Graduate Education

Turning an Environmental Policy Degree Into a Career

ISE Director Susan Powers works with a student in Clarkson's greenhouse on growing plants.

From air quality to hazardous chemical regulations, our daily lives are heavily influenced by a wide range of policies and laws that affect our environment and keep us healthy. Environmental policy professionals work with scientists, legislators and business leaders to address the complex socioeconomic and political realities that influence public behaviors and opinions. For individuals interested in being at the forefront of this work, an environmental policy degree can lead to a rewarding career. 

Who Makes Environmental Policy? 

Environmental policy is a complex field. While most are aware of the larger players like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), federal environmental policy in the United States which began in the 1960s, is just one piece of the bigger environmental policy picture.

Established in the 1970s, the EPA was charged with protecting human health and the environment through both regulations and research after public concern and political debate over air and water pollution increased. Many other government agencies, including the departments of Agriculture, Forestry and the Interior, are also involved in establishing and reviewing policies related to the environment. 

Beyond the federal government, however, there is a vast framework of regulations set by state governments, addressing the nuanced needs at a local level. Additionally, a diverse and complex web of environmental policy professionals extends through nongovernmental organizations, nonprofit organizations, academia, and businesses around the world, and across the public and private sectors. These groups engage in the research, advocacy, and legal work that shapes public opinion and drives change. 

Career Opportunities in Environmental Policy

The range of career opportunities for environmental policy professionals is equally expansive, with positions available globally. Some graduates pursue roles directly tied to research or data analysis, while others work to change and adapt policy or choose to combine their educational studies with legal or business degrees. 

The Clarkson University environmental policy master’s program has a strong record for post-graduate job placement. Our students’ paths are varied, and often influenced by the research interests they explore during their studies. Recent graduates of the program have gone on to prestigious positions at places like the Brookings Institute, Energy Futures Group, and Intertek. 

Graduates of environmental policy programs can also expect a promising job market and competitive compensation. In 2019, environmental scientists and specialists earned a median salary of $71,360. Additionally, employment is projected to grow eight percent between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The Clarkson Difference

While there are a number of different environmental policy graduate programs to choose from, Clarkson students benefit from the individualized attention and support we provide thanks to our smaller cohort sizes. Within your small cohort, you will experience the value of personal one-to-one relationships with our faculty and have the opportunity to develop deep connections with your fellow students.

This level of individualized attention provides Clarkson students with a great deal of flexibility in their thesis topics, as well as ample opportunity to participate in ongoing faculty research. Students will also find innumerable opportunities to publish, which can be both personally and professionally invaluable. Past students have worked on a variety of projects, from helping the Lake Placid and the New York State Olympic Region become LEED-certified to establishing a governance structure for a municipality-scale emergency microgrid.

We admit students with a range of backgrounds including those with significant work experience and recent undergraduates. Most of our students complete their degree in 12 to 24 months. 

An Interdisciplinary Connection

Environmental policy students at Clarkson also benefit from the connection with the larger institution. With top-ranking programs in both engineering and data science, our students have access to courses and resources that can help those with strong quantitative skills supplement their knowledge in various related fields, opening up even more doors and career opportunities.

The Environmental Policy program is a core part of the university’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment (ISE). The ISE acts as a hub for faculty and students from all disciplines to bring an unparalleled diversity of perspectives and expertise to environmental education, sustainability efforts and collaborative research initiatives. The Institute also has a strong focus on community engagement, working with local and global partners to address real-world problems. 

Think Clarkson’s environmental policy master’s program sounds like the right fit for you? Explore our curriculum and find out more about the application process.

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