Education: Graduate Programs in Environment - Academic Paths To Green Careers

By Consuelo Solar

According to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, "Here in Canada, people are looking for solutions to the environmental challenges facing the world – from addressing climate change to providing clean water – which makes the environment industry one of our fastest-growing sectors with a wide range of exciting, new employment and business opportunities."

For Ingrid Leman Stefanovic, Director of the Centre for Environment, University of Toronto, this comes as no surprise. "The 'environment' is no longer a fringe issue for a few activists. Instead, environmental challenges permeate society at all levels, affecting our health and well-being, our resource-dependent lifestyles.... Pursuing a career in environment today is a way in which students can ensure that they take leadership on all of these critically important issues," she says.

Opportunities exist not only for environmental scientists, but also in areas such as management, education and policy making. This is why students wishing to pursue an environmental education can find many alternatives in the postgraduate level in our province. Here are some of the programs offered by Ontario universities:

With its campus situated on the Niagara Escarpment, Brock University offers the opportunity to study in a natural, geologic formation. Students work towards a Master of Science (MSc) in Earth Sciences, alongside faculty who specialize in glacial geology and geomorphology, watershed geochemistry, lichen bio-monitoring, marine and terrestrial palynology, stream-flow dynamics, isotope carbonate geochemistry, planetary structural geology, climatology and Quaternary geology.

Carleton University and the University of Ottawa offer most of their environmental programs collaboratively. The Ottawa-Carleton graduate programs lead to MSc and PhD degrees in Chemical and Environmental Toxicology, Environmental Engineering, Earth Sciences, and Sustainable Energy. Students have access to the professors, courses and research facilities at both universities. Most of the courses are in English, but research activities can be conducted in French. The objective is to prepare candidates for careers in teaching and/or research, in a private or a public setting.

The School of Engineering of the University of Guelph offers two graduate diplomas: Modeling Applications in Water Resources Engineering, and Engineering Design of Sustainable Water Resource Systems, both designed for Canadian engineering graduates looking to change their career, and landed immigrants looking for Canadian credentials. The diplomas draw upon specializations in the existing Water Resources Engineering program, which focuses on investigations and design of systems for control and utilization of land and water resources as part of management of urban and rural watersheds.

Lakehead University's School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks, and Tourism offers a Master of Environmental Studies (MES) in Nature-Based Recreation & Tourism, which is an interdisciplinary degree that has its roots in social sciences such as leisure studies, human geography, sociology, psychology, and anthropology as well as in the professional areas of tourism, community development, resource management, parks and protected areas, and forestry. The degree focuses on the development of research skills and knowledge in policy and planning, and recreation and tourism behaviour.

The School of Geography and Earth Sciences of McMaster University houses science and social science faculty offering MA, MSc and PhD degrees. It also has direct entry to the PhD program from the undergraduate degree for students with the appropriate requirements. Students interested in pursuing graduate studies in the school are encouraged to directly contact possible graduate faculty supervisors prior to applying to the school.

The Master of Environmental Studies at Queens University provides training in the field of Environmental Sustainability by practicing an interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental change, the future consequences of current decisions, and the strong dependence of human well-being on environmental quality. The School of Environmental Studies combines the concepts of environmental toxicology and chemistry, ecosystems, human health, and environmental policy and management with the importance of social, cultural, and economic systems into the overarching theme of sustainability.

Ryerson University's Master's in Environmental Applied Science and Management is a multidisciplinary program that focuses on applied research for resolving problems in environmental protection, conservation and sustainable development. The program prepares graduates for professional careers in the environment industry, as well as for doctoral studies, and it takes a systems management approach to environmental problem solving in the private and public sectors, that attempts to integrate a number of decisions an organization can make and their effects on the environment.

The Environmental & Life Sciences Graduate Program at Trent University offers master and doctoral degrees. Faculty specialize in Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Resource Sciences, Forensic Sciences and Geography. Graduate students have access to research facilities for DNA sequencing and profiling, the Water Quality Centre, the Canadian Environmental Modeling Centre and the Oliver Ecological Centre for Teaching and Research.

There are multiple departments of the University of Toronto that offer graduate programs in the environmental field. Some examples include Environmental Engineering, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Geography and Planning, and Geological Sciences. In addition, there are interdisciplinary graduate programs, such as the Master and Ph.D. in Environmental Science. The Centre for Environment on the St. George campus offers Master and PhD collaborative programs that allow students to enrol in one of 24 different departments and include an environmental designation within their graduate course of study.

The Department of Environment and Resource Studies of the University of Waterloo has a Master of Environmental Studies program and a PhD program in Social and Ecological Sustainability. The programs are trans-disciplinary, integrating perspectives and insights from the natural and social sciences and the humanities, and are devoted to understanding and pursuing sustainability in a dynamic and complex world. Teaching and research emphasizes work in three overlapping fields: Resource Analysis and Stewardship, Socio-Ecosystem Function and Renewal, Sustainability Policy and Governance.

The University of Western Ontario's Graduate Program in Environment and Sustainability uses project-based learning to enhance the graduate student's skill set in preparation for a career in the environmental field. Students can pursue a collaborative thesis-based Master's or Ph.D. program or a course-based Master's degree program. The University also offers M.E.Sc., M.Eng, and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University was founded in 1968, becoming the first of its kind in North America. It currently offers Master and Ph.D. degrees in Environmental Studies, training various types of planners to work in the academic, government, and private sectors nationally and internationally. FES has hosted major international development projects that have generated research and research funds for students and faculty members. In recent years, this school has emerged in the forefront of research on urban environmental issues and in cultural and environmental sustainability.

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Consuelo Solar Consuelo is a journalist, screenwriter and story editor. She has worked as field producer for CNN, and reporter for The Miami Herald and other international media outlets. She currently works as a correspondent for Terra Networks and is involved in independent film projects.