What Is Environmental Science?

Environmental science seeks to understand and protect our environment. It encompasses many disciplines, like biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and computer science. Read on for an overview of environmental science job options, responsibilities, degree programs, and the career outlook. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Environmental Science Overview

Environmental science is a multidisciplinary field that explores the dynamics between Earth systems, flora, fauna and humans. It involves research on air, water, soil, food, and wildlife to help understand system processes, identify environmental damage or hazards, and develop solutions to environmental concerns. Environmental scientists may work as environmental consultants, horticulturists, ecologists, hydrologists, park rangers, and conservation planners.

Environmental scientists commonly work for private businesses and governmental organizations, as well as public organizations. They often split their time between collecting samples and monitoring conditions in the field, analyzing data in the lab and writing reports in the office.

Important Facts About Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Important Qualities Analytical skills, self-discipline, problem-solving skills, communication skills
Required Education Bachelor's degree in environmental or a related science; master's degree may be required for advancement
Required Certifications Some states require environmental science technicians to have licensing & certification to perform specific types of inspections
Similar Occupations Environmental scientist: atmospheric scientist/meteorologist, forester, epidemiologist. Environmental science technician: environmental engineer, geoscientist, agricultural & food science technician.
Median Salary (2018)* $71,130
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 11%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Environmental Science Education

Environmental science degree programs are available from the associate's through doctoral degree levels. Some associate's degrees in environmental science may be technology-focused and designed to prepare graduates for employment, or they may be transfer degree programs. Associate's degree programs include those in energy management and climate policy, biodiversity, and environmental stewardship.

Several environmental science bachelor's degree programs are available. Coursework may cover environmental policy, environmental justice, sustainability, environmental chemistry, ecology, biogeochemistry, and environmental law, among other topics. Schools may offer specializations in areas such as toxicology, natural resource management, and environmental education.

Students who are interested in pursuing research may earn a master's or PhD degree in environmental science. Practical field work and an internship may be part of the graduation requirements, along with a thesis or dissertation. Graduates may be able to find research positions with major organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation. Popular advanced professional degrees in environmental science include the Master of Public Health and Doctor of Public Health degrees in environmental health sciences.

Employment Information

Education in environmental science can lead to many different careers in research and public policy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for environmental science technicians and environmental scientists is expected to increase due to high demand to resolve environmental concerns and stricter environmental laws and policies.

Job growth is predicted to be 12% for environmental science and protection technicians and 11% for environmental scientists and specialists from 2016-2026. Also listed by the BLS, the 2018 average salary for environmental science and protection technicians was $46,170 and for environmental scientists and specialists, it was $71,130.

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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