Environmental Scientist: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Research what it takes to become an environmental scientist. Learn about job duties, career outlook, salary and education requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an Environmental Scientist?

Environmental scientists research and study samples of air, water and earth to find ways of preventing hazardous materials from damaging the environment and hurting people and wildlife. They collect and analyze data for research projects and investigations to help identify and assess these potential environmental threats.

Environmental scientists must prepare and provide reports and findings to governmental organizations, businesses, the public and more. These reports may include a plan of action to help control or fix an environmental issue in a particular area. People in this career often specialize in environmental regulations that protect people's health, or in regulations that focus on peoples' impact on ecosystems. These scientists frequently work for the government or consulting firms. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree for entry-level jobs; master's degree commonly required
Education Field of Study Environmental science, Earth science
Key Skills Collect and analyze environmental samples; monitor environmental conditions; develop ways to remediate harmful environmental conditions; public speaking
Job Growth (2014-2024) 11% for environmental scientists and specialists*
Average Salary (2015) $73,930 for environmental scientists and specialists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are the Job Duties of an Environmental Scientist?

Environmental scientists strive to protect and preserve our water, air and earth by keeping them free of contaminants and pollutants. They determine the sources of pollution and take measures to reduce potentially harmful environmental effects. Scientific findings may be shared with the public through conferences, briefings and public hearings.

Various government bodies have enacted legislation designed to prevent contamination of the environment, and they employ environmental scientists to monitor the hazardous waste disposal practices of some companies and manufacturers. Environmental scientists also work for private organizations and consulting firms, and they ensure they are in compliance with the laws. Entry-level environmental scientists work in the field collecting and examining environmental substances in various locations, while those with experience may work regular hours in offices and laboratories.

What Is the Career Outlook?

In 2015, about 87,250 environmental scientists worked in the United States, with scientific consulting services and state government agencies both employing about 47% of these professionals, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects that employment of environmental scientists will grow by 11% from 2014-2024. Some factors in this projected growth include the need to help businesses comply with clean air and water regulations. Environmental professionals will also be needed to provide strategies in building construction, utilities, transportation and land restoration.

The BLS reports that environmental scientists had an average salary of $73,930 as of May 2015. Those in scientific consulting averaged $77,000 annually, while those working for state agencies averaged $62,130. The highest-paying industries were other pipeline transportation and pipeline transportation of crude oil, both of which paid environmental scientists an average of over $107,000 a year.

What Educational Requirements Should I Fulfill?

A bachelor's degree in environmental science or in one of the earth sciences is the minimum requirement for aspiring environmental scientists. This is sufficient to prepare you for entry-level jobs in the field. However, it's important to note that many employers seek candidates who have acquired the Master of Science in Environmental Science.

A bachelor's degree program curriculum will offer courses on environmental pollution and control, social science, ecology, biology, chemistry, environmental regulations and watershed hydrology. By going on to a master's degree program, you'll also study such topics as management control systems, environmental risk management, database management systems and research ethics.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another related career is conservation scientists and foresters. These professionals only need a bachelor's degree and help manage the quality of natural resources. Chemists and materials scientists also require a bachelor's degree, and use chemistry to help improve manufactured goods. Once could also become a natural sciences manager to help oversee research of other scientists like biologists and chemists. This profession requires only a bachelor's degree, though it's important to note that prior work experience is also essential.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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