Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Three Reasons to Work in Water

We’ve spent a lot of time on Illinois Water talking about different types of water-related jobs, but we’ve never addressed why water careers are worth knowing about. Here are three reasons why water jobs just might deserve your attention.

1. There’s something for everyone
In covering water-related careers, Science wrote that the “opportunities are endless—it's almost a frontier mentality." And, indeed, in our WaterJobs series we’ve interviewed a biologist, professor, planner, engineer, modeler, and developer, and all these people work in water. While that’s only six, you should see our list of proposed interviewees. Water touches everyone and everything in some way or another. And, with a growing human population and increasing demand for freshwater in a developing world, there may be future requirements for water jobs that don’t even exist today.  

2. It’s stable employment (probably)
As long as you’re not planning to swim with the dolphins, you have a good shot at landing an engaging and well-paying job, even without a bachlor’s degree.
Consider these numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics:
  • Demand for Environmental Engineers is expected to grow by 22% from 2010 to 2020
  • Demand for Environmental Engineering Technicians (requiring an Associate’s degree) is expected to grow 24% over that same time.
  • Biochemists are expecting 31% growth
  • And demand for Environmental Science Technicians (also Associate’s) is expected to increase 24%

Positions for environmental scientists, landscape architects, and hydrologists are expected to grow at an average rate (between 16 and 19%) over the next ten years. However, there is one downside in this rosy outlook: conservation biology positions are not growing. It’s always been difficult to work with animals, and the Recession and a decrease in government funding for research has made it more difficult, not just in the United States, but all over the world. While those jobs do exist, they require a lot of hard work, persistence, and volunteer hours to obtain.
One of the reasons some of these fields are seeing stable or above average job growth is rapidly approaching retirement of the baby boomer generation. Engineering firm Brown and Caldwell has developed intern programs to help address their anticipated labor shortages and recorded their experiences here.

3. It matters
The U.S. National Intelligence has identified water access as a major source of potential conflict around the world and a consequent security threat to the United States. While we might not go to war over water in the United States, American water disputes have already caused some acrimonious lawsuits among southwestern states, and Illinois’ reversal of the Chicago River has Michigan pointing fingers in our direction as Great Lakes levels drop. Add to this situation a badly aging infrastructure, including dangerous old dams that need removal, the threat of Asian carp invading the Great Lakes, the Mississippi earning a number three spot on the Weather Channel’s list of most polluted rivers in the world, and UN estimates that nearly 3.4 million people a year die from lack of clean water and it’s not hard to see that water is a field in need of  innovation and lots of hard work.  
In discussing his career, one of our WaterJobs interviewees Rick Manner said that “working for the environment is giving back to society.” If you feel contributing to your community (and the world) is important in your career path, working in water is one of the most practical ways you can make a difference.