Academics :: School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

Environmental Science

Career Opportunities in Integrated Environmental Studies

Environmental Science and Protection Technician

Environmental science and protection technicians perform laboratory and field tests to monitor environmental resources and determine the contaminants and sources of pollution in the environment. They may collect samples for testing or be involved in abating and controlling sources of environmental pollution. Some are responsible for waste management operations, control and management of hazardous materials inventory, or general activities involving regulatory compliance. Many environmental science technicians employed at private consulting firms work directly under the supervision of an environmental scientist.

Education and Training

Most employers prefer applicants who have at least 2 years of specialized postsecondary training or an associate degree in applied science or science-related technology. Some science technicians have a bachelor's degree in the natural sciences.

Employment Opportunities

Employment opportunities for environmental science and protection technicians is expected to grow much faster than average, at a rate of 29 percent; these workers will be needed to help regulate waste products; to collect air, water, and soil samples for measuring levels of pollutants; to monitor compliance with environmental regulations; and to clean up contaminated sites. Most of this growth is expected to be in firms that assist other companies in environmental monitoring, management, and regulatory compliance.

Median hourly wages of science technicians in May 2008 were as follows:

Environmental science and protection technicians, including health $19.34 per hour which translates to approximately $40,000 per year.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has more information about this career.

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental Scientists and Specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment by identifying problems and finding solutions that minimize hazards to the health of the environment and the population. They analyze measurements or observations of air, food, water, and soil to determine the way to clean and preserve the environment. Understanding the issues involved in protecting the environment-degradation, conservation, recycling, and replenishment is central to the work of environmental scientists. They often use this understanding to design and monitor waste disposal sites, preserve water supplies, and reclaim contaminated land and water. They also write risk assessments, describing the likely affect of construction and other environmental changes; write technical proposals; and give presentations to managers and regulators.

Federal, State, and local governments employ 44 percent of all environmental scientists and specialists.

Education and Training

Education and training. A bachelor's degree in environmental science offers an interdisciplinary approach to the natural sciences, with an emphasis on biology, chemistry, and geology, although many companies prefer to hire environmental scientists with a master's degree in environmental science or a related natural science. A doctoral degree generally is necessary only for college teaching and some research positions.

Employment Opportunities

Employment opportunities for environmental scientists are expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects are expected to be favorable, particularly in State and local government. Employment of environmental scientists and specialists is expected to increase by 28 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job growth should be strongest in private-sector consulting firms. Growth in employment will be spurred largely by the increasing demands placed on the environment by population growth and increasing awareness of the problems caused by environmental degradation.

Median annual wages of environmental scientists and specialists were $59,750 in May 2008. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, beginning salary offers in July 2009 for graduates with bachelor's degrees in an environmental science averaged $39,160 a year.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has more information about this career.

Green Jobs

Green jobs are another area of growing employment opportunities. Green jobs include everything from performing energy efficiency audits and installing wind energy facilities to recycling coordinators. These are jobs relating to the buzz word "sustainability!"

Jobs may be in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources or jobs may involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics divides Green jobs into five categories:

  • Energy from renewable sources
  • Energy efficiency
  • Pollution reduction and removal, greenhouse gas reduction, and recycling and reuse
  • Natural resources conservation
  • Environmental compliance, education and training, and public awareness

Business and industry are expected to provide the majority of opportunities in these growing fields.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has more information about Green Jobs under the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Green Jobs Definition. You can enter any of these jobs titles into the search box for the BLS website to learn more about these exciting career opportunities.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

Suppose you are interested in jobs such as bioremediation, wetland ecologist or environmental toxicologist, If you can name it, you can look it up in this online resource. For hundreds of different types of jobs such as teacher, lawyer, and nurse, the Occupational Outlook Handbook tells you:

  • The training and education needed.
  • Earnings.
  • Expected job prospects.
  • What workers do on the job.
  • Working conditions.