Agriculture, Conservation and Sustainability: An Overview

The environment is an endless source of interest as well as a broad range of career options.  People in careers related to the environment work in areas such as ocean and wildlife research, corporate sustainability, finance or consulting in energy, government, policy and law, construction management, water and wastewater, geology and geography, eco-tourism, and more. Based on your skills, interests, personality, and values, you may choose to focus your search on a particular area within the environmental field. 

Agriculture is the basis of human life on the planet.  Agricultural careers provide the food we eat, the materials for our clothing, homes and products we use every day.  Not only is agriculture itself important, but the field has also produced opportunities through developments in regenerative agriculture (ag practices which help to reverse the effects of climate change), agricultural technologies which enable more predictive and sustainable practices and alternatives to traditional food practices by manufacturing meat alternatives. 

Some jobs which might be found in agriculture are: 

  • Food scientist 
  • Animal geneticist 
  • Agricultural operations manager 
  • Farm manager 
  • Fisheries officer 
  • Marine scientist 
  • Agricultural consultant 
  • Soil Scientist 
  • Farm foreman/mechanic

Conservation is the practice of human beings preserving the natural world and protecting it from the effects of our existence.  This can be through the preservation of species from loss, the protection of ecosystems from pollution and harm from human activity, and making sure that future generations have access to the same resources we currently enjoy. Conservation careers are any job which aids in the conservation or enhancement of wildlife. jobs can include field work—studying the effects of human impact on plants, species and the weather, research,  

Possible jobs in conservation are: 

  • Environmental engineer 
  • Environmental lawyer 
  • Conservation scientist 
  • Hydrologist 
  • Zoo veterinarian 
  • Conservation communications and marketing 
  • Conservation journalist 
  • Conservation technician 
  • Fish and game warden

Sustainability as a field has such wide-reaching opportunity.  Particularly with the growth of “Clean Technology”—smart cities and urban infrastructure, energy conservation and production, recycling and more—there is much more to a sustainability career than creating recycling programs or conservation of species (although both of these are important as well!). 

Focus areas within sustainability include: 

  • Blue Technology (a focus on promoting sustainable ocean activities) 
  • Regenerative Agriculture (ag practices which help to reverse the effects of climate change) 
  • Energy Storage (the conversion of electrical energy from a power network into a form in which it can be stored until converted back to electrical energy) 
  • Smart Cities (an urban area that uses different types of electronic methods and sensors to collect data and manage assets based on that information) 
  • Transportation (particularly electric vehicles) 
  • Circular Economy (principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems 
  • Green Building (sustainable and regenerative building practices and materials) 
  • Responsible Production (the production of goods and services in an ethical way which minimizes of waste and pollution) 
  • Climate action (efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-induced impacts) 
  • Food, Nutrition and Wellness 
  • Corporate Citizenship and Sustainable Business Practices 
  • Waste Minimization and Pollution Prevention 
  • Electronics Stewardship (responsible recycling, reuse and disposal of electronic equipment) 
  • Sustainable Resource Management (management of the interaction and impact of human societies on the environment) 
  • Cellular Agriculture (the production of animal-sourced foods from cell culture rather than directly from animals)

Even outside of “environmental careers”, many corporations across industries are working towards more sustainable business practices.  Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, refers to practices and policies intended to help corporations have a positive influence on the world.  Companies make a conscious effort to integrate social and environmental concerns into their business operations. This can be seen in various ways—through philanthropic giving, sustainable materials sourcing and other forms of conservation efforts, diversity and labor practices and allowing paid time or strongly encouraging volunteerism by their employees. While it is still new to have dedicated departments directly pertaining to this, the trend is growing, and CSR is another option for folks searching for environmental impact careers.  

Below are just a few examples of careers related to the environment (there are many more out there!): 

Career Resources 

Professional associations are groups of professionals dedicated to topics in specific fields. Professional associations provide a wealth of online resources, some of which are geared specifically towards students. These organizations typically also host conferences and events, providing great opportunities for learning and networking across your field of interest. 

The following organizations are a small sample of large national and international organizations dedicated to environmental topics.  

Jobs and Experiences 

As environmental careers span such a broad range of industries, there are too many employers to name specifics.  The most known probably come to mind first—the government, through the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, etc.; universities, through research, faculty positions and labs;  regulation agencies—those who create policy, the legal firms who fight for regulations, enforcement agencies, public interest groups; and organizations like zoos, aquariums, and national parks. However, there are related sustainability jobs in almost every industry—automotive and aerospace, manufacturing, construction/housing, agriculture, finance, consulting, marketing–to name just a few. 

Other environmental industries include: 

  • Corporate Social Responsibility 
  • Clean Technology 
  • Marine Conservation 
  • Energy (Efficiency, Trading, Storage, Renewable) 
  • Hydrology 
  • Animal Husbandry 
  • Consulting 
  • Green Construction 
  • Transportation 
  • Agriculture and Forestry 

-By Jennifer Agor