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What is Environmental Science? Environmental Science Careers

February 16, 2021 | Staff Writers

What is Environmental Science
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Environmental science jobs vary, and it’s not easy to categorize them into a single group. An environmental scientist can work from home or spend most time traveling as part of the job. It can also be a combination of fieldwork and desk work. Besides, the work can be written, mathematical or physical, but most of the environmental science jobs involve one or more of these tasks. Where you work is largely determined by what you specialize in. 

Environmental scientist graduates are equipped with knowledge that helps them understand environmental issues. The discipline explores biology, geology, and ecology and examines the impact of humans on the environment. Most jobs in the environmental science field are for researchers and scientists. But it is possible to pursue a career in law, government, and education with a bachelor’s degree in the field. For example, Environmental Policy Planning and Management graduates are employed by governments, and their job positions involve intensive research. Environmental Lawyers go to the courtrooms but spend most of their time doing desk jobs. 

An environmental scientist’s primary work is to research and know the causes of pollution and then develop a solution to control or eliminate the pollutants. It is also their work to get rid of any hazards that can affect public health and the environment as a whole. Their research involves deciding methods of collecting data and collecting water, air, and soil samples for analysis. Besides, these scientists can also analyze any environmental data collected by other people to help fix environmental problems.

As an environmental engineer, you may advise the government regarding policies to be followed to improve practices leading to pollution. In some jobs, environmental science graduates inspect businesses and assess projects before they are developed to prevent any problems affecting their surroundings. 

Educational Requirements for Environmental Science Jobs

Environmental science jobs require applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. But degrees in environmental science-related fields such as physics, chemistry, biology, geosciences, and engineering are also accepted. For senior positions, a master’s degree in environmental science may be required. Doctorate degrees in this field are few, and this education level is mostly required for college teaching and some research positions. 

An environmental scientist with a bachelor’s degree understands natural sciences extensively. They take courses based on subjects such as chemistry, physics, geology, and biology in college. They also specialize in waste management or hydrology. Ph.D. level students who want to have an easy time in the environmental science jobs market should major in natural science like chemistry, geology, physics, and biology instead of studying a broad environmental science degree. 

Before you qualify to become an environmental engineer, you have to complete a degree program that includes an internship to help you gain some experience. You may also participate or volunteer in internships after graduating to learn things firsthand and develop the industry’s skills. 

Some of the best internships you can attend include working with Geographic Information Systems, data analysis, and computer modeling. These programs prepare you for the job market on how to deal with environmental problems effectively.  Choose where to do your internship according to your specialization to get the real taste of working in your field.

Topics Covered in Environmental Science Degree

An environmental science degree gives you broad knowledge regarding environmental issues and the challenges experienced locally, nationally, and globally. Students pursuing this course learn how humans impact the environment and how to solve it. With the environment changing drastically, environmental engineering courses cover some great topics to ensure the environment is healthy for everyone regardless of their location. 

Conservation scientists research climate changes, which include global warming caused by humans. People engage in activities that led to greenhouse gas emissions and resulted in big changes in weather patterns. Environmental scientists cover topics regarding climatic changes and research on possible solutions. 

Fire ecology is a fiery topic in environmental engineering courses because fires have caused immense damage to the environment for decades. It is hard for fire ecologists to understand why the fires keep recurring. They naturally burn, burn for days, and are likely to burn in the future. Apart from finding a solution to the fires, environmental science experts are looking for ways how people can co-exist harmoniously with the fire. 

Modern society uses fossil fuels, and this is what has led to global warming. But having the renewable energy topic covered by green degree holders has resulted in renewable energy technology such as hydro, wind, and solar energy. 

Urban ecology covers the impact of urban area lifestyles and how they affect the environment. For example, a town may look clean and immaculate, but commercial adverts are like bottled water. This encourages people to use this water in the city without considering where the bottle will end up. Conservation scientists learn how to maintain drinkable water, fertile land for farming, and breathable air. 

