1) What kind of students major in Environmental Studies?
Students who major in Environmental Studies tend to be people who have an underlying love of the natural world, who are not narrowly focused on one discipline, and who want to make a difference in society.
2) Is the broad and interdisciplinary nature of an Environmental Studies degree too generalized to have useful applications in jobs out in the field? Why or why not?
There is no question that the broad and interdisciplinary nature of an Environmental Studies education leaves students at a disadvantage for what I will refer to as "cookie cutter" jobs. In other words, if a very specific set of technical skills are required for a particular position, such as a computer programmer, Environmental Studies students tend not to be very competative. However, in jobs where the employer expects the employee to be able to think on his or her feet, problem-solve, and be in leadership positions, Environmental Studies students are often amongst the most qualified.
3) What kinds of jobs are available to ES graduates? What kinds of companies are specifically looking for ES graduates?
Students from our ES program are hired by researchers conducting field work, by public and non-profit land management agencies, by schools (as teachers), by architectual firms interested in ecological design, all types of non-profit organizations ranging from interests in seed-conservation to enviornmental advocacy. Finally, many of our students are successful at gaining admission to graduate school.
4) How can Environmental Studies students gain an edge in the post-graduation job market? What's the best way to land a job with an ES degree?
I would encourage a graduate to get a job with the company or organization that s/he is attracted to. The position does not have to be the dream position as the goal is simply to get a foot in the door so s/he can be recognized. Time and time again, the liberally educated students will stick out and shine in the work environment because they have invested in developing critical thinking skills and have learned how to learn. These traits become evident very quickly, and in many cases will allow the graduates to matriculate into positions that are very difficult to obtain in an open application process.
5) Do you have any advice for prospective students entering an Environmental Studies program?
My advice would be first, to not focus excessively on "the job market" througout one's education, but rather to focus on developing a passion for an area of study that will do some good in the world. Second, I would strongly encourage the prospective students to pay attention to how they learn; in other words, learn how to learn. Following this advice, graduates will emerge who are highly motivated, smart, and ready to learn more in the work place where they end up. Finally, I would encourage prospective students to use their education to make the world a better place, not just to land a job.