In today’s working world, any opportunity to get a head start on finding a job is worth taking. Thursday, four Colorado School of Mines graduates returned to Mines to give a talk, explaining what it’s like to work for the Environmental Protection Agency and how best to get there. Between the four presenters, there was a wide variety of different job duties, ranging from desk work and writing proposals to field work, testing and regulation enforcement. But one thing they all had in common was their education at Mines.
Sarah Roberts, who works in Underground Injection Control Enforcement, commented that “one of the biggest challenges for the underground injection contamination is that it occurs underground; it’s really hard to prove.” She emphasized that her job with the E.P.A. involved fact-finding and digging for the truth, which was not always easy to find. Roberts continued “The goal overall is to protect drinking water for the inhabitants of the region.” Her job in regulation enforcement encompassed both travel for field work and desk work.
The other side of the Underground Injection Control coin is Permitting, which is where Jason Deardorff works. Deardorff’s job doesn’t include as much time in the field, and is more focused on writing proposals.
On the other hand, If you’re more interested in field work and travel, Gary Wang, whose specialty is underground storage tanks, estimated that he spends close to 40% of his time in the field, going to various places in the mountain west region primarily testing gas stations.
The fourth presenter, Jennifer Berig, was involved in a unique program that allowed for a wider variety of job duties. Berig works in Quality Control, where she gets to see a larger picture of the process of protecting the environment.
All four agreed that working for the E.P.A. was a good choice, and that it gave them a lot of stability as well as opportunities to advance and broaden the scope of their training. Wang said that his route to working for the E.P.A. involved a two-year probationary period where the agency evaluated his performance and likelihood to succeed before offering him a permanent full-time job at the end of two years. Berig commented that “if you’re willing to do an unpaid internship, go for it.” She said that any way you can get your foot in the door is worth it.
The panel ended with a few minutes of questions and answers time, and among the popular questions was “How does a Masters or Ph.D. help you[in the E.P.A.]?” Roberts responded that “having a Ph.D. will help you get noticed, especially in your thesis area.” Berig further added, “In the current job market, if you don’t have a masters, then you won’t compete. You really need a masters to get in the door.”