology. Courses covering environmental policy and law are also valuable. As consultants must submit well researched written reports to their clients, writing and presentation skills are critical.
Students are strongly encouraged to participate in summer internships to gain practical field experience. Governmental organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources have ongoing internship programs for environmental assessment. Students planning a career in consulting are advised to take coursework needed to meet the qualifications for certification as an Ecologist by the Ecological Society of America.