Graduates building new careers in Environmental Science & Policy

Graduates building new careers in Environmental Science & Policy

Since it began in 2002, the Environmental Science and Policy program has given students the hands-on experience, and the analytical and decision-making tools to implement effective environmental and sustainable management policies. The program’s 550 graduates have advanced to jobs in domestic and international environmental policy, working in government, private and non-profit sectors. Their work involves issues of sustainability, resource use and global change, in fields focused on air, water, climate, energy efficiency, food, agriculture, transportation and waste management. They work as consultants, advisers, project managers, program directors, policy analysts, teachers, researchers, and environmental scientists and engineers.

“The program is successful in achieving its fundamental goal of educating a new kind of sustainability professional. Our graduates help realize this goal: They are effective communicators, translating environmental science for policy makers and breaking down environmental policy and politics for scientists. The MPA-ESP alumni are exceptional: smart, dynamic, and extremely dedicated to ensuring the planet’s sustainability,” says Program Director and Earth Institute Executive Director Steven Cohen.

A sampling of alumni reporting back to us this summer had a median salary range of $55,000-$79,000, with more than a quarter of them reporting pay higher than $80,000.

Approximately 44 percent of those working in environmental fields are based in the public sector, working for the City of New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Public Utilities Commission and the United Nations Environment Programme, among many domestic and international agencies. More than 25 graduates have been finalists to for the Presidential Management Fellowship. This highly competitive and prestigious fellowship selects well-qualified individuals from a nationwide pool of candidates who are committed to careers in public policy.

Students from the class of 2010 are delving into careers throughout the country, including Washington, D.C., California, Florida, Virginia and New York.  Mae Stevens (’11) is currently serving as the Legislative Assistant to Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO) at U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to this Ms. Stevens worked as a clean energy policy advisor at Third Way, a moderate policy think tank in Washington, D.C. Stevens cites her workshop experience analyzing the Homestar Energy and Retrofit Act of 2010 as providing her with the skills necessary for fulfilling her current role, working with the U.S. Sentate to design and pass a national, long-term, comprehensive energy policy. Stevens also noted the importance of her independent study with Prof. Michael Gerrard, director of the Earth Institute’s Center for Climate Change Law, designing a Clean Energy Standard for the U.S. based on President Obama’s proposal in his 2011 State of the Union address.

The private sector is increasingly establishing and implementing new initiatives in alternative energy planning, energy and resource trading, and environmental and sustainable development consulting. Approximately one third of our alums are working in the private sector in firms such as AIG Environmental, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Mitsubishi Corporation, among others. 
Anastasia Wright (’11) works with Willdan Energy Solutions, which specializes in providing sustainability and energy-related consulting, engineering and planning services to public and private agencies. Anastasia works on a contract implementing a program for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority that provides financial incentives to New York-based data centers for installing energy efficiency measures.  “First and foremost, the networking and independent study opportunities available through the MPA-ESP program were key to helping me get my current position,” Anastasia says.  “In addition, the intensive group work that was part of the curriculum has helped me better understand group dynamics and be a successful teammate.”

David Berliner (’11) now works for Inerjys identifying and assessing potential projects and investments as well as fostering partnerships.  Inerjys is in the process of closing a $1 billion renewable energy fund that invests in startup companies with innovative solar, wind and marine technologies, as well as energy storage and smart grid technologies. “My experience at Columbia was instrumental in preparing me for my professional career,” David says. “First, the courses, seminars, conferences and guest lecturers on renewable energy allowed me to become a subject-matter expert. Second, the focus on teamwork and project management in the MPA program now allows me to work effectively with my colleagues in a 'start-up' type of environment. Third, the network I developed at Columbia continues to give me access to leading thinkers and opens doors in my day-to-day work activities.”

About 24 percent of the program’s graduates work in the non-profit sector in research, national or international organizations that include the American Public Power Association, Carbon Disclosure Project, the Earth Institute, Columbia University, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among others.

