8 steps to becoming a global environmental change maker | Top Universities

8 steps to becoming a global environmental change maker

User Image

Stephanie Lukins

Updated May 21, 2024



8 Steps to Becoming a Global Environmental Change Maker

Sponsored by York University

Attention to issues of sustainability and justice has grown demonstrably in the wake of global climate change protests and an increased awareness of the impact humans are having on the planet.

With businesses and individuals making dramatic shifts to be more sustainable, demand for environmental and urban-focused careers continues to outpace that of other sectors. It’s no longer the niche sector it once was.

If you think you’ve got what it takes to break into the field, TopUniversities spoke to those in the know at York University in Toronto, Canada to find out how you can do just that and become a global environmental change maker.

Study a relevant degree

Apologies for stating the obvious, but it’s true.

A relevant degree such as those offered at York University’s new Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change “prepares students as career-ready graduates for a rapidly changing labor market,” said Dean and Professor Alice J Hovorka.

“Students are grounded in global perspectives and approaches that emphasise equity and inclusivity as key to addressing the pressing challenges facing people and the planet,” she added.

From environmental science to sustainable environmental management, environmental arts to urban studies, and global geography, students have the opportunity to follow their interests in one programme while acquiring fundamental skills and knowledge offered across the other programmes.

This is something Sarah Costa, a third-year Bachelor in Sustainable Environmental Management student at York University, was keen to follow through with.  

Growing up, Sarah spent a lot of time hiking and camping – something that prompted her interest in the environment. But as she got older, Sarah became more aware of the politics of the social environment and the complex interaction with the physical environment.

“When I found the Bachelor in Sustainable Environmental Management degree programme at York University, it almost felt too good to be true. 

“I chose to study this degree because it combined my love for the physical environment with my interest in the social environment, while also addressing pressing world issues and providing the opportunity for hands-on learning,” she said.

Master your transferable and unique skillset

There is a certain set of skills you will need to perfect and be able to demonstrate to break into the field. While each job has different responsibilities, duties and tasks, it is important that your soft skills such as communication, teamwork, creative thinking and problem solving are as good as they can be.

All of these are crucial should you want to succeed in whatever job you pursue.

Hands-on learning experience is a must

In recent years, experiential learning has become recognised as an essential part of a degree, not an optional bonus.

Gaining practical experience in this multifaceted field during your studies will both help you to stand out in the competitive job market and present a valuable opportunity that can bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Experiential learning is an integral element of the degree programmes offered at York’s Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change.

“Students engage with real-world issues through community-based projects, field studies, study abroad opportunities, work placements, and internships. This offers students direct pathways into the workforce and professional networks,” explained Dean Hovorka.

Stay up-to-date with research, journals and news

If you truly want to make your mark on the world, you need to be familiar with the new research and reports, particularly when it comes to new sustainable technologies, energy structures and improved environmental conservation policies.

“We are living in a time of rapid change, as well as amidst an urgent need to transform ourselves into a just and sustainable society,” said the dean.

Attend career events and talks

Not only are career events an opportunity to showcase relevant and possible career paths, but they’re also a great way to make new contacts, including industry experts.

Which incidentally leads us to the following…

Networking isn’t just for business school

No matter your academic background or the industry you’re headed for, don’t let networking opportunities pass you by.

Your professors, visiting scholars and industry experts, as well as your peers, can all help you realise your potential. Putting the word out there about your career aspirations and plans may result in an event invite here or a casual meeting there that could lead to exciting opportunities.

Consider your interests and strengths to help you identify what career path to follow

Don’t worry if you’re finding it difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that you want to do straightaway! Recognising what you’re good at and what you have a real passion for can serve a good indicator as to what career path could be for you.

Do you work well in a team? How are your communication and interpersonal skills? Are you resilient and adaptable? Do you prefer the idea of working in an office-based environment or in a more hands-on setting? Knowing this may help you figure out whether you want to work in the public or private sector, or in government.

“At the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, students can explore the different ways to approach environmental and social issues, as well as hone in on key areas of science, management, or the arts, as foundations for their career pathways,” explained Dean Hovorka.

“Beyond finding a meaningful undergraduate programme, students should think about how their passion and interests can be translated into the workforce,” she added.

Sarika Ganguli is another third-year Bachelor in Sustainable Environmental Management student at York University. Much like Sarah, Sarika also had a keen interest in the environment growing up – particularly marine sciences. It wasn’t long before Sarika realised she wanted to do more than just study the physical aspects of marine life.

“I wanted to make a bigger impact and expand my knowledge of the marine environment so I could be well-versed in a variety of marine issues and understand how to best approach them,” Sarika said.

After completing her studies, Sarika hopes to pursue a career in marine biology/ecology, with a particular focus on the impact and prevention of illegal poaching of turtles, dolphins and sharks.

Sarah plans to pursue a career in conservation using geographic information system (GIS) technology.

“I’ve had the privilege of studying both conservation and GIS in my degree and I’m really interested in how they overlap,” she said.

In the Sustainable Environmental Management (BES) degree programme, students can undertake the GIS certificate which is compiled of a number of courses that use industry standard software to prepare students for a GIS related career path.

‘Be passionate, be bold and take informed action’

The world is in desperate need of a new generation of interdisciplinary thinkers – those who think beyond traditional subject-specific agendas. It’s important that the next generation of global environmental change makers can provide innovative solutions and insights to the most pressing sustainability challenges the world has faced.

According to Dean Hovorka, preparing for a career in this field comes down to the following:

“Ultimately, students can prepare themselves for a career in environmental and urban change through bold thinking, informed action, and a passion to be a positive changemaker,” she said.


York University is a leader in environmental and urban change education. Its wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes present exciting opportunities to take your environmental and urban career ambitions further.

The university currently ranks in the top 20 in Canada and top 150 in North America, according to the latest QS World University Rankings.

saved this article

saved this article