Environmental Studies

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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Environmental control and protection is a huge part of our social responsibility. The natural environment provides us with the food and resources we need to survive and so it is clearly in our best interests to safeguard its continued health.

Because the number of people on the planet continues to grow (even Ireland s population has increased, having shot up by over 8 percent since 2006), our limited natural resources are under a huge strain. The challenges then, as outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are to improve people s understanding and awareness of such difficulties, change our behaviours towards them, use sustainable resources (water, energy, and materials) and support environmentally responsible businesses.

Why train in Environmental Studies?

Part-time courses in Environmental Studies attempt to address these challenges and goals through teaching students about the characteristics of, and interactions between, plants, animals and non-living organisms. Those without any prior learning may choose to enroll on a course such as an Introduction to Ecology programme, where they will study ecosystem interdependence and the core issues of environmental health.

One of the refreshing aspects of Environmental Studies programmes is that they allow participants to take a hands-on approach to their learning. There is a certain youthful charm to setting out on course exercises to classify organisms in one’s locality or identify the species names of plants in a nursery. However, the sense of fun and wonder are mixed with more serious endeavour, as students will also be asked to carry out in-depth research into environmental problems or to survey a building to determine the types of material used.

Those who wish to work as environmental consultants, researchers, conservationists, and so on, may take their studies further by doing a part-time Diploma in Environmental Management. While many such programmes are designed for beginners in environmental studies, they also offer the depth and comprehensiveness necessary for those wishing to find work in the area. Modules on part-time diploma-level courses will cover areas such as Principles of Environmental Risk Management, Land and Energy Use, and Developments in Environmental Legislation.

As the demand for qualified environmental managers who are capable of advising and monitoring environmental management systems has increased, other viable learning options include part-time Environmental Waste Management programmes. These will teach students about how waste is disposed of through natural processes and how to harness those processes to better manage waste disposal. Waste Management programmes will cover such components as water quality and treatment, recycling, domestic and industrial waste and the management of toxic waste.

While its relevance may not seem to be immediately apparent, one further alternative for those interested in environmental health is a part-time course in Beekeeping. Our busy little pollinators play a huge part in preserving ecosystem stability, but face the daunting challenges of global warming and insecticides. A Beekeeping course will teach you about bee handling, hive types and honey yields, and will teach you the essentials in keeping your own bees and doing a good turn for the environment. And there s the allure of honey too!

Why do it?

Many organisations now understand the need to reduce their carbon footprint and observe environmental safety (it is a legal requirement as much as an ethical imperative). Reducing costs while eliminating potential damage to the environment has, therefore, become a priority, and so the opportunities for careers within environmental management are many.

Of course, doing an Environmental Studies course is not just about helping you secure employment; it is about understanding our environment and acknowledging our place within it rather than assuming ownership of it.

What comes next

Career paths open to current graduates are wide and varied and range from private to public sector positions, including environmental management, environmental consultancy, renewable energy manufacture and services, environmental planning, conservation, forestry, and the like. Many of these positions can be found in private firms and non-profit organisations, while others can be found in the public sector.

At a glance

Part-time courses in Environmental Studies will teach students about issues such as sustainability, waste management, and ecosystem interdependence. Introductory Environmental Studies programmes can be taken online and so students are given flexibility with regards to study time. Part-time Diploma courses in Environmental Management can run for between 6 months and 2 years.

Frank Bolger

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