Career decision-making is a cyclical process that is constantly changing based on information and experiences that will shape your path. Before, during, and after your time at Duke, you will learn, gain new opportunities and experiences, and meet different people, all of which may affect the way that you think about your career options and goals. Throughout the entire process, it’s important to invest time in reflecting and thinking about each new experience and how it impacts what you most want out of your career.
The most important part of your career development process is understanding your values, interests, skills, personality, motivations, and what you have learned from each of your unique experiences. Each of these pieces provides clues about careers that may fit you best.
A good place to start
- Review the Self Inquiry Guide to begin learning more about your skills, knowledge, and interests.
- You can schedule an appointment with a career adviser to have a conversation about your career questions and ideas.
TIP: Talk with (or develop) your Board of Directors, those individuals who know you well and could also reflect back to you strengths, patterns, etc. you may not realize about yourself. This information can be part of your discovery process, too!
Students interested in environmental careers have a wide array of options, depending on your interests. There are people who specialize in work related to all facets of the environment and energy sectors, from policy, to conservation, to engineering, to corporate sustainability.
Resources for learning more about careers
- O*NET and Occupational Outlook Handbook – Search for and learn career information including professional environments, salaries, used skills, and educational requirements.
- What can I do with this major? - Connects academic majors to possible career paths, typical employers, and strategies designed to maximize career opportunities.
A few examples of careers related to the environment (there are many more out there!)
Duke alumni 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.
- Energy Brokers
- Environmental Economists
- Environmental Engineers
- Industrial Ecologists
- Occupational Health & Safety Technicians
- Soil & Water Conservationists
- Solar Energy Systems Engineer
- Sustainable Specialists
- Urban & Regional Planners
- Zoologist and Wildlife Biologists
Professional Organizations & 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.
A small sample of large national and international organizations dedicated to environmental topics
If you have an interest in a specific topic not on the list, do some investigation, it’s likely there’s an organization dedicated to it.
- American Academy of Environmental Engineers
- Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences
- Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
- Ecological Society of America
- International Solar Energy Society
- National Association of Environmental Professionals
A small sample of local environmental associations
Check out these groups for upcoming events and opportunities to network with professionals
- NC Sustainable Energy Association
An organization working on public policy and market development to create clean energy economic opportunities and access
- North Carolina Association of Environmental Professionals
North Carolina Researchers, consultants, regulators, educators, attorneys, engineers, geologists, and students involved in any and all aspects of environmental management are eligible for membership
- North Carolina Water Resources Association
A multidisciplinary association for information exchange education about water resources and related issues
- Society of Women Environmental Professionals
A professional association of women involved or interested in environmental law, science, business, and policy
- North Carolina Environmental Organizations
Offers a list for conservation, policy, and advocacy
Duke Interdisciplinary Initiatives
Duke is a large institution with departments, faculty, and staff in just about every industry possible. Here are a few interdisciplinary centers on campus, be sure to check out their upcoming events:
- Duke Energy Initiative
Advancing an accessible, affordable, reliable and clean energy system.
- Check out a full list of energy events happening throughout the academic year, including opportunities to tour local facilities, meet and learn from alumni, and professionals across all fields related to energy!
- Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship education and opportunities for learning, engaging, and networking
- Social entrepreneurship programs and events may be of particular interest to students interested in the environment
- Information Initiative at Duke
Increasing big data computational research and opportunities
Gaining experience is one of the best ways to try out some of your interests! Experience comes in many forms including class projects, student organizations, volunteering, participating in academic programs, attending conferences or events, internships, conducting research, independent projects, and more. There are many opportunities for students to gain experience, both at Duke and beyond. Consider ways that you can get involved on campus or try out new ideas in your academics and outside of your classes.
Student Organizations & Volunteer Opportunities:
- Check out Duke Groups, Duke Sustainability’s list of groups, and Pratt School of Engineering to find student organizations across campus such as:
- Many academic departments have related student organizations, so be sure to ask your faculty members and classmates for their suggestions on how to get involved as well!
- DukeEngage offers a large number of summer programs, both domestic and abroad, which relate to policy, including environmental policy, advocacy, engineering, global health, and other areas that relate to critical skills for students interested in environmental careers
Conducting research can be a great way to get involved on campus, explore a specific academic topic, and work closely with faculty members and graduate students. The Undergraduate Research Support Office offers resources for getting involved in research both on campus and at other institutions- check out the “opportunities” page to explore options.
Research positions are often secured through identifying research currently occurring at Duke or elsewhere and reaching out to faculty members directly. Consider looking at the work of faculty members, especially in the Nicholas School (don’t forget about the The Marine Lab) and the civil and environmental engineering department.
