What Is an Environmental Policy Analyst? [And How to Become One]

6 min read
Business professionals discussing eco-friendly technology on a green ball with solar panels, representing sustainable energy solutions.

If you’re passionate about enacting real change for the environment, there are few ways more effective than getting directly involved with environmental policy. The introduction of new, more environmentally progressive policies are helping to reduce energy use and emissions, promote more sustainable use of natural resources, improve the treatment and disposal of waste and promote more equitable treatment of vulnerable populations. 

Whether you’re interested in helping organizations reform their environmental policies or driving new government policies that shape our daily lives, you could find success as an environmental policy analyst. Here’s what you need to know about this important position, including responsibilities, salary and how you can become one.

What Is Environmental Policy?

Environmental policy refers to any guidelines, regulations, laws or actions meant to address environmental issues and promote sustainable practices. In general, most environmental policies will seek to protect the natural environment, conserve natural resources, prevent pollution and/or mitigate the negative impacts of human activities on ecosystems.

The specifics of an environmental policy will differ depending on who is enacting it and what it is for. For example, an organization that deals with environmental law will likely have different details in its policy than a government agency whose mission is to protect a certain type of wildlife. While organizations are focused on their own internal practices, government environmental policies are often intended to protect an entire country or region’s population, wildlife habitats and natural resources.

Environmental policies can be local, national or even international, as part of an international environmental agreement (IEA). IEAs are treaties that are negotiated, signed and ratified by nation states to address global or cross border environmental issues. Examples of IEAs include:

Regardless of whether it’s enacting new policies or updating existing ones, all entities require strong analysis in order to make informed decisions. Careful and detailed analysis of economic, environmental and historical data helps to provide objective information on environmental issues, which can include climate change, waste management, land use and urban planning. The goal is to create policy recommendations based on evidence, which can be more effective in promoting solutions and effecting change.

What Does an Environmental Policy Analyst Do?

Environmental policy requires the work of many different professionals, including lawmakers, legal consultants, researchers, activities, scientists and more. Arguably, out of all positions, it is the environmental policy analyst who plays the most direct role in the creation and overall effectiveness of a policy.

An environmental policy analyst is responsible for researching the data, relationships and policy developments surrounding environmental challenges and any proposed solutions. While exact responsibilities will vary, in general, the environmental policy analyst’s job requires:

  • The review and analysis of existing relevant environmental laws, policies, practices and procedures
  • The use of advanced statistical techniques and analytical models to measure impacts
  • Conducting a life-cycle cost analysis of proposed processes, energy sources and technologies
  • Writing reports, policy briefs and white papers to detail their findings and make recommendations
  • Advocating for environmentally responsible practices, policies, legislation, awareness campaigns or fundraising approaches
  • Staying informed of changes in regulations, laws and court decisions related to the environment
  • Collaborating with other professionals, such as scientists and lawyers, to make the best possible policy recommendations

Depending on whom they work for, an environmental policy analyst may focus on specific issues such as climate change, environmental justice, environmental health, biological preservation or equitable access to resources. Additionally, the scope of the work of environmental policy analysts can also vary greatly, ranging from local impacts on public health, education and company operations, to global impacts on the economy, the natural environment and entire industries.

More senior environmental policy analysts may take on more management or administrative tasks. These higher level responsibilities can include:

  • Coordinating teams
  • Hiring junior analysts
  • Overseeing accountability reporting
  • Records management and retention
  • Creating new business proposals
  • Managing budgets

Where Does an Environmental Policy Analyst Work?

Jobs in this field are available worldwide, as many environmental policy analysts work for environmental and health organizations at all levels of governments, as well as environmental nonprofit organizations, energy and utility providers, policy centers and as independent consultants. Here’s a breakdown of the major employment areas:

  • Government agencies — Environmental policy analysts are employed by federal, state and local government agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Department of Natural Resources of different U.S. states. These analysts may be involved in policy development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
  • Non-profit organizations — Many analysts work for international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that focus on environmental advocacy and sustainability, research and policy development, such as the World Wildlife Fund and the World Resources Institute. These analysts may work on issues such as climate change, biodiversity protection, pollution control and more.
  • Private corporations — Some large corporations and industries employ environmental policy analysts to ensure compliance with environmental regulations, develop sustainability strategies and assess the potential impacts of their operations on the environment. This is especially common in the energy, transportation and natural resource management industries.
  • Environmental consulting firms — Environmental consulting firms provide policy analysis and advocacy services to governments, industries and organizations to help them understand and navigate environmental regulations and develop sustainable practices. Policy analysts in consulting firms may work on projects related to environmental impact assessments, regulatory compliance and sustainability strategy.
  • Research institutions — Universities, research organizations and think tanks also employ environmental policy analysts to conduct research, develop policy recommendations and contribute to academic and policy-oriented publications. They may focus on a wide range of environmental topics, from energy policy to natural resource management.

