What Is the Salary of an Entry-Level Environmental Scientist?

Explore the career requirements for an entry-level environmental scientist. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Environmental Scientist?

Entry-level environmental scientists use their knowledge of science to prevent or solve environmental problems caused by pollution and other factors. They collect water, air, soil and other environmental samples to analyze and check for environmental threats. Based on their test results, they develop ideas and strategies for correcting any environmental issues. Environmental scientists report their findings in technical reports and presentations for the government, public and other scientists. Often their work is used to advise policymakers on current or proposed legislation concerning pollution and other environmental factors. Different specializations are available in the field. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Scientific disciplines like biology, geology, environmental and chemical science
Key Responsibilities Obtain water and soil samples from suspect areas and analyze them in the laboratory for pollutants; write reports; ensure companies are in compliance with regulations
Job Growth (2014-2024) 11% for all environmental scientists and specialists*
Median Salary (2015) $67,460 for all environmental scientists and specialists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does an Environmental Scientist Do?

As an entry-level environmental scientist, you use scientific methods to come up with solutions to environmental problems, such as air pollution, water shortage and waste management. You take samples from the environment and then analyze them to determine how to best preserve a particular area. You might specialize in a specific branch of the field, such as environmental biology, ecology or chemistry.

As an entry-level environmental scientist, you might collect samples and take measurements in outdoor areas, but you also spend a great deal of time in laboratory settings and offices. If you work for a government agency, your job might include devising environmental reports that help to support laws to protect the environment. You might also work for a specific company or corporation to make sure that it follows state or federal laws and all environmental regulations.

What Salary Could I Expect to Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that all environmental scientists earned a median annual salary of about $67,460 as of 2015 (www.bls.gov). More than 87,000 individuals were employed in the profession in that time; 19,940 of them worked for state government agencies, while others worked for independent companies and engineering services.

What Education Can Prepare Me for the Job?

You need to enroll in an undergraduate degree program that provides you with a basic understanding of earth science, such as bachelor's degree programs in environmental science, biology, chemistry or geography. Your studies should also focus strongly on mathematics and statistics. You should be sure to complete laboratory and fieldwork while still in college so that you gain the skills necessary to work as an entry-level environmental scientist.

How Might I Advance in the Field?

If you are interested in advancing to become an environmental scientist or researcher, you may want to consider going back to school to earn a graduate degree. Many private companies prefer to hire environmental scientists who have a master's degree in a specialty field. In lieu of graduate studies, you may be able to work your way up the ladder from the inside of a company. For example, if you work for several years as an entry-level environmental scientist, researcher or technician, you might gain a promotion to become a project leader, manager or lead researcher.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The field of science offers several related careers, including microbiologists, hydrologists, chemists and materials scientists. Microbiologists typically work in a lab setting examining different types of microorganisms to learn about their life cycle and interactions with their environment. Hydrologists focus on water resources and solve issues concerning the availability and quality of water in a given area. Chemists and materials scientists test and create various products by looking at various materials at the atomic and molecular levels. They examine and test how different substances interact with one another. All of these positions require at least a bachelor's degree.

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