What is an Environmental Consultant



An Environmental Consultant is a professional who offers their expertise and knowledge in the areas of environmental protection and sustainability. They help to identify sources of environmental hazards, as well as addressing solutions to help reduce the risks associated with these hazards. Environmental Consultants also work to ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the role of an Environmental Consultant:

What is an Environmental Consultant?

An environmental consultant is an expert in the field of environmental protection and management who provides advice and guidance to businesses, governmental agencies and other organizations. Environmental consultants have expertise in a variety of areas including ecology, engineering, chemistry and public health, depending on their client’s needs.

Environmental consultants may work as independent contractors or as part of larger firms that provide consultation services. They generally develop plans to help their clients meet the legal requirements for their operations, such as preventing pollution or minimizing its effects.

Environmental consultants often provide services such as:

  • Conducting site surveys to evaluate the current environmental condition of a location;
  • Recommending more efficient ways of managing waste and emissions;
  • Developing strategies that minimize an organization’s impact on climate change; and
  • Providing training on safe practices for handling hazardous materials.

Depending on their particular role or specialty, some environmental consultants may take a more active role in carrying out these tasks such as conducting water quality tests or air quality monitoring programs. Other jobs might include supervising off-site waste disposal activities or helping government agencies establish guidelines for identifying threats to public health. In many cases, these professionals may also provide advisory services related to sustainability practices through writing reports or making recommendations about the use of renewable resources in production facilities.

What do Environmental Consultants Do?

Environmental consultants are experts in the fields of environmental science and engineering who act as advisors and problem solvers for businesses, governments, or other organizations. They can specialize in a variety of areas from habitat conservation to hazardous waste cleanup.

Environmental consultants carry out a wide range of duties, depending on the area they specialize in. Generally speaking, they research potential sources of pollution or other types of environmental hazard, study their effects on the area’s ecology and inhabitants, develop strategizes to minimize harm caused by these hazards and work with government agencies or corporations to put those strategies into effect.

Environmental consultants may also provide advice on land-use that is sustainable for certain species or sustainable development projects that take into consideration local cultures and traditions. In addition, environmental consultants frequently conduct sampling studies to review drinking water quality, air quality measurements as well as soil samples to assess the impact an existing project may have on an ecosystem or potential damage that may be caused by changes in land use.

This type of work often requires considerable knowledge in a wide range of scientific areas including:

  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics

with an emphasis on earth sciences such as geology. As such many environmental consultants hold advanced degrees along with certifications and licenses related to their particular industry.


To become an environmental consultant, you must possess certain qualifications and skills. Environmental consulting typically requires a good understanding of scientific principles and the ability to research and analyze data. A degree in environmental science or a related field is usually required, as is experience in a related field. Other qualifications may include specific certifications and specialized knowledge of certain areas.

Let’s take a look at the qualifications in more detail:

What Education is Needed?

Environmental consultants typically possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in an environmental-related field, such as ecology, engineering, geology or natural resource management. Other qualifications might include a master’s degree in a relevant field or other advanced degrees. In addition to their educational qualifications, many environmental consultants also possess extensive practical experience in their field through internships and fieldwork. This often includes onsite work during planned projects and activities related to managing the environment.

Given the ever-changing nature of regulations, many consultants are also regularly trained on new methodologies and technologies related to their specific area of expertise. Depending on the firm they work for, they may also need to be certified by various professional organizations focused on environmental protection and safeguarding public health. Being certified suggests that an environmental consultant has met certain requirements set forth by a regulatory body or professional organization in order to practice professionally in their specific discipline.

What Certifications are Required?

Environmental consultants typically need to be licensed or certified in order to practice. Depending upon their area of specialization, professionals need to obtain a variety of certifications and/or qualifications related to their specific field of practice. Below are some common certifications and/or qualifications needed by environmental consultants:

  • Professional Engineer (PE): A PE is a professional license issued by a state’s Board of Professional Engineers. All practicing engineers must meet necessary educational, experience and testing requirements in order to be licensed.
  • Registered Environmental Manager (REM): REM certification is available through the National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP). It provides verifiable proof that an individual meets the criteria set forth by NREP for education and experience as an environmental consultant.
  • Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM): CHMMs are trained in the safe handling and disposal of hazardous materials, including those found at industrial sites such as wastewater treatment plants or landfills. The title is awarded through the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management (IHMM).
  • State Certified Inspector: This type of certification may pertain to different areas, such as leak detection, soil analysis, soil remediation or other aspects related to risk assessment. Each state has its own specific licensure requirements pertaining to these areas, so it’s important for prospective environmental consultants to research their state’s regulations prior to seeking this certification.