Additionally, here are a few specific research programs available at Duke:
- Bass Connections – University-wide interdisciplinary research program
- Howard Hughes Research Fellows – Summer research program for rising Duke sophomores interested in biological and biomedical sciences
- Smart Home – A space on campus for living and conducting research, especially in sustainability and smart ways to use technology in the home
Internships are a great way to try out an industry or company while learning more about a career of interest, developing your skillset, and building a network. Most Duke students who complete internships do so during the summer. The majority of summer internships in the environmental field become available in the spring semester, but it’s wise to start looking early.
Internship programs and opportunities
- Duke Stanback Internship program – A Duke-specific program for funded internships with organizations in energy, conservation, advocacy, policy, research, and applied resource management.
- Duke Forest hires a management intern and students over the summer to assist with forest maintenance
- Duke Lemur Center has internships during the academic year and in the summer
- Students for Sustainable Living is a student internship program throughout the academic year for undergraduate and graduate students run by Sustainable Duke
- Environmental science internships – Access a list of established programs with government agencies, private companies, and nonprofit groups
Duke resources to find internships
The Duke Career Center’s source for internship and full-time job postings
MYTH: I need a technical background to get into careers in energy or other environmental fields.
REALITY: Do you want to work as an engineer or in another highly technical position? If so, you’ll probably need to study engineering, or at least take classes or gain applied experience in engineering and/or the natural sciences to show that you have the technical skills that employers are seeking for these particular positions. If you’re seeking other positions related to business, policy, or education, a technical background usually isn’t required, although technical experience and quantitative skills may help prepare you for many of these roles. If you are interested in a career in energy or the environment, think about the wide variety of ways you can gain relevant experience in these areas- many of which are featured on this page!
TIP: Reading job descriptions is a great way to learn what employers are looking for! If you do this early, long before you look for a job,, you can gain the required skills to prepare yourself for these opportunities.
TIP: Head to LinkedIn and check out the “My Network” tab, and select “Find Alumni.” You’ll get a visual representation of all Duke alumni on LinkedIn and can search by what they studied, where they work, and what they do now! This is a great way to see how other Dukies have navigated paths in your areas of interest.
MYTH: I won’t make much money working in positions in energy or the environment.
REALITY: Like every field, it depends! Salaries can vary significantly based on company or organization, position title and responsibilities, and location. We encourage you to think about your values, as well as your personal needs and goals as you consider options for internships and your first position out of college. Doing research on sites like Glassdoor.com and Salary.com can help to provide salary data and insight into this question based on your interests, in addition to reading job descriptions and talking to people in the field. Always consider the skills and network you will gain in any particular opportunity, in addition to financial compensation.
TIP: For even more ideas, check out the Career Center’s page on Experiential Opportunities for Undergraduate Students!
Your search strategy includes integration and culmination of reflection, preparation and action. Effective search strategy is built upon elements of self-inquiry, career research, networking, and both written and spoken communication. Review the Search Strategically section of our website for more information and for tips on resumes, cover letters, and each of the topics below.
- Career Center Networking Guide
Learn the basics of networking and tips for success
Search for Duke alums by industry, geography, company, and more. Click here for a video tutorial on creating a strong profile
- Career Fairs
List of the Career Center’s fall and spring career fairs, large career fairs take place in September and January, and smaller events may occur throughout the year
- Environment and Social Impact Career Day
Just for undergraduate and graduate students in the Nicholas School, this day-long event takes place in September
- NC State Engineering Career Fair
One of the largest engineering fairs in the country, held once in the fall semester, and once in the spring (typically end of September and beginning of February) and open to the public
Job & Internship Resources:
- CareerConnections – The Duke Career Center’s source for internship and full-time job postings
- Gogovernment.org – A great place to start looking for federal jobs
Interviewing is a skill that is learned best through practice, and it’s never too early to get started. In addition the following online resources, consider contacting the Career Center to schedule a mock interview with an adviser to get feedback on how to build your interviewing skills.
- Career Center Interviewing Guide
Learn about the STAR method for behavioral interviews, and see examples of common interview questions
Have an interview coming up? Use this site to look up the company or positions with similar titles to learn about others’ experiences and questions you may encounter
Examples of environmental employers that have hired Duke students in the past
(this is not a comprehensive list)
- 8 Rivers
- ABT Associates
- DC Energy
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Exxon Mobile
- Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
- General Electric
- National Grid
- National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
- The Nature Conservancy
- North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association
- Pacific Gas & Electric Company
- RTI International
- U.S. Department of Energy