Siti Nurbaya obtained her PhD in Environmental Science in 1998 from a joint program between Bogor Agricultural University and Siegen University, Germany.
She began her career as a government officer at Lampung Provincial Government in 1981 and a few years later was appointed as the Deputy Head of Provincial Development Planning Agency. In 1998 she was transfered to Jakarta, assigned as the Director of Planning Bureau in the Ministry of Home Affairs, and in 2001 was promoted as the Secretary General of the Ministry. Her career then continued as Secretary General of the Regional Representative Council of the Republic of Indonesia (Indonesian Senate) for the period 2006-2013. She was also the first Secretary General of the Council. In October 2014, H.E. President Jokowi appointed her to join the Government Cabinet, to serve as the Minister for Environment and Forestry, a consolidated portfolio from the two previously Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Environment, housing more than 16,000 national civil servants. For the second period of the Jokowi presidency, she was again entrusted to serve as the Minister for Environment and Forestry in October 2019. The Ministry also serves as the focal point for climate change, biodiversity and other environmental issues.
Siti Nurbaya has been active in domestic and international fora that make her frequently invited to address a wide spectrum of subjects such as: environmental and natural resources management, decentralization, bureaucracy, politics, democracy, parliament, political economy, women empowerment, geoscience, and geographic information systems.