What Can You Do With An Environmental Science Degree? | Best Graduate Schools
People fascinated by nature and passionate about conservation may consider studying environmental science.
“I would describe it as the science of human interaction with the natural world,” wrote Brian Snyder, assistant professor in the department of environmental science at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, who holds a doctorate in ecology, in an email. “But that means a lot of things are environmental science. Energy, agriculture, water and air are all environmental science.”
Christine Mayer, a professor of ecology in the department of environmental science at the University of Toledo in Ohio, says students who choose to focus on this field enjoy spending time outdoors and exploring their natural environment.
“They call themselves at home in the outdoors, whether hiking, kayaking, fishing or hunting,” Mayer, an aquatic ecologist and holder of a doctorate in natural resources, wrote in an email. “This connection leads to a desire to understand how the natural world works and, most importantly, a sense of stewardship and responsibility.”
Typically, jobs for environmental science degree holders focus on preventing environmental pollution, conserving natural resources, or helping communities affected by pollution, depending on the experts. However, an environmental science degree does not necessarily lead to a career that requires work outside.
“Just because you work in the environmental field doesn’t mean you have to hike outside all day. … It could mean you have an office job or even a lab job” , explains Chris Girgenti, natural areas. director of the Randall’s Island Park Alliance in New York.
Girgenti adds that it is possible to find careers in environmental science inside and outside academia in the public or private sector. People with an environmental science degree are qualified to become environmental researchers, as well as environmentally focused policymakers, educators and communication professionals, he says.
Environmental Science Careers
According to Jeff Turk, director of the Lewis F. Rogers Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis at the University of North Georgia, where he is also a professor. Turk, who has a doctorate in biological and agricultural engineering, notes that there are also environmental science jobs in state governments.
Another option is to become an environmental scientist for an environmental engineering company or get a job with an agricultural and farming organization, Turk says. Environmental science graduates can also work as consultants to businesses or private sector companies, helping those companies conduct environmental impact assessments, he adds.
Chris Chancey, a Houston-based professional recruiter and the founder of Amplio Recruiting, a recruiting firm, says he’s placed environmental science graduates in a variety of jobs.
“Environmental science careers vary widely, from administrative work to field work,” Chancey wrote in an email. “Depending on your interests, you could work in government agencies or in a manufacturing company, a mining company or a non-governmental organization, a conservatory or at sea, in a laboratory or a zoo.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for environmental scientists and specialists in the United States in 2018 was $71,180. The bureau predicts that the number of U.S. job openings for environmental scientists and specialists will be 8% higher in 2028 than in 2018. Job growth in this field will be 3 percentage points higher than the expected average job growth rate among all U.S. occupations between 2018 and 2028, which is just 5%, according to the bureau’s employment forecast.
Those who get an education and training in environmental science can expect to gain highly marketable and useful skills, Turk says. “With the increase in human population, increased use of natural resources and loss of natural areas, this is going to be very critical in the future,” he says.
Why the Type of Environmental Science Degree Matters
Seth Newton, a North Carolina-based environmental chemist and creator of the OutMore blog, which focuses on outdoor activities and environmental issues, says the job prospects of an environmental science graduate correlate with his highest degree in the field.
“With a bachelor’s degree, the opportunities aren’t immediately obvious,” Newton, who holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in environmental science, wrote in an email. “It helps to have an emphasis or a minor and then you have to be active in seeking opportunities in your major. A BS in environmental science may be too general a degree to find a good job right out of the university without a complementary area of interest.”
For example, Newton suggests that an undergraduate majoring in environmental science and concurrently minoring in biology would be competitive for jobs with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He explains that those with a master’s degree in environmental science tend to have a very particular academic orientation, which helps them discover job opportunities. “Students have specialized in a very specific subject and can be put in touch with potential employers through their supervisors,” he says.
A Ph.D. An environmental science degree is a valuable degree, adds Newton. “A PhD may seem limited for graduates who think they should stay in their field of research but, in reality, companies in many industries are willing to hire recent PhD graduates outside their area of expertise,” adds Newton. . “This is likely due to the number of transferable skills acquired during a PhD. Most recent PhD graduates forget that they have developed writing, presentation and time management skills that employers want.”
Someone who has a doctorate. in environmental science and who wants to work as a researcher can find suitable positions in government or academia, Newton says. “The opportunities for advancement in both sectors will be far greater with a doctorate than with just a master’s or bachelor’s degree,” he says.