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Environmental Science Jobs: Availability, Salaries, & More

In today's world with its growing concerns about climate change and sustainable development, environmental scientists are in great demand. Environmental scientists can have many roles in both public and private sector companies, so there are many types of environmental science jobs available. Environmental science jobs are available in a range of geographical locations and can include fieldwork, office work, or a combination of both.

As awareness and concern about environmental issues increases, the number of environmental science jobs available will continue to grow, making environmental science a rewarding field with considerable growth potential.

What Is an Environmental Scientist?

Laboratory staff

Environmental scientists apply their skills and knowledge to allow for a better understanding of the environment, to identify current and future environmental issues, and to address those environmental issues.  While the specific education and training of environmental scientists vary, environmental scientists share a number of characteristics in addition to their love of the environment. Some of these characteristics are curiosity, the ability to analyze and interpret data, and excellent written and verbal communication skills. There is a broad range of environmental science jobs. Some environmental scientists are employed under that title while others work in more specialized jobs within the environmental science jobs umbrella. Examples of these specialized jobs include those of environmental engineers, environmental biologists, and environmental geologists. There are also other professions that can be combined with environmental science as with positions in the field of environmental law. 

Environmental scientists work in a variety of settings and with people in many different professions. Environmental science jobs can be office-based, field-based, or some combination of the two. Because of the importance of environmental health, environmental scientists may work with professionals of many kinds. It is not uncommon for environmental scientists to work with corporations in a wide variety of industries, with government officials or programs, or with nonprofit agencies.

Education & Certification Needed for Environmental Science Jobs

Because there is no one job description for an environmental scientist, there is no single education and certification path. For most entry-level environmental science jobs, a bachelor's degree in environmental science or a closely related field is required. Computer skills relating to geography such as digital mapping, remote sensing, and geographic information systems are in high demand. Additionally, computer skills like data manipulation and computer modeling are quite valuable for an environmental scientist. 

checking the microscope

Some environmental sciences jobs require more comprehensive or more specific education and certification. Because of the vast scope of the potential jobs available to environmental scientists, getting a double major, with the second major in an area of study that closely relates to the kind of work you'd like to do as an environmental scientist, can greatly increase your chances of getting the environmental science job you're most interested in. Though some positions do require a master's degree, doctoral degrees in environmental science are generally only required for teaching positions or for select research positions.

In areas where environmental science and another field overlap, training in both fields could be necessary. Environmental law jobs may require that, in addition to completing an environmental studies degree, a potential candidate also be able to practice law. For many environmental scientists who work primarily within corporate environments, additional degrees or certification in finance or business management may prove invaluable.

Environmental Science Job Availability, Salary, and More

There are many different types of environmental science jobs available. Though all of these jobs do share some qualities, there will be variance between different environmental science jobs when it comes to the specific focus, job duties, educational requirements, and salary

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST

checking the microscope

Environmental Scientist Job Description

Environmental scientists could be responsible for many different job duties. One environmental scientist might conduct experiments in waterways to better understand the potential impact of a toxic spill. Another environmental scientist might gather data and create maps to illustrate how different environmental factors, like air pollution or water quality, change over time. A third environmental scientist might study the interaction of people with certain aspects of their environment, like wildlife. These are only a handful of many options.

Environmental Scientist Education

Environmental scientists typically have a bachelor's degree in environmental science or environmental studies.  

Environmental Scientist Salary and Job Outlook

As of 2015, the median wage for environmental scientists was roughly $67,000 annually. The job market for environmental scientists has been projected to increase by about eleven percent between 2014 and 2024.

ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER

filling a container

Environmental Engineer Job Description

Environmental engineers use their knowledge and skills to address environmental issues and concerns. Environmental engineering has many potential applications. Environmental engineers could be involved in the creation and updating of reports, project development, and implementation, the analysis, and interpretation of data, or consulting work.

The job duties of an environmental engineer vary based both on the local environmental concerns and the skills of the environmental engineer. Some possible jobs for environmental engineers include finding innovative ways to reduce waste, assisting in the planning and permitting process for a construction project, or consulting in regard to how air pollution impacts human health and safety. Some environmental engineers work primarily in an office setting while others spend much of their time in the field.

Environmental Engineer Education

Environmental engineers need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering, or in another related engineering field like civil engineering. This field highly values hands-on experience, so internships and cooperative programs that allow work for college credit will help you to be more competitive when applying for environmental science jobs of this nature.

Environmental Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

As of 2012, the median wage for environmental engineers was roughly $81,000 annually. Those with federal government environmental engineering jobs earned roughly $98,000 annually during the same time period. The job market for environmental engineers has been projected to increase by about fifteen percent between 2011 and 2022.

ENVIRONMENTAL BIOLOGIST

plant tissue culture in a glass container

Environmental Biologist Job Description

Environmental biologists work with such aspects of environmental science as ecological conservation, land and water specialization, and landscape analysis and management. This kind of environmental science focuses heavily on associated disciplines of biology and zoology.

Environmental Biologist Education

Environmental scientists might get degrees relating to environmental design, ecology, and conservation. Landscape architects, for example, pursue degrees in environmental design and architecture.

Environmental Biologist Salary and Job Outlook

Environmental biologists can make varying salaries depending on their career path. The median salary for a landscape architect was roughly $63,000 in 2015. In 2012, the median salary for a conservation scientist was roughly $59,000 annually. Demand for environmental biologists is expected to continue to increase.

ENVIRONMENTAL GEOLOGIST

at the table checking rock sample

Environmental Geologist Job Description

Environmental geologists focus on soil and water. In this category of environmental science jobs, the scope of work could include monitoring soil and water quality, as well as developing, implementing, or evaluating plans for the protection or remediation of soil and water resources.

Environmental Geologist Education

In addition to their environmental knowledge, environmental geologists need a strong foundation in earth sciences. A degree that includes such disciplines as geology or hydrology would be ideal for this field.

Environmental Geologist Salary and Job Outlook

The median salary for hydrologists in 2012 was roughly $57,000 annually. The median salary for geoscientists in the same period was roughly $90,000 annually. As with other areas of environmental science jobs, the demand for environmental geologists is predicted to increase.

Conclusion

In a world struggling to understand and address the effect of environmental issues, environmental scientists are and will continue to be in demand. Because of the broad range of focus, there are many potential environmental science jobs available. With opportunities to work in the field, in a lab, or in an office, there are environmental science jobs available for people desiring many types of work environments.

checking lava samples

Environmental scientists are needed to gather and analyze data so that our current environmental condition is better known so that we can see how the environmental condition has changed over time, and so that we might predict how the environment will change in the future. Environmental scientists are also needed to develop, implement, and analyze programs for environmental conservation and remediation. In addition, environmental scientists serve as valuable consultants regarding both government policy and human health and safety.

When preparing for a career in the environmental sciences, consider a specialized degree, like environmental engineering, or a dual major, for example, a dual major in environmental studies and biology. You can also choose to get a degree in environmental studies while also earning degrees or certifications in another discipline, for example, both earning an environmental science degree and becoming a lawyer.  

Whatever your choice as far as an educational path, take advantage of any opportunities you have to learn additional skills and get hands-on experience. Consider taking courses to increase your computer skills, your technical writing skills, or your communication skills. If you are able to take advantage of internships or programs that allow you to gain college credit for hours worked that experience will give you a valuable edge in the application process.