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A Career Path : For people interested in environmental work, opportunities are plentiful. But be prepared to accept entry-level positions.

May 02, 1991|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you want a career in environmental work, you don't have to go to Brazil to save a rain forest or to MIT to get an academic pedigree or to IslipY., to battle municipal solid waste.

Just pick out your favorite environmental issue and make a local call. You can be at the front in no time flat and still be home by dinner. Your pay will be terrible at first--even nonexistent--but eventually, in many of these jobs, a decent wage can be had.

To get started, you might want to pick up a copy of the paperback book titled "The Complete Guide to Environmental Careers." The book was compiled by a group from the Center for Environmental Intern Programs (now known as the CEIP Fund). The book offers details on day-to-day work and pay.

Kevin Doyle, general manager of the CEIP Fund in Boston, referred to the guide during an interview as a "major massive bestseller."

Victor Lindquist of Northwestern University, a leading career placement expert, said hirings in environmental work are skyrocketing. For many other jobs, he said, "the door to the employment office is slammed shut and bolted."

One theme of the CEIP book is that entry-level eco-work sometimes is the same as volunteer work. But the experience people get is soon marketable in certain sectors of the eco-workplace, such as recycling. Another theme is that training in the technical aspects of the field is available at the community college level. You needn't struggle all the way to a doctorate just to get a job that pays well.

Doyle and Lindquist both reported that fields where the demand for workers exceeds supply are 1) public environmental health, 2) industrial hygiene, 3) chemistry and 4) industrial hazardous waste management.

According to ecological experts in Boston and Berkeley, one of the best programs is going on at the Ventura campus of Cal State Northridge. The program, in cooperation with Ventura College, Oxnard College and Moorpark College, is the starting point for a nationally recognized credential in environmental studies.

"This is everyday sort of work," Doyle said about those jobs involving investigating, monitoring and commuting. Employers nationwide are desperate for people with any training in these realms, he said.

Up the coast in Santa Barbara, word of this has reached the student body. Students pursuing an environmental major jumped to 500 from 300 last year.

But Doyle warned that students looking for "Smokey the Bear" jobs (nature guides and scuba divers) are probably going to have to become volunteers--still the main entry level for that kind of work.

Anyone attending the program of Prof. Muthera Nasari at Moorpark College seems to be in a better position to get a job. According to Nasari, employers call him all the time to locate graduates. And CSUN's program director Dennis Kelley says he has a pile of standing orders from agencies seeking graduates.

The environment, some people say, is costing jobs. But Carver is a living example that you can, in effect, recycle yourself into an environmental career. At any period of your life. And these jobs aren't going to move out of town either.

* FYI

* The Complete Guide to Environmental Careers, published by Island Press, (800) 828-1320.

* Environmental programs:

Ventura Campus-CSUN (Donna Carver), 644-7262 or 656-3606.

Moorpark College (Muthera Nasari), 378-1400, Ext. 1753.

Oxnard College offers one course, the human environment, toward the environmental degree, 986-1283.

Ventura College offers one course, environmental issues, toward the environmental degree, 525-7136.

Cal State Northridge (Dennis Kelley, environmental occupational health program), (818) 885-2346.

UC Santa Barbara (Diana Francis, environmental studies), 893-3185.

* For information on internship and volunteer work applicable toward a career:

Air quality: Dick Baldwin, 654-2806.

Water conservation: Deborah Weinstock, 654-2440.

Soil conservation: Don Louviere, 386-4990.

Forest conservation: Jeff Saley, 683-6711.

Recycling: Victoria Hand, 654-3935, or Diamera Bach, 650-0884, or your city's recycling coordinator.

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