Another big topic in environmental degree programs is the Geographic Information System. This tool is integrated with a database on the backend and is used for map analysis and queries. The maps and database are represented by statistical data such as economic development, weather data, population, characteristics, road navigation, and much more. Environmental scientists use tools such as drones and satellites to explore the world without going there physically. GIS programs help them analyze the data. The information gathered helps in different ways, such as city planning. 

Due to rapid industrialization, contamination and pollution have increased. The environment has suffered due to too much economic activity. An environmental consultant studies bioremediation to get equipped with knowledge on how to engineer microbes and take care of big messes brought by humans. This is a topic that an environmental chemist must cover.

Most people might think noise pollution is harmless. But this is a topic covered by students pursuing a degree in environmental science. According to scientists, noisy environments can affect organisms living close. For example, wildlife living near an airport is affected, and scientists are still trying to understand how and ways to solve the noise pollution issue. 

Environmental scientists who specialize in ocean studies must cover the limnology topic. They study and research freshwater and play a big role in mitigating human impact on water ecosystems. For example, people dump things in the ocean because it’s too big to feel the impact, but the pollution has become too much in the long run. 

Every year, more than 2,000 species become extinct. Humans cause this because they pollute the ecosystems, which is a battle that a conservation scientist fights relentlessly and prevent existing species’ endangerment. 

The law applies in all areas, and the environmental engineering field is not left out. An environmental lawyer fights for marginalized populations to ensure they have a healthy environment. Some people cannot access clean water, air, green spaces, or good soil. According to environmental law, people cannot live their lives to the fullest without these essentials. 

Fieldwork or Internships an Environmental Science Career

An internship or fieldwork is a chance given to students to get into a work environment despite having no experience. You get an opportunity to work hands-on in a professional setting. Internship situations vary and may last a day, week, or become a full-time job. Also, some are paid and others are volunteering positions. 

Students studying environmental science must do internships. Most colleges help students find opportunities, and it should be the area you intend to enter for your career. Working in the field gives you a taste of your job environment. The best time to do this would be during winter or summer break. An internship should not interfere with your environmental engineering program semester. 

Environmental education is extensive, but an internship can help you understand it better. Fieldwork is part of your college curricula for good reasons. It leaves last memories and anything you learn during this time remains in your mind forever. It is a valuable aspect for all students looking forward to flourishing in an environmental science career. During an internship, you do real work in your field, and if fortunate enough, you may end up getting a position by the end of the internship. 

The benefits of an internship include getting your foot in the field. Environmental science is not different from other professions and meeting experienced people in the industry will help your career grow. The best way to do this is by doing an internship; whether paid or not, the benefits are huge. 

Besides, you get to know more about environmental engineering and determine if it was a good choice. This experience is helpful, especially during the junior years in college, because you can decide what to specialize in. For example, if you choose oceanography and feel working in the water is not your call, you can change into maritime law, where you work mostly on a desk. 

Crucial Benefits of Environmental Science Careers

Environmental science is a degree that combines knowledge and skills from various fields to explore subjects including geography, physics, and chemistry. It also covers earth science, social science, and marine sciences. It is an exciting course that takes students into various societies, habitats, climates, and land formations. Since a student cannot become an expert in everything, environmental education allows you to specialize in the field. 

Climate change is one of the biggest debates in the world. If you specialize in climate change and energy, you become an expert in climate change causes and identify existing evidence. This specialization is expected to help a student understand the future projections regarding this subject and possible solutions.

Soil ecology is another specialization that students pursuing environmental engineering can choose. It concentrates on processes that affect the soil and natural environment. It is an essential specialization and useful in the agricultural industry. 

Freshwater environments are an essential part of the environment, making aquatic biology essential for lakes, rivers, wetlands, and ponds. It is combined with marine biology that focuses on saltwater bodies such as brackish water bodies and oceans.

In environmental and biological conservation, you study a variety of organisms and how they live. An environmental scientist who graduates with this specialization is responsible for preventing the extinction of various animals. 

Water resource management covers challenges that communities face worldwide due to a balanced supply of water. Students learn about different approaches to meeting the supply and demand for water while assessing economic, legal, and environmental factors. 

