Environmental Science

Environmental scientists both study and care for our natural world. Continue reading to learn more about degree programs and career opportunities in environmental science.

Is Environmental Science for Me?

Career Overview

Environmental science professionals identify problems that can harm the environment and its living creatures. As a professional in the field, you might help the local, state and federal government develop policies that lead to the conservation of natural resources. You might also help businesses develop better methods for disposing of waste. Degree programs in environmental studies are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and can teach you how to conserve the natural environment for the benefit of future generations.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 90,000 individuals were employed as environmental scientists or specialists in 2012, while conservationist scientists and foresters held an additional 34,200 positions in the same year. The BLS has projected a faster-than-average increase in jobs nationwide for environmental scientists, environmental science technicians and postsecondary environmental science professors from 2012-2022; conservation scientists and foresters can expect a slower-than-average growth in jobs through 2022.

As of May 2013, environmental scientists and environmental science technicians earned $65,090 and $41,700, respectively. At that same time, the median annual salary for conservation scientists was $61,220, while foresters and environmental science professors earned $57,110 and $78,490, respectively (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Become an Environmental Scientist?

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A bachelor's degree in environmental science may qualify you for an entry-level position as a forester, a conservation scientist or an environmental science technician. At the undergraduate level, you'll study human population growth, climate change, hydrology techniques, soil science and environmental geography. You may also have the opportunity to select a concentration in physical, social or biological science. Completion of a bachelor's degree program can also help you prepare for admission to a graduate degree program in environmental science.

Master's Degree Programs

A master's degree program in environmental science can lead to an academic career in some community colleges or an entry-level position as an environmental scientist or hydrologist, through which you'll study the health and content of groundwater. Areas of concentration might include environmental biology or policy, sustainability or resource management. In general, environmental science courses at this level may cover topics in soil science, wetland management and ecosystems. You might also learn how to manage land resources while studying the structure of forest systems and the effects of the environment on society.

Doctoral Programs

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is required for most university teaching and research positions or if you want to pursue government, management or consulting work. A doctoral program in environmental science can include courses in conservational biology and environmental policy, as well as show you how to influence public perception. It can also train you to analyze the human impact on earth and water ecosystems, assess the quality of the environment and create strategies for rebuilding ecosystems. Conducting original research and writing a dissertation is a major component of a doctoral program.

Required Skills

Environmental scientists must have excellent computer skills and be able to use modern digital mapping and computer modeling technology, according to the BLS. Conservationists should enjoy the outdoors and be able to walk long distances.

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