As for the type of work they do, many analysts work full time in offices during standard working hours, though some overtime may occasionally be required. They may also work in the field, visiting sites to evaluate policy outcomes, attending conferences and stakeholder meetings or conducting public outreach.

Depending on the size and structure of the organization they work for, they may work alone or in coordination with other environmental policy analysts. They may also perform the same duties under other job titles such as research associate, advisor, program manager or regulatory analyst.

What Is the Average Salary of an Environmental Policy Analyst?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, environmental specialists like policy analysts earn a median salary of $76,530, with some positions in the federal government earning around $103,530.

As of June 2023, Zippia lists an environmental policy analyst salary range at $40,000 to $92,000, with the highest paying jobs in the U.S. located in:

  • The District of Columbia at $93,049
  • California at $92,034
  • Virginia at $69,987
  • West Virginia at $64,286
  • Washington at $67,177

What Is the Job Outlook for an Environmental Policy Analyst?

According to the BLS, the job growth for environmental specialists is projected to grow 5% from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

As of August 2023, a review of different job aggregate sites shows that organizations posting open positions for environmental policy analysts include:

  • Earthjustice
  • Eastern Research Group, Inc.
  • U.S. Library of Congress
  • CleanCapital
  • ICF Business Consulting
  • The Department of Environmental Conservation of Albany, NY
  • County of Sonoma, CA
  • Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
  • State of Vermont
  • Environmental Policy Innovation Center
  • Center for American Progress
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
  • Western Resource Advocates

How Do I Become an Environmental Policy Analyst?

To become an environmental policy analyst, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, preferably in environmental policy, environmental studies, environmental science, political science, ecology or a closely related field. Your coursework will generally consist of environmental law and policy, environmental risk assessment, environmental policy analysis, public administration, political science, economics, sustainability science, program assessment and sociology.

It’s possible to come to the position from other majors or backgrounds. Fundamentally, you will need to be able to work with large collections of data and have solid qualifications in statistics, math and data analysis. While most positions do not require a master’s degree, one is preferred for higher level positions. If you’re interested in a long career as an environmental policy analyst, you’ll eventually want to earn a graduate degree.

You don’t have to be certified to work as an environmental policy analyst, though being certified as an Environmental Professional (EP) by an organization such as the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) or the National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP) can help further your career. Any additional experience with core concepts related to environmental policy — such as environmental risk assessment, sustainable development and environmental law — can also be helpful.

What Skills and Qualifications Are Needed to Start a Career as an Environmental Policy Analyst?

Exact skills requirements will vary by position, especially across different industries. In general, the most important skills include:

  • Data analysis
  • Strong organizational, research and analytical skills
  • Effective writing, communication and presentation skills
  • Knowledge of relevant computer programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook
  • Critical thinking and and the ability to develop compelling, logical arguments
  • The ability to build relationships and strategic partnerships

Though not required, previous experience with policy creation and development is advantageous. Most of these skills can be acquired through college programs, volunteer work with organizations, internships and by collaborating with other professionals. Joining professional organizations such as the NAEP and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management can also help you develop important skills.

Environmental Policy Analysis and the MESH program

As mentioned, though not required for the position, many environmental policy analysts eventually earn a graduate degree, often in environmental policy, environmental and energy policy or international environmental policy. Working closely with policymakers, lawyers, public health and safety officials, researchers and scientists, environmental policy analysts have the responsibility for setting ESG goals not just for organizations, but often for entire countries.

Environmental policy analysis must be transdisciplinary to be truly effective, and so requires educational programs that help students develop multiple skill sets. A transdisciplinary degree program such as the University of San Diego’s online M.S. in Engineering, Sustainability and Health (MESH) allows you to build upon your background and complement different fields, preparing you to work alongside other professionals with the same sustainability goals.

Visit our program page to learn more about how you’ll develop a comprehensive perspective on engineering, policy, communication, social and environmental justice, and other related fields.


Get Your Ultimate Evaluation Guide

If an Online Graduate Degree is in Your Future, Analyzing All Your Options Can Help You Make the Best Investment

Choosing an Online Master's Degree: The Ultimate Evaluation Guide