Author Topic: Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad  (Read 2993 times)

Cwadda

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Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad
« on: February 19, 2016, 10:40:44 AM »
Hi Mustachians!

Looking for career advice for the geology and environmental science fields. Will be graduating in May with B.S. degrees in Geology and Environmental Science. My research interest specializes in isotope geochemistry and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). My advisers and I are looking to get my work published in a peer-reviewed journal within the next year. This should help with getting into graduate school.

I have work experience in industrial hygiene environmental consulting but I don't find the work all that interesting and very much dislike the company I work for. So I'm applying for new jobs to get experience in different parts of the industry. I have a strong technical background and skills (technical writing, GIS, data analysis, etc.).

Basically I'm trying to find a career that:
1. Is challenging, interesting, and rewarding
2. Allows me to relocate (because I don't love New England)
3. Pays well, because I'm motivated to become FI

Do you have any advice to offer? I feel a bit lost right now because although I have a job, I don't like it very much. Plus I'm currently burnt out from the academia world and want to take some time before getting a master's degree.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2016, 10:44:31 AM »
PM me your resume. I make an excellent salary from home doing work in this area. I got my M.S. in 2011.

geopter

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Re: Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2016, 01:41:14 PM »
I work as a lab manager in a stable isotope mass spectrometry lab that specializes in water science. (I got my MS in geochemistry in 2012.) Lab management can be a decent gig if you like technical work -- my job is probably 20% science and 80% science support. The best source for job postings in this area is the ISOGEOCHEM community. I'm happy to talk more if you're interested.

I'd also be interested to hear more about what type of work ShoulderThingThatGoesUp does.

Cwadda

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Re: Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2016, 04:40:17 PM »
I work as a lab manager in a stable isotope mass spectrometry lab that specializes in water science. (I got my MS in geochemistry in 2012.) Lab management can be a decent gig if you like technical work -- my job is probably 20% science and 80% science support. The best source for job postings in this area is the ISOGEOCHEM community. I'm happy to talk more if you're interested.

I'd also be interested to hear more about what type of work ShoulderThingThatGoesUp does.

Hi geopter,

I do find stable isotope geochemistry interesting, but I've become pretty burnt out from grinding out the time consuming analytical chemistry work. Many, many late nights...The work I do is also pretty theory-intensive. My preference gravitates more towards of the hands-on practical work.

geopter

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Re: Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2016, 05:32:14 PM »
In my job, I do everything from run samples according to established protocols, find ways to analyze out-of-the-ordinary samples, maintain and repair fancy machinery, and occasionally design and build new peripheral instrumentation from scratch.

All that being said, I'm probably about 50% time at a desk (emailing, organizing, data analysis, understanding computers for older coworkers) and 50% in the lab, which I think is a fairly typical ratio.

One good thing about the lab manager job is that generally the grinding analytical chemistry work is now someone else's to do. Though in my experience any inclination towards running your own scientific projects alongside the analytical work is encouraged.

Also, I keep fairly regular hours (40-45 a week). In a relatively high-level version of this job, in the Bay Area HCOL, I make about 70k.

Glenstache

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Re: Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2016, 06:05:47 PM »
10 years as a Geologist/Hydrogeologist doing environmental work in Seattle. If you are headed toward working as a geologist on environmental sites, there is a big difference between working for a small vs large company. In a big company, you will be a cog in a wheel and spend a lot of time in the field. In a smaller company, you will need to be more of a swiss army knife, but the work load can be more erratic as there are fewer people to balance the ebb and flow of project work. I personally prefer a smaller company because it is more interesting.

One of the best ways to both find a job and also find out what is available is to do informational coffees with people in the industry. Obviously, there are pros and cons to any of the subdisciplines. I think the most important part is having the ability to grow a career and grow professionally, and to work with smart people who honestly enjoy what they do.

DebtFreeBy25

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Re: Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2016, 11:17:56 AM »
Basically I'm trying to find a career that:
1. Is challenging, interesting, and rewarding
2. Allows me to relocate (because I don't love New England)
3. Pays well, because I'm motivated to become FI

What types of work do you find interesting? Are you looking more for a research position, a field position, a desk job? Are you passionate about any particular subject?

In terms of pay, I would recommend that you stay in the private sector. You could definitely get a job with the EPA or even a state DNR with your education and skills, but government jobs aren't going to offer the most competitive salary. Do you have any ethical qualms about working in the oil and gas industry? If not, you could make a killing in that field with your skills (GIS, geochemistry, technical writing, etc.). 

Cwadda

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Re: Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2016, 04:11:47 PM »
10 years as a Geologist/Hydrogeologist doing environmental work in Seattle. If you are headed toward working as a geologist on environmental sites, there is a big difference between working for a small vs large company. In a big company, you will be a cog in a wheel and spend a lot of time in the field. In a smaller company, you will need to be more of a swiss army knife, but the work load can be more erratic as there are fewer people to balance the ebb and flow of project work. I personally prefer a smaller company because it is more interesting.