15 Well-Paying Environmental Science Careers 

An environmental science degree is quite marketable and can help you find work in one of the following positions. All you need is to focus on your area of specialty, and you will fit in your workplace perfectly. But some may require you to have additional education, certification, or training in addition to your sustainability programs offered via environmental studies. 

Environment Specialist

An environmental specialist’s main work is to monitor the environmental impact on a particular group of people and propose possible solutions to the issues. These professionals work in power and chemical plans. They also carry tests on air, water, food, or air samples and implement programs to minimize or prevent problems affecting the environment. 

Environmental Technician 

The duties of an environmental technician are to assess and identify different contaminants within a given environment. You can work in a laboratory or the field but alongside an environmental science engineer. Common duties are collecting samples, taking care of equipment, and supervising waste management. 

Environmental Science Lecturer or Teacher

Environmental science lectures teach in colleges, and you require a master’s degree to become a lecturer. However, you can teach environmental science in high school with a degree in this course. Common areas covered by high school teachers include geology, ecology, biology, and chemistry.

Marine Biologist

A marine biologist researches life in the ocean environment. A scientist working as a marine biologist can also take a job that involves saltwater. This professional’s main work is to collect data, study marine life and animals, and carry out experiments. 

Environmental Chemist

Working as an environmental chemist means collecting and testing soil, water, and air samples to check their quality. They also determine their effect on the environment and then write and share reports containing findings. Their goal is to identify environmental threats and prevent them from affecting plants, people, and animals. 

Wild Biologist

As the name suggests, wild biologists study animals and their natural habitat. They carry out tests to determine the effect of the habitat on animals. These environmental science experts also study animals, categorize them, and classify any new species.

Microbiologist

A microbiologist spends most time in the laboratory studying microorganisms to know how they live and survive in a given environment. They also study bacteria, fungi, viruses, and many other microorganisms to know their effect on the environment. 

Environment Consultant

Most companies produce excess green gases, and owners do not know how to reduce it. An environmental consultant works with such companies and offers them environmental education to help reduce their carbon footprint. 

Environmental Scientist

These are environmental science degree holders who identify and get rid of pollutants affecting the environment. They aim to ensure both humans and the environment are not harmed in any way.

Environmental Geologist

The work of an environmental geologist is to gather geological component-related data and analyze it. This includes studying groundwater, minerals, and soil. 

Geographer

Geographers work by analyzing different aspects of the earth and its phenomena. These professionals use geographic information systems or GIS and global position systems or GPS to gather and display geographic information to help others. 

Ecologist

Ecologist studies and access ecosystems to know how humans impact them; these jobs are mostly found in museums, zoos, or aquariums. 

Environmental Manager

An environmental ensures an organization complies with environmental laws to lower a company’s carbon print. This environmental health professional analyses pollution, water, and waste, and air quality within an organization. 

Environmental Lawyer

Environmental lawyers are legal experts, and they specialize in environmental legal aspects concerning water, air, and land. They can lobby to have new environmental laws enacted to protect biodiversity, agriculture, and ecosystems. They can also go to courtrooms to represent clients’ matters related to climate change, land management, and water laws. 

Environmental Biologists

Environmental biologists’ work is to assess the environmental conditions and identify the impact of different factors. They also collect samples, study them, and then develop plans to protect different forms of life. 

Environmental scientists are in high demand because almost every industry is looking for environmentally friendly practices. There is a projection that these experts’ employment will increase faster than any other average occupation in the next few years. One of the things that spurred interest in the public is climate change. Environmental scientists are currently setting up consulting firms to help clients understand and manage environmental issues while complying with environmental laws. 

Environmental science is a generalized and extensive field. It offers graduates a plethora of job opportunities. Most environmental careers involve many field activities, but there are some that you do from the office. 

Teaching environmental studies is done in classes. As a teacher, your work is to plan and teach lessons. You also assess students, and the only time you go out is during trips or clubs with students.

Organizations need help to reduce negative impacts when developing various projects on the ground. Environmental science graduates can set up an environmental consulting firm. Your work is to check how projects will affect the soil, wildlife, air, or water within the area and other environmental threats. You also suggest solutions or how to stop potential effects. 