In addition, many provincial or local governments require certain professional accreditations for individuals working in fields related to environmental protection and conservation. Therefore, prospective environmental consultants should look into any relevant government regulations before beginning their practice.

Areas of Expertise

Environmental consultants are experts in their field and can provide clients with services relating to land and environment management. This can include advice on environmental regulations, land use, or even a comprehensive environmental impact assessment (EIA). They are also able to provide research and technical advice to businesses, governments and other organizations on environmental issues.

Let’s take a look at what areas of expertise an environmental consultant is able to provide:

Air Quality

Air quality is a major concern in the environmental consulting industry. Air quality professionals are involved in the assessment, monitoring, and regulation of air pollution and indoor air quality for a variety of clients. Environmental consultants specializing in air related issues must have an intimate knowledge of rules, regulations and best practices for assessing, controlling and monitoring emissions.

Their expertise may include providing insight into compliance issues, developing pollution control strategies, monitoring indoor/outdoor air quality or advising individuals and businesses on how to prevent or reduce emissions. Some air quality consultants work with governmental entities while others provide services to commercial organizations when they need to reduce emissions at their facility.

Air quality professionals must be familiar with federal laws regulating pollutants such as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) and Carbon Monoxide as well as local air permitting regulations. Furthermore, they should be familiar with technology related to reducing pollutants such as ozone treatment systems (O3), scrubbers and Catalytic Oxidation Systems (CATOX).

Water Quality

Water quality is a major focus of environmental consultants, as freshwater supplies are under increasing pressure from pollution, climate change, and the growing human population. These professionals may be tasked with evaluating local water sources for potential environmental hazards, helping clients reach compliance with regulatory requirements surrounding water use, modeling flows for sustainable urban development and infrastructure design, stream restoration activities, content analysis in surface or groundwater systems, dredging and aquatic habitat rehabilitation projects.

Water experts also assess the viability of dams and reservoirs for residential or industrial needs. Environmental consultants working in this area may specialize in hydrological engineering practices such as Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping and analytic modeling to give their clients an accurate picture of how water resources can be developed sustainably. Additionally, legal perspective for enforcing safe practices when managing water resources is common knowledge among these professionals. Compliance with existing regulations is key to continuing operations without interruption or hefty fines imposed by local authorities.

Waste Management

Environmental consultants specialize in helping businesses and government agencies comply with regulations and mitigate potential risks associated with air, land, and water pollution. Waste management is an important aspect of environmental consulting, encompassing the movement, storage, treatment, and disposal of hazardous substances.

Environmental consultants can help a company develop a waste management plan that meets the needs of their business while staying within the parameters of local laws and regulations. This often involves on-site evaluation and hazard analysis of existing conditions so that proper containment structures or best practices can be recommended.

In addition to adhering to regulatory requirements, environmental consultants can also develop plans for resource protection or garbage management. Waste minimization strategies such as recycling or reusing products are recommended in order to reduce consumption as well as environmental impact. Environmental consultants will often inspect waste treatment plants to check efficiency, safety measures, and other operational details before advising a client on how best to handle their waste management needs.

Environmental Impact Assessments

Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are part of the process of identifying and evaluating the potential impacts of a proposed project. This particular area of expertise is necessary when a new development or project involves processes that may have an adverse impact on the environment, including air pollution, soil contamination and deforestation.

An EIA consultant will assess the potential effects on the environment which can then be weighed against other factors such as economic and social considerations. The reports compiled are used by companies and governments to decide how best to proceed with a proposed project.

The assessment typically includes:

  • An introduction to the proposed project site, legal provisions, rate analysis, expected environmental impacts, proposed measures for mitigation and management plans for compliance monitoring.
  • Detailed information on waste management requirements, land use changes associated with development projects, environmental management systems and monitoring programs to ensure that impacts are properly managed post-implementation.

Professional Responsibilities

As an environmental consultant, you will be responsible for assessing the environment on behalf of a corporation, government body, or individual. You will be required to analyze and assess environmental impacts and risks, develop programs and strategies to mitigate those impacts, and provide recommendations to your clients.

Additionally, you may be responsible for conducting environmental monitoring and audits, providing technical advice, and helping clients comply with environmental regulations.

Advise Clients on Environmental Regulations

Environmental consultants are responsible for advising clients on environmental regulations, policies, and procedures. They create actionable plans to help minimize the environmental impacts of a project or activity. In addition, they are often tasked with researching natural resource and environmental problems, analyzing their effects on humans and the environment, and developing solutions to mitigate them.

Environmental consultants must have strong organizational skills as there is often a lot of data to analyze when investigating projects and activities that may affect the environment. To ensure compliance with applicable regulations, they must understand local, state, national, and international laws pertaining to the environment. Additionally, they must be knowledgeable in industry standards related to project management and research protocols as well as safety standards regarding hazardous materials or waste handling environments.