One of the best ways to both find a job and also find out what is available is to do informational coffees with people in the industry. Obviously, there are pros and cons to any of the subdisciplines. I think the most important part is having the ability to grow a career and grow professionally, and to work with smart people who honestly enjoy what they do.

Hi glenstache,
What is a good way to set up information coffees with people in the industry? This seems like a great idea.

Basically I'm trying to find a career that:
1. Is challenging, interesting, and rewarding
2. Allows me to relocate (because I don't love New England)
3. Pays well, because I'm motivated to become FI

What types of work do you find interesting? Are you looking more for a research position, a field position, a desk job? Are you passionate about any particular subject?

In terms of pay, I would recommend that you stay in the private sector. You could definitely get a job with the EPA or even a state DNR with your education and skills, but government jobs aren't going to offer the most competitive salary. Do you have any ethical qualms about working in the oil and gas industry? If not, you could make a killing in that field with your skills (GIS, geochemistry, technical writing, etc.). 
I think research positions are interesting, but I don't like the idea of spending many days in a lab. Also, I prefer practical application work over theorizing about ideas. I like going out into the field. Don't mind doing desk work, but don't want to become pigeonholed behind one either.

I would like knowing that my work is somewhat beneficial to people and the environment. For example, I feel that water is a very undervalued resource; it would be rewarding to know that I contribute to improving water quality, conservation, etc. The problem with industrial hygiene is that it seems like the work I do focuses less on actually protecting people's health and more on doing whatever is possible to pass inspections. No, I don't have ethical qualms about working in the oil and gas industry. It seems like an incredibly interesting field and allows for travel. I'm attending a seminar/networking event in April put on by ExonnMobil at one of the conferences I'm presenting my work.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2016, 04:13:36 PM by Cwadda »

cheddarpie

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Re: Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2016, 11:56:59 AM »
I second glenstache. I'm also in Seattle and work with a lot of geologists at consulting firms, especially on PAH issues. There are a lot of good jobs and good people out there! Even consulting can be fun if you find the right fit.


Glenstache

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Re: Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2016, 10:21:50 AM »
There are a few ways to go about setting up informational coffees.
1. Go to local social gatherings sponsored by professional organizations. Locally we have an organization (NEBC) that puts on pub meetups specific to young environmental professionals. These are great places to talk to a lot of people informally. Good questions (other than the obvious, tell me about what you do) for these types of events are to inquire about what the "good" companies to work for are both as a work place and for doing good work. Usually there are a few that are known to be top notch in an area.
2. After you have identified "good firms" and "good people" in the industry, send them an email saying that you are looking at starting an environmental career and are doing informational coffees to develop  a more informed position on direction to take. Be respectful of their time, and if they cannot (or will not) do that, be graceful. Time is precious and sometimes there just isn't enough to go around.
3. The coffee:
  • dress professionally, but not suit and tie. In Seattle, a button down shirt and decent pants (jeans or khakis depending on person) would be appropriate. We are pretty informal on the West coast, and I can't speak to the norm in the industry elsewhere.
  • Don't ask if they are hiring, but do have a generic resume on hand. It should have absolutely zero typos. Have someone proof read it. They already know you are looking and it is a tool to communicate what your skills are, not to solicit a job from them. You can also ask if there are people in field ______(madlibs) that they would recommend you talking to. They may or may not have recommendations, or may email them to you later. This can provide a nice opener when you contact that person. You can say, "I had coffee with person XX, and based on areas I am interested in, they thought you would be a good person for me to contact as you are well respected in your field, (insert other complementary reason).
I did a bit of this when I was transitioning from academia to consulting and really enjoyed the people I met, and it was really helpful. This is more or less what networking is, and it is a great skill to build as a professional. As a more senior consultant, I now go to lunches with other consultants or potential/existing clients to find out what is going on in their field and to see where there might be opportunities to team on projects where our skills are complementary.

KCM5

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Re: Career advice needed for geology/environmental science new grad
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2016, 10:55:49 AM »
I work at a state EPA, so I'll give you my experience:

1. Similar background, no masters
2. Starting salary about $40k right at the beginning of the recent recession.
3. Now make $60k, top out somewhere under $70k - no promotions and its a union job with regular raises
4. Work 40 hrs/wk at a very flexible job that is technical in nature but varied if I want it to be (or not - I hit the jackpot on being allowed to do what I want depending on my interests as long as the core job is being done). However, I'm almost always in the office and rarely go into the field in my current position.

Sometimes I think about going to the private sector where I could certainly make more money. But I have a small child and a spouse. We enjoy the outdoors, traveling, and the flexible schedule we're awarded is worth more to me than the money. At this time, anyway.