Top Careers in Environmental Science

Environmental Science - Square [square]Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field that encompasses ideas and information from many scientific disciplines including maths, physics, chemistry, geology, botany, and zoology. As a result, there is a wide range of scientific careers which are connected to environmental science – how closely they align with the discipline will vary depending on employer, project and individual preference. There are also a number of careers in environmental science which require scientific understanding, but could be accessed by people who studied a different degree.

We’ve broken down the top careers in environmental science – ranging from careers working directly in the field, to those that are more distantly related but still relevant and influential. This covers the responsibilities, required skills, average salary and provided additional information to give you a clear idea of what each role entails and which you might be most interested in and best suited for. Statistics and figures for each role have been taken from the US Department of Labor.

Top careers in environmental science:

 

Environmental Scientist

Environmental Scientist

Things to know

Job duties, working conditions and focus are all very varied in this career; depending on your employer, you could be part of a one-person team conducting in depth analysis of a specific body of water, or you could work as part of a large multi-disciplinary team analyzing a wide range of environmental samples.

Typical Responsibilities

  • Informing and supporting businesses, governments and the general public on health risks and environmental hazards
  • Choose the best data collection method for research projects
  • Analyze samples of soil, water, air, food and other materials to collect environmental data
  • Assess threats to the environment through scientific analysis
  • Present technical reports on findings, and explaining research and findings
  • Develop strategies to prevent, limit or fix environmental problems such as land or water pollution

Required Skills

A postgraduate degree in environmental science or a science related field is usually required.

Understanding of a wide range of scientific and data analysis methods, ability to present findings in technical reports and also communicate them in an understandable way.

Average Annual Salary

The average annual salary for an environmental scientist in the US is $68,910.

 

Environmental Lawyer

Environmental Lawyer

Things to know

Environmental law is a broad and complex specialism, which is increasingly in demand. This is an area of law that requires highly technical understanding of environmental issues alongside the key skills required to practice law. This career offers an opportunity to work hard to change attitudes and policy, as an alternative to searching for scientific solutions to environmental problems.

Typical Responsibilities

  • Analyse and interpret data obtained from case law, literature reviews, research and sample findings
  • Convince judges and juries of legal culpability through carefully constructed arguments which are evidenced persuasively
  • Determine if there is sufficient evidence to proceed with prosecution
  • Interpret data through interviews with scientists, often as part of the court – enabling them to give expert opinions, testify and inform

Required Skills

In order to pursue a career in environmental law you will need to qualify as a lawyer and successfully pass the bar examination. Analytical thinking, public speaking skills, careful judgement, and excellent memory and eye for details and strong scientific understanding are necessary to succeed in this career.

Average Annual Salary

The average annual salary for an environmental lawyer in the US is $113,530.

 

Environmental Engineer

Environmental Engineer

Things to know

Environmental engineering is not solely concerned with the construction of eco-friendly buildings or renewable energy facilities. It involves all of the ways buildings and sites can impact on the environment, including tackling contamination or dealing with waste water or developing regulations to prevent mishaps during construction.

Typical Responsibilities

  • Design projects that contribute to environmental protection
  • Inspect government and private factories and facilities to ensure that they comply with environmental standards
  • Advise governments and businesses on managing and cleaning contaminated sites
  • Evaluate the significance of an environmental hazard and advise of treating or containing it
  • Research the environmental impact of construction projects

Required Skills

A degree in engineering will be required – some universities offer environmental engineering degrees, but any engineering degree will help provide the skills you need. Imaginative thought and problem solving are very important, as well as data analysis, communication skills and the ability to understand technical information quickly.

Average Annual Salary

The average annual salary for an environmental engineer in the US is $84,890.

 

Zoologist

Zoologist

Things to know

Zoology is one of the many branches of science that environmental science influences and is influenced by. Although zoology is a very specialized discipline, many zoologist make a detailed study of animal habitats, the impact of human behavior and the way animals interact with the environment, all of which is closely relevant to environmental science.

