Environmental Science Careers

Environmental challenges aren’t going away. As global warming, ocean depopulation, soil contamination, deforestation and other environmental problems grow more acute, there will be a growing need for professionals with a passion for protecting our world—and the knowledge to do it.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 25% increase in jobs in environmental science within the next decade—a much faster growth outlook than the economy as a whole, driven by a growing population and increased demands on natural resources. The biggest employers include private-sector consulting firms as well as the Federal government.

Environmental science is a diverse field—and it includes many careers that leverage scientific skills to the benefit of the earth. Here are just a few careers in environmental science that are stable, challenging and rewarding. Most of these careers require at least a Master’s degree in environmental science, hydrology, or a related scientific subject—in many research positions, a Ph.D is often expected.

Hydrologists

As ocean levels rise, coastal areas become more populated and greater demands are exacted on our water resources, hydrologists are expected to become more and more in demand. These professionals study the water cycle—precipitation and its infiltration into soil, and its eventual movement to the ocean and back to the atmosphere. They assess flow rates and water quality, and often serve as consultants to construction firms building in water-saturated areas and to companies and nonprofits looking to reduce or repair water pollution damage or assess the effects of certain pollutants on water quality.

Soil Scientist

These scientists monitor the composition of soils, usually as it relates to the growth of plants or the levels of toxicity in the soil. They work to assure environmental quality, promote effective land use, and consult with farmers and landowners on how to manage and fertilize land to prevent soil exhaustion and erosion. They sometimes work with construction firms to consult about soil problems affecting build projects and their possible solutions.

Environmental research scientist

These professionals perform research for the Federal government, private consulting firms and industries to identify and eliminate environmental hazards. They analyze air, water, soil, and crops to pinpoint problems and pollution sources. The job of an environmental scientist may include designing landfills, devising land reclamation strategies, and protecting water supplies. They also assess the risks of construction projects and other man-made projects that have an environmental impact.

Environmental engineer

Environmental engineers use biology and chemistry to design solutions to environmental issues. You’ll find environmental engineers working to control water and air pollution, design recycling and waste disposal centers, and working to alleviate public health risks. They also design municipal water treatment and supply systems and research possible impact of construction projects. They may also be found working for commercial companies on pollution reduction initiatives and the design of green products.

Ecologist

Ecologists are mainly concerned with the relationships between organisms and their environment. They study flora and fauna and determine how they interact with each other and with their surroundings. An ecologist may consult on wildlife population management, the effects of construction and other man-made projects on local wildlife populations, and the impact of pollutions, temperature changes, rainfall, and altitude on regional wildlife populations.

Conservation scientists

Most conservation scientists work for the Federal Government to maintain natural resources, although some work for private consulting firms. This career requires at least a Bachelor’s degree in environmental science, forestry, land management or other relevant subjects. They may focus on a specialty such as range management or soil conservation. Conservation scientists consult with farmers, ranchers and landowners on how to prevent erosion and get the most from their crops. Some also advise on recreational land use in parks and other protected areas.

A career in environmental science is stable and rewarding. As an environmental scientist, you’ll be able to make a positive difference to curb pollution, promote ecologically sound waste management and pollution control policies, and advise small and large businesses on how to get the most from their land, develop environmentally friendly products, and lessen the impact of construction and other manmade projects on local wildlife and the wider environment. Other people talk about doing something to help the environment—as an environmental scientist, you’ll be able to make a concrete contribution.