Burning questions... answered

Confused? We take on common questions that youth have when starting out in environmental action and shed light on a few myths along the way.

I want to work full-time in the environmental space. But what paths are there?

Good on you! There is a pressing need for environmental specialists in non-profit organizations, social enterprises, the government, corporations and even academic institutions. You can get a sense of the programmes and areas that local NGOs and social enterprises focus on in our directory.

Besides that, urban planners, food scientists, environmental legal and policy experts, environmental scientists, environmental engineers, conservation scientists, foresters and biochemists all play a major role in the race towards managing and reducing the impacts of climate change in the government, academia and consultancies.

The private sector is also doubling down on sustainability as investors are growing keen on businesses with an eco-focus. So, environmental experts with a corporate calling can make a decent living too.

For example, according to a recent posting on job portal Jobstreet.com, the monthly salary for a sustainability manager for an investment holding company in Kuala Lumpur is RM6,000 to RM10,000, while an environmental specialist for a multinational computer hardware company can earn between RM6,000 to RM8,000 per month.

Do I need a science studies background to do environmental work?

Not at all. Many other arts and humanities disciplines are also invaluable to help the sector grow. For example, Macaranga is a journalism portal that highlights environmental and sustainability issues in Malaysia. Graphic design capabilities are also much needed in developing captivating social media content to educate and inform the public.

Environmental law experts are crucial for litigation, such as on indigenous land rights or the pollution of natural resources. Political science or public policy experts are required for government and corporation engagement to push through environmental agendas. Environmental economists apply principles of economics to the development and management of scarce resources, allowing for ringgit-and-cents discussions with government and corporations. The possibilities are endless!

How high does my level of education need to be in order to build a career in environmentalism?

It is possible to build a career in environmental work without tertiary education. For example, Adzmin Fatta, programme manager at Reef Check Malaysia and co-founder of Green Semporna, only finished secondary school education (read the comic of his full story).

He was formerly with another big-name organization, WWF Malaysia—an indication that the lack of a college degree did not hamper his career much. But, according to him, many NGOs still prefer to hire candidates with at least a degree. So, while a tertiary education qualification is not the be-all and end-all of one’s job prospects within environmentalism, it does lend one an advantage.