Prior to joining the MPA-ESP program, Elizabeth LaBarbera (’10) worked in a veterinary office for some time. Elizabeth was recently awarded a Graduate Environmental Policy Fellowship for the Council of Women World Leaders; during the summer of 2010, Elizabeth traveled to Maputo, Mozambique, where she has been working with the Ministry of Coordination of Environmental Action.

Some of our alumni have stayed in the world of academia; 5-6 percent of MPA-ESP graduates are continuing their education, pursuing law and business degrees, other professional degrees, or PhDs in subjects ranging from marine biology to engineering at schools including New York University Law School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Calgary and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Charis Lypiridis (’11), currently a consultant at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) says, “My classmates and now friends for life gave a global perspective to my thinking of environmental challenges, an essential element to anyone who wants to contribute to environmental solutions on local and international levels, in public and private sectors.” 

Today, MPA-ESP alumni reside all over the world, from the U.S. to Australia, Brazil, China, Dubai, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guyana, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and many other countries. 

Places of Employment

Government and Intergovernmental Organizations

US City Level

California State Senate; Chicago Department of Environment; Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning; City of Aspen; City of Cleveland; City of Cupertino; Division of energy and minerals, California; Department of Environmental Health City and County of Denver; Water Pollution Control Division City of Flint, Michigan; Oregon Convention Center/Metro Regional Government; City of Palo Alto; Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality; Sullivan County New York; NYC Council; NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (Office of Energy Conservation; New York City Economic Development Corporation; New York City Housing Authority; Division of Energy Management); NYC Department of Education; NYC Department of Environmental Protection; NYC Economic Development Corporation; NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability; NYC Office of Management and Budget; The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey; City and County of San Francisco Department of the Environment

US Regional/State Level

California Air Resources Board; California Public Utilities Commission; California State Senate; Colorado Governor’s Energy Office; Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management; Port Authority of NY and NJ; NY Power Authority; NYS Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation; Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; Sullivan County Division of Planning and Environmental Management; Tahoe Regional Planning Agency; Woollahra Municipal Council

US National Level

Council on Environmental Quality; Federal Court (Clerk); Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Los Alamos National Laboratory; National Air and Space Administration; National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners; National Marine Fisheries Service; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Science Committee Staff, US House of Representatives; US Army Corps of Engineers (NY District); US Citizen and Immigration Services; US Department of Energy (Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; Biomass Program); US Department of the Interior (Bureau of Land Management; National Park Service; Bureau of Reclamation); US Department of the State (Southeastern US); US Department of Transportation - Volpe Center; US Environmental Protection Agency (Climate Change Division; Energy Star Commercial Buildings; Office of Air and Radiation; Office of Solid Waste; Office of the Inspector General; Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, Toxic Releases Inventory); US EPA Region 2 (Office of Policy and Management, Office of International Affairs); US EPA Region 5 (Air Enforcement and Compliance Assurance); US EPA Region 9; US Forest Service; US House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming


Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council; Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australia; British Consulate (UK Trade and Investment); Caribbean Regional Fisheries; Centre for Economic Renewable Power Delivery (UK); Department of Energy and Climate Change, United Kingdom; Energia Mexico; Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (American Samoa); Galapagos National Park, Gesellschraft fur Technischer Zusammenarbeit (GTZ); Greater London Authority; HSBC (Hong Kong); Ministry of Tourism and Environment (Winhoek, Namibia); National Forestry Commission (Mexico); Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; Secretariat, Convention on Biological Diversity; United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs Directorate of Energy and Climate Change; Food and Agriculture Organization od the United Nations; United nations Children’s Fund, Italy; United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; United Nations Development Programme (Mexico); Senegal Embassy to the United States; United Nations Environmental Programme (Energy Branch; Department of Environmental Policy Implementation; Gender Unit); United Nations Foundation (Energy and Climate); United Nations Headquarters Secretariat (Department of Political Affairs); US State Department, Abidjan

