Working as an Environment Officer for the Environment Agency
Abigail is one of our 1,100 Environment Officers who encounter a whole range of attitudes on a day-to-day basis. Some people are genuinely interested and co-operative, while others are less so, and may make your job more challenging. But what's important is that you'll be making a difference to the environment.
Environment Officers have several roles including ensuring businesses adhere to environmental legislation, promoting the prevention of environmental pollution and dealing with pollution incidents. Each environment officer has their own 'patch' and a crucial part of their work is ensuring that business, industry and agriculture are adhering to the relevant legislation. Maintaining public relations and building relationships are vital for this.
What's a typical day like?
"It is very rare for a fully warranted Environment Officer to have a 'typical day'. Work ranges from dealing with pollution incidents to visiting licensed sites such as landfills to inspect their compliance with their license, as well as monitoring landfill gas and leachate. Fishing rod licences and discharge consents are regularly checked, illegal operations investigated and bathing waters sampled. We also undertake pollution prevention on a variety of sites, including farms and industrial areas. In addition to this, we have office-based work, which can include completing paperwork in relation to incidents, responding to planning applications, checking and authorising waste management licenses and groundwater discharge consents, as well as reviewing sampling data such as water quality.
How did you get your job?
"I have a degree in Physical Geography and a Masters in Environmental Water Management, which provided specialist knowledge and experience in report writing, IT and presentation skills. I gained some great work experience through my Masters Course at Cranfield University as it has good links with industry. I completed my thesis working with the Environment Agency in Kent. I continued to gain experience working with the Environment Agency before moving away to work in a consultancy for three and a half years.
I decided to return to the Environment Agency because I wanted a more proactive career where I could make a real difference to the environment, which I felt consultancy wasn't giving me. I wanted to be involved in hands-on regulation&face-to-face with business, industry and the general public, as well as undertaking practical pollution prevention measures. I found the Environment Agency to have better working conditions, a better pension scheme, flexible working hours and more generous annual leave allowance.
What do you like about being an Environment Officer?
"One of the best aspects is being able to focus on the local area, maintaining and improving the quality of the environment. We gain lots of experience shadowing other team members and getting out and dealing with incidents&as well as meeting a diverse range of people. Taking samples and inspecting sites is the best way to learn, building on your previous knowledge and skills. The training I have received as a new Environment Officer has also been excellent and I have received a great deal of support from my fellow Environment Officers and my team.
It can be disappointing when I meet people who don't seem to care about the environment and whether their activities are causing pollution. Some people can be quite hostile towards the Environment Agency and its duties and this can be very challenging.
What does the Environment Agency offer to new Environment Officers?
"The fifteen-week training programme they offer is excellent and very comprehensive. During the training you gain experience by shadowing colleagues and gaining the competencies laid out in your development log. The scheme aims to give you all the relevant training and experience necessary to hold a full warrant, which then allows you to undertake full enforcement action where required. It also gives you an opportunity to meet other new Environment Officers based across England and Wales.
The salary is fixed for new starters and increases once you are warranted. My pension is a final salary pension and the Environment Agency make a good contribution towards it. You get 25 days annual leave (which is quite high compared with most jobs in the industry) and flexible working hours and flexi leave.
What about career development?
There are lots of diverse opportunities for development and positions can be permanent or a secondment for six months to another department. There are opportunities to progress within your team, or within any of the offices in England and Wales by gaining people management skills and also increasing your technical competence.
You'll need to handle complicated issues in a balanced way and exercise judgement. You'll work equally well on your own and as part of a team, plus you'll have some experience that shows you can influence people and handle difficult situations.
There are several ways to join the Environment Agency as an Environment Officer. You could have relevant work experience, demonstrating your ability to influence and deal with the public. Alternatively you could have a science A-level plus two years' work experience, or you could even have a science degree, in which case you'll only need a years' work experience. But in all cases, a driving licence is essential.
In return, we'll give you excellent training and real opportunities for development. For more information and to apply, go to our website at http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/jobs reference 6532/EDIE.