Careers in Environmental Science are
so varied it is difficult to consider them as one category. You could end up
working from home most of the time or traveling around the world on an annual
basis. You could be doing desk work, field work, or some combination thereof.
Your focus could be mathematical, physical, or written. Of course the majority
careers in Environmental Science are some blend in-between.
Those engaged in Environmental Policy,
Planning, and Management usually work for a local government and are likely to
be engaged in a lot of research intensive work. Environmental Lawyers may be
able to get out of the office to the courtroom, or, again, have intensive desk
Wildlife Managers, Zoologists, and Horticulturists
are often thought to have positions which keep them working in a mix of indoors
and out, but generally in one location. Oceanographers and Meteorologists could
spend their entire careers in the safety of a laboratory working upper level
computer models, or much of their time at sea, studying the weather. Microbiologists,
Soil and Plant Scientists, and Ecologists could work in remediation efforts,
for sanitation companies, in manufacturing, at a university, for many private
companies, law firms, not-for-profit groups, or government agencies such as the
Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service, or the United
States Geological Survey.
Knowing what is available to you
professionally is half the battle when choosing a career. Finding something you
enjoy doing within the broad scope of Environmental Science shouldn't be
terribly difficult when there are so many options. Environmental Consultants
may have the best of many worlds, setting their own schedules, seeking clients
that need their particular form of expertise, and setting their own blend of ideal
field work and intellectual work schedule. Find what you enjoy doing, and it
shouldn't be “work”, but a career.
Environmental scientists are problem
solvers. They research environmental and health problems to determine their
causes and come up with solutions. They investigate issues like mysterious
deformations in frogs, unexplained cancer occurrences in a neighborhood, or
disease in the former asbestos mining town of Libby, Montana.
Environmental scientists conduct
research to identify the causes of these types of problems, and how to minimize
or eliminate them. They also conduct theoretical research that increases our
understanding of how the natural world works. They use what they learn to make
recommendations and develop strategies for managing environmental problems.
Environmental science is a holistic
and multidisciplinary field that integrates the biological, physical, and earth
sciences. Its goal is to understand how earth works and how it supports life.
It also aims to identify, control, and prevent disruption to its systems and
species caused by human activity.
Environmental scientists use their
knowledge of earth's systems to protect the environment and human health. They
do this by cleaning up contaminated areas, making policy recommendations, or
working with industry to reduce pollution and waste. They may also investigate
the source of an environmental or health problem, and devise strategies to
Does an Environmental Scientist Do?
Environmental scientists conduct
research to identify, control, or eliminate sources of pollutants or hazards
affecting the environment or public health. Their research generally involves
determining data collection methods; collecting and analyzing air, water, and
soil samples; analyzing environmental data gathered by others; and analyzing
for correlations to human activity. They also need to prepare reports and
presentations that explain their findings.
Environmental scientists also develop
plans to prevent, control, or fix environmental problems like air pollution.
They may also advise government officials that make policy, and businesses that
need to follow regulations or improve their practices. Some conduct
environmental inspections of businesses. Many assess the potential effects of
development projects to prevent creating new problems.
Some environmental scientists and
specialists focus on environmental issues, while others focus on issues
relating to human health. Either way, they work on critical issues, solving
some of the most important problems of our day.
Does an Environmental Scientist Work?
Most environmental scientists work for
federal, state, or local governments, where they conduct research, advise on
policy, and verify that businesses are following regulations. As of 2012, most environmental
scientists (22%) worked in state government. Another 21% worked for companies
providing management, scientific, and technical consulting services. These
professionals usually help companies comply with regulations. 14% worked for
local government agencies. 10% provided engineering services, and 7% worked for
the federal government.
Environmental scientists work in
offices and laboratories. While some may gather data and monitor conditions in
the field, this is more likely to be done by technicians. Those who do work in
the field may find it demanding, and work in all kinds of weather. Travel to
client sites or conferences may be required. Most environmental scientists work
full time. They may work long or irregular hours in the field.
Is the Average Environmental Scientist Salary?
he average annual salary for
environmental scientists was $63,570 in May 2012. Those working for the federal
government earned the highest salaries ($95,460). Those working in engineering
services earned $67,770. Environmental scientists providing management,
scientific, and technical consulting services made $64,940. Those working for
local government made $60,280, while those employed in state government made
Science Jobs and Job Description
scientists work in applied fields and interdisciplinary settings analyzing the
effects that humans have on our environment and the plants and animals that
populate it. From agriculture to healthcare to industry, environmental
scientists teach, research, and work in business to help humans understand our
work. While tasks do vary significantly from job to job, the scope of an
environmental scientist job is listed below:
- Develop research methods and
systems that are best fit for the chemicals and environment that are being
- Use observations, samples, and
specimens to collect data
- Review current scientific
literature on an ongoing basis to stay abreast of developments in the
- Record and store observations,
samples and specimens in the lab and in fieldwork
- Develop systems to better
- Present research findings to
internal and external stakeholders through a variety of media channels
- Communicate with senior
scientists and administrators through formal and informal reports
senior environmental scientist or chief researcher may have the following or
similar additional responsibilities, depending on the goals of the project.
These additional tasks tend to be focused on project management and budgetary
- Create project timelines and
- Ensure quality, integrity,
- Track field and lab data
- Manage communications from the
work group to stakeholders, senior administrators and the public
- Supervise field and lab work
and overlapping project segments and workgroups
- Train and supervise
administrative support staff
- Construct grant applications to
be awarded funding
Is the Job Demand for Environmental Scientists?
job outlook for environmental scientists is excellent. Employment is projected
to grow 15% from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the average for all
occupations. Issues like climate change and fracking have spurred more public
interest in the environment. The country's aging infrastructure will also have
to be replaced. These issues will likely fuel job growth.
of the new jobs will be in private consulting firms that help clients manage
environmental concerns and comply with regulations. However, most of the jobs
will still be in government and academia.
What Environmental Science Careers Are Available?
scientists often begin their careers as environmental technicians or research
assistants. These professionals can work their way up to supervisory positions
over time. Eventually, they may be promoted to program management or research
positions. Other environmental scientists and specialists leave the private
sector to teach or conduct research as faculty members in academia. Graduate
study is often required for advancement, as well as academic positions.
Do I Get an Environmental Science Degree?
entry-level jobs require a bachelor's degree in environmental science or
related field such as microbiology, chemistry, physics, geosciences, or
engineering. Students enrolled in environmental science programs study the
sciences broadly, taking courses in biology, chemistry, geology, and physics.
They may take more specialized courses in hydrology and waste management as
well. Social sciences courses in environmental policy, geography, and public
administration are also beneficial for learning about the political and human
aspects of the field. Hands-on experience or coursework in computer modeling,
data analysis, and geographic information systems is highly desirable.
degrees may sometimes be required for advancement. Environmental scientists
aspiring to academic careers will need a doctoral degrees. Those pursuing
advanced degrees may do well to major in a specific natural science such as
chemistry, biology, physics, or geology, rather than a broader environmental
Kind of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Environmental Scientists
The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) is the
premier professional association for geoscientists of all stripes. It hosts a
data hub for information about educational programs and careers. It also
provides professional development, publishes Earth magazine, and makes the
professional literature available through the GeoRef database.
National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) is a
multidisciplinary association for all types of environmental professionals.
NAEP organizes networking opportunities, including an annual conference and
regional meetings and events. It also offers webinars and hosts a career
According to ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE