Environmental law is a diverse combination of laws on a federal, state and local level, as well as regulations, policies and health concerns. Additionally, the laws that fall under environmental law change rapidly and the research of such requires an acute awareness of rules and regulations.

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Why Study for an Environmental Law Degree?

The field of environmental law deals specifically with concerns about environmental issues and how the law plays a vital part in our lives on a daily basis. In both the public and private sectors, there are numerous obligations including the specified regulations on the control of pollution to a broader spectrum of diversity to include climate change.

Having passionate and well-educated environmental lawyers is one way to ensure that our planet and life on it are conserved and protected.

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Environmental Law Degree Programs

environmental-law-programsA degree in Environmental Law opens the doors for many different types of careers such as an environmental lawyer.

Laws are set in motion on a local and global level that control noise levels, discharge of chemicals that lead to the destruction of natural habitats and can offset the entire interconnected web of human, animal and plant life.

Environmental lawyers uphold laws and policies and advocates for new ones that will keep the Earth’s air, water, ecosystems and people safe from the major environmental threats.

Environmental Law Degrees

A degree in Environmental Law opens the doors for many different types of careers such as an environmental lawyer. An environmental lawyer works to represent clients in legal issues such as in clean technology, water law, climate change law and the management of land subject to native title and other public land. Other areas of focus include environmental rights, international environmental law, law of the sea and international resources law. Environmental lawyers also work in the areas of climate change, sustainability and renewable energies, a growing area of enterprise globally.

Environmental Law Associate’s Degrees

There are no associate’s degree programs in environmental law, and students who wish to become environmental lawyers must first earn a bachelor’s degree. However, earning an associate’s in economics or business can help you find work while also making the transition into a related bachelor’s degree program easier.

Environmental Law Bachelor’s Degrees

An undergraduate degree is fundamental to a future career in environmental law. In order to move on to a law school and earn a Juris Doctorate (JD), students must first complete a four-year bachelor’s program. Students may choose to major in political science or policy, economics, business and management, history, etc. It’s a good idea to take environmental science related courses when possible, such as ecology.

A student’s success in an undergraduate program will have a large impact on their admission to a law school, so maintaining a good GPA throughout the duration of the program is imperative. Choosing one of the aforementioned majors that will assist you in studying law is also important since the foundation you lay during your undergraduate studies will carry you through law school and be implemented in future careers.

Preparatory measures must be taken before graduation to prepare for law school, such as writing a letter of intent and acquiring at least three letters of recommendation.

Environmental Law Master’s Degrees

The division of environmental law is vast and complex within the legal world. A successful environmental lawyer is able to effectively communicate both verbally and in written documents. Their ability to persuade individuals to see their point of view helps to win cases in the legal system, but they also have to prepare and then consolidate and organize all of the legal details for presentation.

A Master of Law (LLM) can also be offered in addition to a Juris Doctor program. Anyone who wishes to pursue this option must qualify for law school, which will require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). To participate in an LLM program, a JD must be completed beforehand. The coursework will explore environmental issues to include water and air pollution, climate change and waste control from both scientific and legal standpoints. Students who enroll in this type of program will find that the courses provide both the knowledge and skills needed to become successful as an environmental lawyer.

Environmental Law Doctorate Degrees

A Juris Doctor degree in Environmental Law is a doctorate degree. If one is interested in the field of Environmental Law in order to preserve and protect our environment, enrolling in a JD program with a specialization in Environmental Law is an optimal choice.

Within this program, the fundamental aspects of constitutional law, international law, state law, local government laws and federal court systems will be explored. Students will also spend their time learning which specific environmental policies are in place. Students also have the opportunity to intern with government agencies and environmental groups to apply and help build knowledge of specifics laws and regulations geared towards protecting the environment.

School Spotlight

Lewis and Clark Law School

The Lewis and Clark Law School of Portland, Oregon, was the first law school in the country to offer a program in environmental law. In addition to its law degree, it offers graduate degree programs such as a Master of Studies in Environmental and Natural Resource Law, which is designed for students who don’t plan to become lawyers, but will need to be conscience of environmental laws and practices in their careers.

Currently ranked #1 by # 1 by U.S. News & World Report, Lewis and Clark offers students various methods of pursuing their degree, from a general JD to a joint JD & LLM program, as well as the option to earn a Certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law while studying for a basic JD. These students will be required to take extra courses in environmental law, administrative law and eight additional credits pertaining to environmental studies.

