Job: Environmental Data Analyst
The Role: The role of an environmental data analyst is not unlike the role of data analyst in other industries. While most analysts track market trends in financial data, however, environmental data analysts are tasked with tracking trends related to the natural world.
"It's all about analysis of data," said Kevin Nilsen, the president and CEO of Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) Canada, a not-for-profit environmental human resources organization. "Analyzing emissions, for example, tracking weather data, climate data, water quality data, performing wildlife surveys; they build and maintain databases of information, and provide this to others to make decisions on."
Mr. Nilsen adds that environmental data analysts can have a range of employers, including government departments such as Environment Canada, research institutions and Indigenous organizations as well as a number of industries, particularly in the natural-resource sector. Many also work for environmental consulting firms and non-profit organizations.
The information collected by environmental data analysts can be used to measure a private company's environmental footprint, build environmental-impact reports for industry and government projects or to inform the public about the impacts of climate change.
Depending on their employer and area of expertise, an environmental data analyst may be responsible for collecting primary data, conducting field research, compiling and analyzing existing research, searching through government records, creating reports, identifying and analyzing trends and ultimately presenting information to stakeholders.
Salary: Mr. Nilsen says that, while the job is rewarding, it's "not a gold mine." Salaries typically start at approximately $27,000 annually and increase to an average of about $35,000 a year for those in junior roles. More experienced environmental data analysts can expect to earn approximately $51,000 annually while those who hold senior positions in the industry earn an average of $67,000 a year. Depending on the employer and level of experience, however, salaries can reach $85,000 or higher in some instances.
Education: While there are no licensing or educational requirements, environmental data analysts typically hold an undergraduate degree or higher in either a technical field such as computer science and software engineering or an environmental field such as environmental science or natural-resource management.
Job Prospects: The job prospects for the environmental studies industry as a whole are growing in Canada, according to Mr. Nilsen, but it remains to be seen how much of that growth occurs within environmental data analyst roles.
"The sector as a whole is expected to grow by 24 per cent by the year 2024 and this role is highlighted as one of the ones that's growing, we just don't know the exact number for it," he said.
Mr. Nilsen adds that, while many employers are based in major cities, much of the fieldwork takes place in rural areas and job opportunities are well spread out across the country.
Challenges: Those passionate about environmental causes often find the work very rewarding and meaningful, but Mr. Nilsen stresses that at the end of the day it's still a data analyst position, which some will find mundane.
"It takes a special type of person who can see the value in it, because the value might not be inherent as you track all this data into a large database," he said. "The wrong person will get bored and not see the value; the right person will really see how the mundane work leads to significant decisions."
Why they do it: While the job appeals to those who have an interest in data storage, collection and management systems. it is especially rewarding for those that want to help inform decisions around environmental policy, explains Mr. Nilsen.
"Someone with no interest in the environment could just think of it as data and numbers," he said, "but it would create a lot of meaning for them knowing that this actually contributes to making the world a better place, to inform people about the decisions they need to make in order to be conscience about the footprint of their organization."
Mr. Nilsen adds that the role can also serve as a valuable foundation for those looking to build a career in the environmental science or data analyst industries.
Misconceptions: Mr. Nilsen says that, like many positions that track the changing environment, there's a perception that its employees are activists rather than researchers performing scientific processes.
"It's a very defined sector with educational programs, its highly science- and engineering-based, and the idea that environmental workers are tree huggers is not always correct," he said.