What do environmental scientists do?
- Analyze and report measurements or observations of air, food, water, soil, and other resources and make recommendations on how best to clean and preserve the environment
- Study the relationships between organisms and their environments and the effects of influences such as population size, pollutants, rainfall, temperature, and altitude
- Work with philanthropic organizations such as ADRA (Adventist Development & Relief Agency International), enabling communities to manage water systems, mitigate conflict, and improve hygiene and sanitation in their immediate environments
- Advise and help businesses and government agencies comply with environmental policy, particularly with regard to ground-water decontamination and flood control
- Identify how human behavior can be modified in the future to avoid such problems as ground-water contamination, depletion of the ozone layer, and non-sustainable overuse of natural resources
- Examine the interaction of various forms of energy, such as light, radar, sound, heat, and wind, and investigate relationships among the sea, weather, and climate
Employment and Pay
There is an increased public awareness of the problems facing the environment today, which has increased the demand for environmental scientists in the work force. Environmental scientists are projected to be in high demand, higher than any other career, growing from about 90,000 jobs from 2012 to 103,200 jobs in 2020 (15% increase). The greatest demand will be generated by individuals and companies hiring private environmental consultants to monitor and manage environmental issues and help them comply with regulations. However, the bulk of jobs is likely to be held by government agencies, universities, hospitals, and national research groups.
Students desiring to work immediately after graduation generally find employment as:
- Environmental advisors/consultants for state or federal government agencies, or for local public or private businesses
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialists
- K-12 educators
- Research assistants at a university, institute, or other scientific agencies
- Educators at museums or other outreach settings
- Wildlife managers
- Consumer safety inspectors
- Natural resource specialists
- Outdoor trip leaders
- and many more
Compensation varies depending on years of experience, specialization, and employment type. In 2012, the median wage (wage where half earned more and half earned less) for environmental scientists was $63,570/year. In comparison, employees in the life, physical, and social science occupations earned a median wage of $60,100/year, and employees in all other occupations earned $34,750 as a median wage. The highest paid environmental scientists (top 10 percent) earned more than $109,970/year, and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,570.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Environmental Scientists and Specialists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-s… (visited April 09, 2015).
Students planning to further their education are prepared to enter most graduate programs in environmental sciences, biology, geology, conservation, geographic information systems, microbiology, chemistry, etc. In addition, many students use their environmental sciences degree as a stepping stone into medical, dental, or other professional schools. Becoming an environmental-savvy professional who understands the influence of environmental conditions on human health, can enhance their service to humanity wherever they practice. Some additional courses, required by professional programs, will need to be taken in addition to requirements of this environmental science program. Students are encouraged to declare their goals with advisors early in their college experience to make sure all necessary graduate and pre-professional requirements are met upon graduation.