An environmental lawyer also works from the office. You must have a technical understanding of environmental issues to practice law. The environmental science lawyer’s main work is to analyze data and interpret it based on information obtained from sample findings, case law, and research. You also have to represent clients in courtrooms on matters regarding the environment. 

A public relations specialist comes in handy when environmental organizations require financial and political support for various initiatives. When you work as a public relations specialist, you apply knowledge gained in the environmental science program to write press releases. You must also have excellent writing skills to develop content in the form of letters and brochures to fundraise. 

Average Salary of An Environmental Scientist

The salaries of environmental scientists vary like in forensic science. The highest-paid environmental scientist in 2020 earned $219,200. This is according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bur generally, the top-earning scientists are leaders in different organizations. But some make a lot of money as an environmental consultant, author of articles or books, or appearing in conferences and meetings as speakers. 

The average salary of an environmental engineer, scientist, or specialist was $71,360 by May 2019. Half of the scientists made more than this, while the other half made less than the median annual wage. The highest 10% made over$124,760, and the lowest 10% made below $42 810. 

However, some environmental scientists make millions, but not at the entry-level. They take time to gain trust and gather some experience. This trained scientific personnel can make up to between $100,000 and $500,000 annually once they get senior roles in the field. It can take up to ten years after graduating to attain such positions. 

How Salary Increases by Experience 

The environmental science field is an area that allows consistent growth. The average salary you can earn should not put you off. This course has trendy programs whose demand never dwindles. As you gain experience, your salary increases because you have great skills and know what is required in the field. Whether you are still in school or working, you should boost your experience in the environmental industry. 

If you are still studying, go for an internship to get some experience in the field before you graduate. While you may not earn any from the internships, they give you experience that increases your chances of making good money when you finally enter into the field as an employee. 

Connect with professionals who are already in the industry. They will help you find work and start gaining experience as soon as you graduate. But, above all, make sure you advance your education as much as you can. You can get some work experience before going for a second degree or just let the career wait a little longer. Either way, advanced education combined with experience will increase your salary within a short time. 

A salary doesn’t have to come from an employee. You can start your business since environmental consultants are in demand. It will help you gain experience, and with time, your salary will balloon. But they are fields where you will do better when employed such as marine biology specialty. 

An environmental scientist or a specialist will earn more after gaining experience, but the new senior positions come with increased responsibilities. Some of the new responsibilities may include supervising other scientists or work done by technicians in various projects. 

Estimated Salary for Environmental Scientists 

It takes around four years to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. But some colleges take as short as three years and others as long as five or six years to complete their program. This degree program can be done online and is likely to save you money. It also has the potential to earn you money and worth pursuing. 

It is hard to foretell exactly how much you will make once you earn a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. Several factors determine how much money you can earn. They include what you major and the job you get after school. But, on average, a bachelor’s degree can give you an estimated salary of $52,200 annually, which is more than what a graduate with an associate degree can make annually ($38,200). 

If you are looking forward to studying for a Bachelor of Science degree program but unsure what to go for, here is a list of fields that lead to well-paying jobs.

  • Petroleum engineering-$86,220
  • Mining and mineral engineering-$65,552
  • Chemical engineering-$65,142
  • Computer engineering-$60,879
  • Computer science-$61,205
  • Mechanical engineering $58,392
  • manufacturing or industrial engineering-57,734

In Summary 

Environmental engineers must have at least an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in science. Their work nature differs depending on what you choose to specialize in. Some spend most of their time with fieldwork, while others work from the office. Environmental engineers are trained to work in various settings. Some of these worksites are dangerous. 

For example, waste technicians need environmental scientists at particular sites to help them with the processes. These professionals also oversee the processes of different projects, including constructions. They are also expected to test soil, water, air, and other required things to ensure that a project will not affect the environment or minimize the effects.

To become a conservation engineer, you must have a distinct personality and be an investigative individual. This means you must be introspective, intellectual, and inquisitive. It drives you to pursue a course related to environmental conservation and work in the field with passion.

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