Writing a résumé specific to environmental work

Most people have written at least one résumé in their lifetime, and anyone who has done it, knows that résumé writing can be a tedious and frustrating task. If you're new to the field, check out these tips on key elements every environmental résumé needs.

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People applying for a career in environmental services should be aware of several key aspects that make the environmental résumé different from the general resume format.
Most people have written at least one résumé in their lifetime, and anyone who has done it knows that resume writing can be a tedious and frustrating task. New college graduates, and newcomers to the environmental field looking to land the right job, should be aware of several key elements that should be included in every environmental resume whether you’re writing an environmental scientist resume or sustainability consultant resume.

Name and Contact Information on Résumés

Every resume, including a resume for environmental jobs, should include this information. Be sure to include the following at the top of your resume.

  • Place all contact information at the top of the page including name, address, telephone, and e-mail address. The name should be in bold to stand out so it becomes more memorable than less important information like the address.
  • A good idea for an environmental résumé is to include a current title with the name. Rather than writing John Smith; consider John Smith, Biologist Aid; Or John Smith, Environmental Tech I. Titles from recent internships or environmental positions can be used as well.

The Education Section of a Résumé

As you’re writing your environmental professional resume, be sure to include an education section.
This field generally comes first on the résumé, as employers want to be sure the candidate meets the most basic criteria they have set forth. Always list in descending order, starting with the most recent education and degree. The education field should include the following information:

  1. School attended
  2. Dates attended
  3. Location of the school (city, and state)
  4. Degree received

Environmental resumes should add the following to this field:
Concentration: Because there are many different concentrations and focuses within the environmental science field, it is important to be specific about the area of science in which the greatest education occurs. For example, an environmental science graduate applying for a position with a stream ecology firm should be sure to include the phrase “Concentration in Hydrology” if this is the case. Simply writing environmental science does not clearly indicate educational expertise.
If the degree program had no specific concentration but included much course work relevant to the position being applied to, candidates should consider using the phrase “focus” in place of “concentration.”
For example, an environmental science graduate applying for a position with a stream ecology firm, who may not be able to use the phrase “B.S. Environmental Science: Concentration in Hydrology”, should consider writing “B.S. Environmental Science: Stream Ecology Focus” instead.
Relevant Coursework: It is important for environmental services applicants to include a list of relevant coursework within the education field of the résumé. Many employers want to know rather quickly not just if the desired degree is available, but to what extent the applicant’s specific coursework relates to the work required for the position being applied.
It is important for applicants to contact the company they are applying to in order to determine the specific tasks the position will require. The more an applicant knows about the specific tasks of a position, the better they can target their application for that position.

Work Experience Section of a Résumé

The work experience field is often the most important field of the résumé. General résumé requirements for this field include:

  1. Descending order (list most recent first)
  2. Name of Company
  3. Location and Dates Employed
  4. Position Title
  5. Work experience description

Beyond these core characteristics, the environmental résumé should also include the following:

  • Equipment used at a particular company. Employers in the science industry like to see that candidates have experience using a wide range of equipment. Even if a particular device is not needed in the job being applied for, listing various devices shows employers that a candidate holds a contemporary knowledge of science devices, and that the candidate has an ability to learn new technologies should the company hiring seek to purchase new equipment.
  • Materials worked with. Listing materials worked with gives applicants the opportunity to show their environmental experience. Include relevant phrases such as sludges, soils, wastewater, toxic wastes, PCB-contaminants, Form U wastes, animals etc. It is essential to include the particular materials that were being tested in the previous position.
  • Tests run. Beyond equipment and materials, it is important to mention the various tests executed a particular position. These may include pH, ammonia, BOD, COD, CBOD, fingerprint analysis, nitrate, nitrite etc. Even the smallest test at a previous position may be a major aspect of a new position, which would stand out to the employer.

Skills Section of a Résumé

Perhaps the most overlooked section on an environmental résumé is the final section, which lists skills and additional qualifications. An environmental résumé should include the following in the skills section:

  • Permits. Any permits a candidate has worked with or under should absolutely appear on the résumé. One of the most difficult aspects of working in the environmental field is operating under and maintaining compliance with, environmental permits. Permits can leap out at employers who struggle with these requirements on a daily basis. Including these permits can be the one detail that separates a résumé from the rest of the pile, and therefore lands an interview.
  • Certifications. Many environmental service companies bear a huge expense in both time and money in trying to get new employees up-to-date with the certifications required for employment. Listing the right certification could save a company thousands of dollars if a candidate is already certified. Be sure to review previous positions and include any certifications in this section.

It is important for job candidates to remember that a résumé is a very first impression made on a potential employer. For this reason, each résumé should be tailored to complement the specific job being applied for. Tailoring a résumé for a specific environmental job can be accomplished by altering coursework, and listing a concentration/focus under the education field. Listing the equipment used, tests run, and materials worked with at previous jobs. Also, list any permits and certifications held that will save employers money. Remembering to include these elements is key to landing a great environmental career.

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