Meet Alumna Amanda Phelps | Environmental Biology M.S.'17

Amanda Phelps

"There were several things I liked about Hood College. I particularly enjoyed how the courses were more than just lectures, there were many opportunities to work in groups, explore differing viewpoints and perspectives."

Amanda Phelps

Graduation Year



  • Environmental Biology (M.S.)


  • Biology

Can you give a quick bio? Any general background that you like to share, as well as your educational and career background.

I have worked for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the last 9 years, and currently for the Office of Coast Survey.  The Office of Coast Survey is the nation’s nautical chart maker. In this role I am responsible for budget formulation, Congressional engagement, setting the strategic direction, and running an internship program focused on increasing diversity in the field of Marine Geography.  Prior to working for the Office of Coast Survey, I spent six years working for the National Ocean Service Headquarters Office, where I did much of the same work for the eight programs.    

I graduated from Hood College in 2017 with an M.S. degree in Environmental Biology. I have a B.S. in Marine Science from Coastal Carolina University, where I focused my research on coral reef ecology.

When I am not at work, I enjoy spending time in the Outer Banks with my husband, two little girls, and our dog!

Why did you choose Hood College? How has it helped your career?

I chose Hood College because the schedule allowed me to keep my full-time job and go to school in the evenings.  It took me five years to complete my degree, taking one class at a time.  I would not be where I am in my career without having my Master’s degree.  In the sciences, having an advanced degree is so important. For me, it meant not being excluded from future job opportunities and without a Master’s degree, my salary potential would have been capped.

How did you apply, prepare and get the job at NOAA?

Ever since I was a kid, I had wanted to work for NOAA but breaking into the federal government was not an easy task.  After applying and not hearing back for several positions, I took a contract position.  NOAA uses many government contracts to meet the mission.  In fact, the National Ocean Service has more than 450 contract employees, roughly 40% of the workforce.  I was under three different contracts in two different positions in the nine years I have been working at NOAA.  I just recently became a federal employee.

This was possible in part due to my persistence to apply for positions, as well as building relationships with people who had more experience that I had in applying for jobs. Someone offered to review my resume and offer suggestions, and I received pointers on reviewing the USAJobs announcements.  Navigating the federal hiring process is not easy, but USAJobs does have some free pieces of training available that I would recommend to job seekers.  Also, it is good to know that federal hiring takes a LOT longer than private sector jobs.  In my case, it took 5 months from when I applied to when I was hired.

How is your experience working at NOAA, and what advice would you like to give current Environmental Biology students?

I love the work I do and the organization I show up for every day.  NOAA is a prime science agency, making new discoveries daily, testing new technologies, and saving lives.  I am proud to support the NOAA mission.  Maybe my job isn’t the most glamorous in my field of study, but I DO support the mission and know that without my contribution, the stories wouldn’t get told and the mission couldn’t be done as seamlessly as it is now.

Advice – Get experience; take internships, work for free, and be willing to learn skills that you might not think you need. Have someone look at your resume and give you feedback.

What did you enjoy about Hood College? Do you have a favorite memory?

There were several things I liked about Hood College. I particularly enjoyed how the courses were more than just lectures as there were many opportunities to work in groups, explore differing viewpoints and perspectives. I now appreciate that each required Environmental Biology course included an oral presentation. Public speaking is not a strength of mine, but through the experience I had at Hood College, I had to practice and improve those skills.

Any other information/fun facts you would like to add?

To learn more about jobs and internships at the Office of Coast Survey or NOAA visit:
Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship

Inspired by Amanda's story to #GOFURTHER in your education? Learn about Hood College's Environmental Biology program, and other graduate programs, by clicking here.