How to Become an Environmentalist in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for an environmentalist. Get the facts about education needed, experience, and job opportunities to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Natural Resources & Conservation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Environmentalist?

As an environmentalist, you'd help others make better choices concerning the environment, prepare reports of environmentally hazardous accidents, and provide scientific proof for new laws and regulations. When conducting scientific research you will need to be knowledgeable of previous research on the topic you may be studying. This involves spending time keeping up with scientific journals. Prior to data collection, you must choose the technique you'll use to collect it. You may analyze samples of soil, air, water, food and other materials from the environment. Your findings may then be published and used to help protect the environment. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree for entry-level work; master's degree for more advanced positions
Training Required Volunteer opportunities and internships
Education Field of Study Environmental science; economics; political science
Key Responsibilities Marketing, lobbying and raising funds for promoting environmental causes; conducting research
Job Growth (2014-2024) 11% (for environmental scientists)*
Median Salary (2015) $67,460 (for environmental scientists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does an Environmentalist Do?

An environmentalist, or environmental scientist, helps companies and the public make educated choices regarding the environment. You may spend your day campaigning, raising funds, lobbying, composing press releases, lecturing, writing articles or reports, and researching. There are many different types of environmentalists, such as researchers, lobbyists, office workers, scientists, computer analysts, conservationists, engineers, inspectors and lab workers.

Step 1: Prepare in High School

While in high school, consider taking courses in biology, chemistry and ecology. In addition, you should take writing assignments very seriously, since many environmentalists are required to write reports, laws and proposals for funding. Computer skills are also essential. Join an environmental club at your school or a non-profit agency, such as the Sierra Club, Humane Society or the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Step 2: Go to College

You must understand the issues surrounding environmentalism, such as replenishing, recycling, conservation and degradation. Degree programs are available in environmental science, economics, political science or psychology.

A background in the sciences will be helpful, regardless of your area of specialty. You can consider a degree in environmental science, which trains you in laboratory procedures, scientific reporting, charting and taking samples. You'll likely take courses in a number of natural sciences such as atmospheric science, physics, geology, chemistry and earth science.

Step 3: Consider an Advanced Degree

After completing undergraduate studies, you may go on to earn a master's degree in public policy, environmental planning, environmental studies or environmentalism. Depending on your career goal, you'll want to pair your graduate degree program with your bachelor's degree for a well-rounded education. For example, to become a lobbyist, a degree in political science teaches you how to advocate for certain issues.

Step 4: Gain Experience

In the field of environmentalism, experience is just as important as education. Therefore, try to choose a program, either at the undergraduate or graduate level, that offers an internship. Another option is to volunteer with a non-profit organization. Many times, an intern or volunteer is offered a full-time position, so make the most of any opportunity.

Step 5: Seek Employment

Employment opportunities may be available with a government lab, a private company, or a consulting firm. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an 11% increase in job opportunities for environmental scientists and specialists from 2014-2024. As populations grow and people become more aware of environmental problems, companies and the government may frequently seek the expertise of environmental scientists.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of other types of scientists that study subjects related to our environment and global health. Agricultural and food scientists conduct research in the hopes of finding new, safe and efficient ways to improve agricultural production. This line of work usually requires at least a bachelor's degree. Archaeologists and anthropologists study the cultures and civilizations of past and present. A master's degree is the standard entry-level requirement for this field. Atmospheric scientists and meteorologists study climate patterns, climate change and weather. These professionals typically hold a bachelor's degree.

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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