Environmental consulting consists of a wide range of disciplines serving both public and private sectors. Consultants play an important role in environmental protection, regulatory compliance, and the sustainable use of natural resources. Regardless of the stage of your career today, environmental consulting offers rewarding opportunities.
We bring you this career profile series of the scientists at Hargis to explore your possibilities in the field of environmental consulting.
Thank you to Amanda Morris for sharing her insight on the environmental consulting career path for a Hydrogeologist.
What is your primary role?
My primary role at Hargis is project and field management for environmental consulting projects in Northern California.
What career did you imagine for yourself as a child?
As a child and teenager, I always imagined that I would be involved in some sort of business endeavor as a career. I saw myself as a salesperson or in a high rise building in a big city, which couldn’t be farther than my preferences now!
What career did you plan to pursue when you began college/training? (or before you landed in environmental services)
I went into my freshman year of college without a real plan or passion for any specific career path. I signed up for a wide variety of classes that would be flexible for a few different majors, and one of those classes was “Intro to Geology” to fulfill a science elective. I think I fell in love with the course within the first two or three classes and I was confident that I wanted to pursue a degree and career in geologic sciences.
What was your first ‘career’ job?
I took a year off after graduating college to travel in Central and South America to practice speaking Spanish and to learn how to surf. I was hired at Hargis as a field hydrogeologist shortly after returning to the US and I’ve been happily working here ever since.
How did you end up in your current role?
I spent most of my first year at Hargis in the field providing operation and maintenance assistance to groundwater treatment plants at a major aerospace and defense company in northern California. Once our team at the Folsom office was awarded a contract to take over the Drilling and Well Installation program for the client, I shifted roles to help plan and manage drilling projects and then spent much of my time on mud rotary drilling projects.
What kind of things do you do in your current role?
My role as a hydrogeologist at Hargis has expanded over the years to providing service in project and field management for drilling, aquifer testing, sampling (groundwater, soil vapor, and ambient air), staff management, and environmental reporting. A typical week for me includes coordinating with sub contractors, scheduling field work, applying for permits, and site visits/drilling oversight.
What is your favorite part of this job? How about the environmental services industry?
I love the variety offered by my job. No two days are the same and each project presents a unique set of challenges that makes it stand out from the last. I also feel fortunate to have a mix of field and office time.
What degrees, training, or certifications were required for your career path?
The minimum requirement to get into hydrogeology/environmental consulting is generally a bachelor’s in science. For me, a BS in Geology with a minor in Hydrogeology was perfect for my career path. Additionally, a Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) certification is generally required to work on an environmental remediation site. This can be acquired with a 40-hour training (in person or online) and must be renewed each year with an 8-hour refresher course.
Pursuing a Geologist in Training (GIT) and ultimately a Professional Geologist (PG) license is another great step for career advancement and development. These exams are provided by the National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG) and are offered twice a year in each state. You can apply to take the GIT exam right out of college, and apply for the PG exam after completing the required hours of working under a licensed PG. These exams can be taken together or separately depending on your qualifications.
What traits or habits have contributed to your success?
I believe that the core traits to be successful as an environmental consultant are good communication, being able to work as a team, and a willingness to work and be productive outside in all types of weather.
An environmental consultant is often working as a part of a team to complete a project. This can include your company’s team, your client, subcontractors, and regulatory agencies. It’s important to remember that everyone on your team shares a similar goal, and that goal will be achieved much easier if everyone communicates often and effectively to keep things running smoothly.
Working outside and in inclement weather can be both exciting and frustrating. Depending on where your field work is located, you may have to deal with rain, excessive heat, wind, or even snow. Good quality field clothing and gear will help keep you comfortable, and you can also utilize tools such as tents/canopies to protect yourself from the elements when necessary. A jobsite can and should shut down if the weather creates a safety hazard such as lightning, flooding, or unhealthy air.
Were you provided with advice or mentorship along the way? If so, can you share how it helped?
I am lucky to have access to a wealth of industry knowledge through the senior staff at Hargis. The company culture is very welcoming and open to questions and personal/career growth.
What would you tell other women considering a career in environmental services?
I would say go for it! A career in environmental services is very exciting and rewarding if you enjoy solving complex issues with hands-on methods as well as by using technology. I would encourage other women to prioritize finding an employer with good company culture that will encourage them to grow and learn.
What resources would you recommend to them?
Women in science and environmental services recognize that we are the minority in the industry, and I have found that it’s hard to find a woman who isn’t open to starting a dialogue and helping a fellow woman succeed. I think that LinkedIn is an excellent resource for reaching out to companies as well as other women in the industry. The Women in Environmental Services community group is an excellent example.