What Is an Environmental Protection Specialist?

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

What Is an Environmental Protection Specialist?

Environmental protection specialists conduct studies to evaluate environmental health. They may run tests in the field or in the lab and prepare reports and presentations for policymakers, industry leaders and/or the general public based on their findings. In these reports, they may include strategies on how to combat particular environmental problems. Many of these professionals specialize in a particular area of the field, such as climate change or chemical pollution.

Check out the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Entry-level: bachelor's degree; high-level: master's degree; research/professorship: PhD
Education Field of Study Environmental studies, Earth science
Key Skills Data collection & analysis; evaluation of environmental practices; collaboration with others
Job Growth (2014-2024) 11%*
Average Salary (2015) $73,930*

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

What Job Duties Will I Have as an Environmental Protection Specialist?

As an environmental protection specialist, you'll focus on air and water quality, hazardous waste management and different types of pollutants. To work in this field, you need to be familiar with the relevant laws and regulations regarding the environment to make decisions and take appropriate action. Your work includes administrative responsibilities such as attending meetings, analyzing data, evaluating current practices and developing training. Other activities include laboratory work to test water and soil and take measurements.

What Education Do I Need?

In order to start your career as an environmental protection specialist, you need at least a bachelor's degree in environmental studies, earth sciences or a related field. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that master's degrees are preferred for higher-level roles, and a PhD may be needed if you intend on teaching or researching for a college or university (www.bls.gov). Many colleges and universities have both undergraduate and graduate level programs available. You can expect to take classes on the following topics:

  • Sustainability
  • Natural disasters
  • Air quality
  • Water hydrology
  • Ecological and environmental toxicology

What Employment Opportunities Exist?

As an environmental protection specialist, you have several career options. According to the BLS, about 43% of environmental scientists and specialists are employed by federal, state and local governments, but several consulting opportunities exist in the business world and other industries as well. Additionally, the BLS predicted job growth to be faster than average at about 11% between 2014 and 2024.

How Much Could I Expect to Earn?

Compensation for environmental protection specialists varies greatly depending upon level of education and industry. According to the BLS, the average annual salary for environmental scientists and specialists was $73,930 in May 2015. The highest-paying industries included pipeline transportation, company management and synthetics manufacturing, all of which averaged more than $100,400 annually.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want to pursue a career related to environmental conservation, you could consider a job as a forester. Foresters oversee activities related to forest protection, such as vegetation regeneration projects and fire prevention efforts. To get a job as a forester, you need to have a bachelor's degree. Another option is to become an environmental engineer. These professionals apply the results of environmental protection specialists and conservation scientists to develop solutions to environmental problems. The entry-level education needed for an engineering job is 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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