Private Companies

ABS Consulting; Accenture; Ad Energy; AIG Environmental; Abengoa Solar; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Aspen Environmental Group; Bartle Wells Associates; Bayer; Bear Stearns; Biofílica; Bloomberg New Energy Finance; Brightbox, Inc.; Burns & McDonnell; Business Outreach Center Network, Inc.; CMC Energy Services; CP&Y, Inc.; Camco; Cravath, Swaine, and Moore LLP; Booz Allen Hamilton; Cadmus Group; Cameron-Cole LLC; Carrollo Engineers; CHARTIS Insurance; Chestnut Ridge Forestry; Coles; Con Edison; Concord Biomedical Sciences and Emerging Technologies; Deutsche Bank (Climate Change Advisory); DigitalBridge Communications; TDNV Climate Change Services USA; Green Street Energy; Ecosecurities; Electric Power Research Institute; EMF Consulting; Encave Capital, LLC; Energy Points, Inc.; EnFor Consultants LLC; EnerNOC; Environmental Resources Management; Equator LLC; EnerNOC, Inc.; Evolution Markets, Inc.; European Climate Foundation; FS Energy LLC; Garten Rothkopf, LLC; Great Forest, Inc.; EDP Renewables (formerly Horizon Wind Energy); ESRI; HEVO, Inc.; ICF International; IDC Energy Insights; Inerjys, Kearns and West; Inter-American Development Bank; Ironshore Environmental; Corporate Responsibility JP Morgan & Chase; Lazard Frères & Co, LLC; Louis Berger Group, Inc.; Malcolm Pirnie; Marstel-Day LLC; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Mission Electric; Mitsubishi Corporation (Energy and Resources Division); National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NAACP; National Grid (Sustainable Gas Group); New West Technologies; Paul Hastings Janofsky and Walker LLP; Noble Americas Gas and Power; Partnership for New York City; Phillips Van Heusen; Price Waterhouse Coopers (Mexico); Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc.; Recycled Energy Development LLC; Red Oak Consulting; Redhorse Constructors, Inc.; ResHydro LLC; Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland, Peretti LLP; Samsung Engineering Co. ltd; Shorebank Corporation; Sierra Club; Simpa Networks; Southern California Edison; Sullivan Papain Block McGrath and Cannavo; SUNRUN; SunRay Power, LLC; TechLaw; Texas Instruments; TFS Energy LLC; UL Environment; Univision; Willdan Energy Solutions; World Bank (International Finance Corporation); WorkSpaces, LLC.

Non-profit Organizations

Alliance for Climate Protection - Repower America; American Museum of Natural History; American Public Power Association; AVAAZ Foundation; The Branson School; Carbon Disclosure Project; Catholic Relief Services; Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development; Center for Clean Air Policy; Central Park Conservancy; City University of New York, Conservation International; Office of Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management; Columbia University, Office of Environmental Stewardship; Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs; Consortium for Energy Efficiency; Council of Women World Leaders; Democratic National Committee; Dui Hua Foundation; Earth Works Institute, River Source; German Marshall Fund; GOAL; GRACE Communications Foundation; Green Press Initiatives; Green Seal; Governance and Accountability Institute; Hazon; Homes for the Homeless; Human First, Inc.; Instituto Mexicano Autonomo de Mexico; International Consortium of Landslides; Junior Energy; KOTRA (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency); Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory; Marine Fish Conservation Network; National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; The Nature Conservancy; Natural Resources Defense Council; Network for New Energy Choices; PVH Corp.; Partnership for NYC; Pew Center on Global Climate Change; Population Action International; Portland State University, Finance and Administration; Rainforest Alliance; Rockefeller/Gates Foundation; Slow Food USA; Teach for America; The Climate Group; The Earth Institute at Columbia University (MA in Climate and Society; The Island Institute; Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program); The Wilderness Society; Third Way; Tropical Forest Group; World Resources Institute; World Wildlife Fund

Continuing Education

Baruch College; Boston University; Columbia University; Command and General Staff College; Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Hunter College; Kyoto University; London School of Economics; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; New York University Law School; Portland State University; Presidio Graduate School; St. John's University; Stanford University; University of Arizona; University of California; University of Calgary; University of Florida; University of Maine; University of Oregon; Vermont Law School

To access the application for the MPA Environmental Science and Policy program, click here.  For more information, please contact Sarah Tweedie at