Education and Training Requirements
Take a college preparatory curriculum while in high school. Classes that will be of particular benefit include environmental science, earth science, biology, chemistry, economics, history, math, and English. Be sure to also take computer science courses.
A bachelor of science degree is the minimum degree required for industrial ecology jobs, which include testing and inspection. A master's degree is necessary for jobs in applied research or management. A Ph.D. is usually required to advance in the field, including into administrative positions or to work as a professor at four-year college or university.
Typical undergraduate majors include those in the basic sciences: biology, botany, zoology, chemistry, physics, or geology. At the master's degree level, many aspiring industrial ecologists major in natural resource management, ecology, botany, conservation biology, or forestry studies.
Some colleges and universities offer certificates in industrial ecology. For example, the University of Michigan offers a graduate certificate in industrial ecology. Students must take Industrial Ecology (an introductory course); one course in each of the following three categories: system analysis and sustainability, energy systems, and environmental policy and economic analysis; and participate in Sustainability Without Borders projects, a sustainability internship, or another experiential learning opportunity. Contact schools in your area to learn more about available programs.
Other Education or Training
Industrial ecologists continue to learn throughout their careers by taking workshops and attending industry-related conferences and events. Professional associations such as the International Society for Industrial Ecology (https://is4ie.org/resources) and the Ecological Society of America (https://www.esa.org) offer educational programs and other resources for ecology professionals and students.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Industrial ecologists get certification to improve their professional standing in the field. The Ecological Society of America offers professional certification at four levels: ecologist in training, associate ecologist, ecologist, and senior ecologist. Find information at https://www.esa.org/certification. The Institute of Hazardous Materials Management also offers certification programs that industrial ecologists may find useful in their careers, https://www.ihmm.org/certificants/chmm.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Industrial ecologists usually have completed an internship or other experiental learning experience.
Essential to this job is an appreciation and respect for nature, coupled with strong knowledge of chemical processes, practical applications of engineering and technology, and mathematics. Strong communications skills are required for sharing information with others and writing accurate and effective reports and presentations. The ability to work independently as well as with other people on a team is critical in industrial ecology. Industrial ecologists use deductive and inductive reasoning to accomplish their work. People who do best in this field are analytical thinkers who are investigative and enterprising. They are willing to take on multiple responsibilities and tackle challenges to achieve goals.