Environmental Education Specialist, Training and Staff Development Professional

These social scientists specialise in education, specifically in the environmental or biodiversity fields, including sustainable development education and in producing the necessary skills for working in the environmental sector.

They may play a research role and conduct needs analysis for training and development needs for environmental sector imperatives. They study educational processes, how people learn about the environment in different contexts, such as from school children to rural communities or business executives, and how best to support social change in relation to environmental issues.

When they specialise in developing environmental education programmes, they consider the environmental content of a particular field (e.g. marine science, or fynbos, or any endangered species) and work out how best to teach the different groups about this vital field of work. An important role is specialising in building human capital for the environmental sector, in which case they would determine what qualifications and courses are needed, and then put suitable policies and programmes in place.

The job involves:

• identifying the needs of a learner group
• conceptualising training
• implementing training
• evaluating training / learner intervention

A wide interdisciplinary knowledge of environmental issues, risk management and conservation is needed to design programmes for specific issues.

Working conditions are usually pleasant. Most offices are comfortable. Training sites could be indoor or outdoor and classrooms may contain equipment for demonstration purposes.

Personal Requirements

  • awareness of environmental / biological science
  • a love of nature
  • able to speak and write clearly and effectively
  • a passion for working with people
  • good observation skills
  • attention to detail
  • interpretative and analytic skills
  • creativity
  • research needs strong social science skills

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting requirements for degree course

What to Study

Compulsory Higher Education

Degree and Postgraduate: BA / BSc / BSocSc with subjects such as Geography and Environmental Science. Most universities have faculties with a number of options for study in the social sciences, e.g. NWU, Wits, UNISA, which could be followed by a PGCE.

A teaching degree could be followed by an environmental qualification.
Most universities offer educational qualifications related to schooling, but few universities focus on the further education, higher education and adult education bands. UWC and UKZN are among the exceptions.
NWU offers Environmental Education as part of the Education Faculty.
RU has a strong environmental learning centre which specialises in human capital development for the environmental education sector. They offer an M.Ed. and PhD programme in environmental education, as well as short course options.
UNISA offers a Certificate in Environmental Education.
Wits and UP offer postgraduate Environmental Education courses.

Possible Career Paths

Research in the social sciences has its own sets of acceptable methods and it is advisable to develop a sound background in these, before embarking on a social science area of study. Teachers in the Biological Sciences / Social Sciences could move into this field.


Environmental education specialists work in a range of organisations:
• NGOs
• research institutes
• government departments
• conservation agencies such as SANParks
• large companies with strong social corporate Investment programmes
• in some cases as consultants running their own businesses

Often they work in universities where they may teach their subject (such as Environmental Sciences, Geography, Botany etc.) or be involved in the training of new environmental educators, in which case they are environmental education specialists in an educational faculty

Further Information

South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON)
The Woods
Building C, Ground Floor
41 De Havilland Crescent
Persequor Technopark
Pretoria, 0020
Tel: (012) 534-3504

South African National Parks - SANParks
643 Leyds Street
Tel: (012) 428-9111

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
2 Cussonia Ave
Tel: (012) 843-5000

Programmes by Study Institutions

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