Environmental Studies and Sciences

Read about the undergraduate and graduate degree programs that can help you prepare for a career in environmental studies and sciences. Find information about career options, earnings and employment outlook for environmental specialists here, and make an informed decision about your career.

Are Environmental Studies and Sciences for Me?

Career Overview

The environmental studies and sciences field is a multifaceted discipline that concentrates on the interactions between humans and natural environments. If you decide to become an environmental scientist, you'll study changes in resource quality, land use, wildlife populations, pollution levels and biodiversity. You might work on solutions to complex environmental problems that rely on an intricate balance of economic, political and social interests. In addition to a genuine concern for environmental and human health, career requirements include knowledge of environmental regulations and policy-making and the computer skills needed to perform data analysis and modeling.

Career Options

If you're interested in a career in environmental science, you may be employed as a conservationist, natural resources manager or policy analyst. You may also be qualified for a position as an environmental manager or an environmental planner for an industrial organization or a government agency, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Department of Defense. You might also pursue a career as a consultant and ensure that private businesses comply with environmental regulations, or work in the construction industry, where you'll conduct risk assessments to determine the impact of new developments. Additional job titles include air pollution analyst, environmental health specialist, EPA inspector and water quality technician.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of environmental scientists was expected to increase 15% nationwide, or faster than average, from 2012-2022. As of May 2013, the median annual wage for environmental scientists and specialists was $65,090, with the top-paid ten percent earning over $112,990, as reported by the BLS (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Environmental Studies and Sciences?

Undergraduate Programs

Completion of a bachelor's degree program in environmental studies or sciences is the minimum level of education required to work in the field; college and university teaching and research positions usually require and advanced degree. These are interdisciplinary courses of study that can provide you with a foundation in biology, chemistry, ecology and physics. You'll also take classes in geology and statistics.

Major coursework may cover topics in environmental analysis, economics and policy, as well as the relationship between the environment and society or the environmental changes occurring around the globe. After you earn your bachelor's degree, you might be qualified for an entry-level job with a government agency, non-profit organization or private enterprise.

Graduate Programs

Graduate programs can lead to a master's degree in environmental studies or a doctorate in environmental science, as well as advanced opportunities in the public or private sector. Some schools also offer online environmental studies certificate or online environmental science degree programs.

Areas of concentration can include environmental advocacy, environmental biology or resource management. Graduate programs may also provide additional instruction in environmental law and policy, environmental health, data analysis and management, as well as the chance to examine current environmental issues.

Certification

To enhance your standing in the field, you may consider a voluntary professional certification in one or more areas of environmental studies and sciences. The National Registry of Environmental Professionals offers several environmental certification exams, such as the Registered Environmental Laboratory Technologist (RELT), the Certified Environmental Scientist (CES) or the Certified Environmental Auditor (CEA). Prerequisites vary according to the credential, but may include a designated level of education and experience (www.nrep.org).

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