The school encourages students from early on to begin acquiring real-world experience they can apply to their future careers as a lawyer and helps them do this through a diverse and enticing offering of opportunities. The Animal Law Clinic allows students to study “animal protection litigation, legislation and policy work as well as research and analysis in emerging animal protection law issues.”

An on-campus international environmental clinic, the International Environmental Law Project, allows students to work together and think and act globally. Many part-time internships within the local government, law firms and nonprofit organizations are available, as well as externships in the US and abroad that are tailored to fit each student’s personal and academic interests.

Vermont Law School

At Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont, students at the Environmental Law Center learn how to research, advocate and make changes in the environment alongside other passionate students and experienced faculty. In addition to a JD, Vermont Law School also offers a master’s program, LLM. program and joint option for students interested in earning both a JD and LLM at the same time.

For six consecutive years, the Vermont Law School has been featured in the top 3 of U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of the country’s best graduate schools. Students at the school aren’t just instructed in a classroom. The school emphasizes the development of a strong environmental conscience and has designed a curriculum that incorporates participation and activity in nearly every facet of an environmental law student’s life.

Students will work hands-on, hiking through beautiful conserved land, participating in local sustainability by eating locally grown food and meeting with organic entrepreneurs. Dedicating one’s profession to the conservation and protection of the environment requires living a life that is as equally dedicated to the cause. The Vermont Law School strives to help students construct their own lives around the environment, creating lawyers who aren’t just fighting for something they studied, but rather something they are a part of.

While those majoring in environmental law study a rich and intensive curriculum, they are still implored to indulge their own interests. Through a plethora of opportunities such as the possibility of studying abroad for a semester or an entire externship, students are able to personalize their experience at Vermont Law School and add a sense of purpose and weighty significance to their studies.

University of California Berkeley School of Law

One of the earliest law schools established in the country, the Berkeley School of Law at the University of California offers a Juris Doctorate of Environmental Law that exposes students to a broad range of courses across the field. An interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental law establishes a stronger understanding of the nature of the environment itself. Courses in environmental law are taken along with a variety of different seminars, in addition to international and comparative environmental law courses.

Students in the Environmental Law program have the opportunity to work and conduct research in the top-notch Center for Law, Energy & the Environment facility, or contribute to Ecology Law Quarterly, one of the nation’s leading environmental law journals.

Berkeley Law offers an insightful experience to students given its location; California is at the forefront of many of today’s greatest environmental issues, such as climate change and rising tides. Coastal management, sustainability and climate innovation are all aspects of environmental law that affect the state directly, and students at Berkeley get a first-hand look at the type of impact their jobs can have.

In order to be admitted to Berkeley Law, students must hold a bachelor’s degree in environmental science or management, and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

Career Outlook and Salary

Environmental law school graduates go on to work as, most commonly, environmental lawyers. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the job outlook for all lawyers to increase steadily between 2012-2022.

The average annual salary for lawyers according to the BLS is $133,470 as of May 2014. The top 10 percent of lawyers earned as much as $187,199 per year.

While most who major in environmental law work as lawyers, other potential careers for those who studied environmental law and management as an undergraduate can find work as environmental consultants, analysts, project managers, advocates, researchers, planners and more.

Environmental consultants and advocates, who defend environmental laws, policies and often work within the local government to help initiate change, earn $64,608 per year on average.

Those who are interested in the business and management aspect of environmental law and politics could consider pursuing a career as an environmental accountant or policy analyst. An environmental accountant is responsible for working with nonprofit organizations, government agencies and the like to come up with budget-efficient, effective sustainability and green-based solutions to environmental problems. Understanding environmental law and preexisting regulations can help immensely when making decisions as an environmental accountant, who advise officials and budget within a government body may even have an impact on future laws and regulations that are implemented.

Similarly, an environmental economist helps to create a balance between the economy that society thrives in with the environment we all depend upon. An environmental economist’s main objective is to assess the current threats in the environment, humankind’s effect on these threats, and come up with sustainable economic policies that don’t sacrifice the efficiency of important economic activity.

While the BLS doesn’t collect data for environmental accountants and economists specifically, the average annual income for all accountants and economists was $73,670 and $105,290 respectively in May 2014.