Why Professional Development Matters in the Environmental Sector

Jennifer Schultz | March-04-14

Does your education prepare you for everything you need to know on-the-job?  Of course not!

Professional development planning is key to bridging the gap between your education and the skills required in your career. 



Professional Development in the Environmental Sector

Compared to the rest of Canada’s workforce, environmental employees tend to be:

  • Young. The majority (62%) are 44 years or younger. 
  • Highly Educated. Over 68% have completed a post-secondary program or higher.
  • Working in Intermediate to Senior Roles. Only 25% work in junior to entry level positions.


These trends reveal that employees with environmental skills tend to quickly advance within their fields. And if you’re quickly advancing, you may not always have the knowledge or skills you need at your fingertips. This is where professional development comes in!



Professional Development Activities to Consider

No matter what stage your career is in, professional development is best done on a continual basis. But what specific activities could you take to enhance your skill development for environmental work?

A great model to exemplify is how certified Environmental Professionals (EPs) manage their professional development.  Certified EPs are required to participate in a minimum level of professional development activities each year to maintain their designation and verify that they are current in their fields.

EPs participate in a variety of activities related to their environmental work, including:

  • Attending formal, long-term education courses online or in a classroom;
  • Attending informal, short-term education such as workshops, seminars, conferences and on-the-job;
  • Instructing workshops or seminars or presenting on a topic at a conference
  • Contributing to a published paper or article;
  • Volunteering for or participating in committees, boards or mentorship programs; and
  • Attending networking events with other professionals.



Skills to Develop

Professional development for environmental work should include both technical and soft skill training.

Technical training is job-specific and could include learning:

  • training and activites related laboratory or field work;
  • New or changing standards, regulations, or policies in your industry; or
  • New programs or technologies to perform your work.


While technical training can depend greatly on the industry or type of environmental work you do, research also shows that environmental employers look for transfereable, soft skills. Some of the high-demand soft skills are:

  • Planning and organization;
  • Effective written and verbal communication;
  • Critical thinking;  and
  • Leadership.


Gaining both technical and soft-skill development will ensure that you are a well-rounded environmental professional.



If you’re looking to build your planning, organizational or writing skills, check out the ECO AcademyECO Academy online courses are practical, fast, and affordable. They can help you build the skills that matter most to environmental employers.