Zoology also has a strong focus on research, conservation and protection, which makes it attractive to scientists who are passionate about the environment.

Typical Responsibilities

  • Develop and carry out experimental studies with animals
  • Collect specimens and data for scientific analysis
  • Utilizing geographic information systems and modeling software to analyze animal behavior
  • Analyze the impact of human activity on wildlife and habitats
  • Develop conservation plans and recommend courses of action on wildlife conservation and management issues to stakeholders

Required Skills

A degree in a biology related subject is necessary; this can be specifically in zoology or wildlife biology or might be a more general degree with electives in these areas. This will equip you with the knowledge of ecology, anatomy and cellular biology required for the role. Strong IT skills, critical thought, attention to detail and problem solving are also key to the role.

Average Annual Salary

The average annual salary for a Zoologist in the US is $60,520.

 

Conservation Scientist

Conservation Scientist

Things to know

Although conservation scientists and environmental scientists appear very similar, and often have similar education, in fact the roles are very different. Whereas environmental scientists focus on a broader study of air, water and soil; conservation scientists are typically concerned with land use and the effect of consuming land related natural resources such as wood.

Typical Responsibilities

  • Support governments and landowners to decide the most ecological and prudent use of land
  • Help manage parks, forests, natural areas and private land
  • Monitoring forestry and conservation activities to ensure they are complying with government regulations
  • Creating and implementing plans to manage lands and resources
  • Create plans taking into consideration disease prevention, harmful insect invasions and the use of fertilizer

Required Skills

A degree in an environmental science related area or forestry is typically required. These degrees teach practice skills alongside theory to prepare you for the role. Decision making skills, speaking skills, management skills and physical stamina are all important for this role, which is often very hands on.

Average Annual Salary

The average annual salary for a conservation scientist in the US is $61,810.

 

Hydrologist

Hydrologist

Things to know

Hydrologists analyze how water influences the environment and how the environment impacts on the quality and quantity of water. There are different kinds of hydrologists – including groundwater hydrologists, who study the water below the Earth’s surface; and surface water hydrologists, who study above ground water such as streams, lakes and snow packs.

Typical Responsibilities

  • Measure volume, stream flow, pH and pollution levels of bodies of water and water samples
  • Analyze data on how pollution, erosion drought and other problems impact the environment
  • Research ways to minimize the impact of natural and man-made changes to bodies of water, such as sedimentation, erosion and pollution
  • Use computer modelling software to forecast water supplies, floods and the spread of pollution
  • Evaluate whether water related projects such as hydro-electric power plans, irrigation systems and wastewater treatment facilities are feasible

Required Skills

A degree is required for this career; very few universities offer a degree in hydrology however, most earth science or geoscience degrees offer an opportunity to concentrate on hydrology. Understanding of economics, environmental law and government policy may help hydrologists influence policymakers. Analytical, communication and critical thinking skills are also key.

Average Annual Salary

The average annual salary for a hydrologist in the US is $80,480.

 

Teacher

Teacher

Things to know

Teaching is an important aspect of environmental science – ensuring future generations understand the importance of the environment and the impact humans have upon it is vital to ensure that preservation and conservation continue in the future. Typically, the older the pupils the greater the opportunity to specialize in environmental science related topics – secondary teachers are usually expected to teach physics, chemistry or biology whereas university lecturers have greater opportunity to specialize.

Typical Responsibilities

  • Planning and teaching lessons
  • Assessing students to identify weaknesses and strengths
  • Inspiring students to develop their interests and abilities
  • Adapt lessons to any changes in class size, ability or attitude
  • Supervise students outside the classroom – for instance in clubs or trips

Required Skills

A degree will be required, as will an interest in education. Confident public speaking, strong people skills and a lot of patience are also beneficial! Progression will typically involve managing people and taking greater responsibility for student grades. Strong scientific knowledge and the ability to explain complex ideas is also key.

Average Annual Salary

The average annual salary for a teacher in the US is $58,030.

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