The primary job of an environmental consultant is to provide technical guidance in regards to minimizing client’s impact on their surroundings while still adhering to legislative requirements. This requires them to understand how certain activities or materials can affect the environment as well as how best practices can be implemented for environmental protection. They also provide advice about reducing potential risk from operations such as eliminating air pollution sources or helping a company create a comprehensive water conservation plan. As such, it is important that environmental consultants stay up-to-date with rapidly changing field information concerning laws, regulations, safety protocols etc., in order stay compliant with current standards.

Develop Environmental Management Plans

Environmental management plans (EMP), also known as environmental action plans, are an important strategy for environmental consultants. They provide an overall roadmap to help guide organizations’ environmental activities and actions. An EMP is designed to help the organization meet its commitments to sustainability and stewardship of the environment in all aspects of operation, from day-to-day operations to long term decisions. An EMP outlines associated risk management strategies, objectives and goals, future programs and evaluations that play a part in ensuring that organizations remain compliant with all relevant regulations.

As an environmental consultant, you may be tasked with creating or developing an EMP. This requires a comprehensive understanding of applicable standards or legal requirements within the industry, as well as a comprehensive assessment of the current and projected scope of the organization’s impact on the environment – for instance in areas like emissions or water usage. It is also beneficial to have knowledge of program design and implementation techniques such as audits or contingency planning procedures; these will be integral to ensure that your EMP is effective and sustainable over time. Once developed, it is important that you communicate outcomes in terms relevant to stakeholders and affected parties including regulators, local government officials, adjacent landholders etc., so strong communication skills including report writing will come into play here too.

Monitor Compliance with Environmental Regulations

As an environmental consultant, it is important to ensure that businesses and other organizations comply with relevant environmental regulations. You must make sure they adhere to these laws, understand their implications and follow sustainable practices when committing to various activities. This involves using extensive research methodologies such as SWOT analysis comparisons and life cycle assessments along with scientific software tools like modeling systems.

In addition, you will be expected to analyze the results of data collected in order to provide solutions for minimizing adverse environment impacts. You will need to identify ways organizations can decrease their negative effect on the environment and recommend methods for adopting sustainable practices such as green energy strategies and waste management strategies. Furthermore, you should be able to advise organizations on specific actions they should take in order to comply with set regulations both domestically and internationally.

The ability to assess potential risks from a variety of sources, ranging from a company’s activities, facilities or operations is also essential in this role. You will also need exceptional communication skills in order communicate risks effectively with stakeholders such as NGOs, policy makers or regulatory bodies. Effectively carrying out these tasks requires knowledge of local state laws as well as international standards such as those established by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).

Career Outlook

The career outlook for environmental consultants is a bright one. As companies become increasingly more aware of their impact on the environment, the demand for such professionals has grown. Environmental consulting jobs will require individuals with science and engineering expertise to help engineers, businesses, and government agencies in creating adaptable solutions to environmental challenges.

The job prospects are expected to grow significantly over the next decade, creating an abundance of opportunities for professionals in this field.

Job Growth

Employment in the environmental consulting industry is projected to grow 6% from 2018-2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth is largely attributed to the increased need from local and federal agencies for various environmental compliance services.

The demand for environmental consulting services will likely increase due to the implementation of environmental regulations by both governments and businesses.

The occupation of an environmental consultant requires a very diverse skill set and knowledge base, making it difficult for employers to find highly qualified individuals with a background in all necessary aspects. For this reason, individuals with specialized skills may be in higher demand than those with a broad range of expertise. Additionally, computer skills have become increasingly important as technology changes and more reliance on data-driven decision making arises in this field.

It is important to note that job growth will vary by region due to the availability and need for certain services, such as water resource management or waste management practices, which can differ greatly by geographic area. Furthermore, job growth also depends heavily on government funding and private sector needs within a particular area or state.

Salary Potential

Career Outlook for Environmental Consultants

The salary of an environmental consultant varies based on the level of expertise, work environment, and geographic location. With many environmental regulations being implemented across the globe, this field is growing in demand and presents good opportunities for those looking to enter the sector.

In general, an entry-level environmental consultant can expect to earn a median annual salary between $40,000 and $60,000. With experience, that figure can grow to as much as $90,000 per year. For more experienced consultants who specialize in a certain area or have managed major projects with successful results, salaries could go well beyond $100k annually.

It is also important to note that advances such as telecommuting technology could lead to increased earnings by expanding an individual’s potential employer base and job market competition is expected to remain competitive in this field due to its size of available positions. Moreover, with more states increasing their focus on preserving their natural resources through legislation that mandates consulting processes by organizations looking to implement projects within the environment, these consultants remain highly sought after.