Jobs in Natural Resources

Feb 11, 2013

Credit Photo: Virginia Tech

Everyone is wondering where the good jobs of the future will come from.  A professor in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment predicts they’ll be hiring in his field.

Nearly half of workers in natural resources will soon be retiring and it may not be easy to replace them. That’s according to Steve McMullin, associate professor of fisheries and wildlife at Virginia Tech. He says a hiring boom back in the 1970’s, after a spate of environmental protection legislation, created numerous jobs in the filed.  But he has identified a kind of generational shift in career choice which threatens to leave those vacancies un-filled.

"Over the last 15 or 20 years as things like Animal Planet and Discovery Channel have become popular on television we find that many of our students have grown up watching Steve Erwin on TV they come into our programs certainly with a love for animals and an interest in working with animals, but and we find, and we find that not from the perspective we historically have seen where people got into it because they wanted to be involved with management of natural resources and fish and wild life populations," said McMullin.

But McMullin says those jobs too can have a wow factor and despite potential budget cuts, the coming wave of vacancies means there will be jobs for people with the right training.  A kind of cheerleader for the daily fieldwork for researchers in natural resources, McMullin says he’s had plenty of peak experiences working in the field, like this one from early in his career.

"And I was looking at a research project where we were looking at ..a version of sockeye salmon that came out of flat head lake to spawn….I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this.”
McMullin says recent cuts have only added to the coming wave or new openings in the field.   Especially in management. That’s because managers are typically among the oldest workers. As Director of the Environmental Leadership institute at Virginia Tech, he’s part of a team introducing students to the rewards and challenges of leadership in natural resource management.