In the modern world, it’s easy to take for granted some of the specialists and structures that keep us healthy or safe on a daily basis: healthcare workers and pharmacists, bridge girders and road paint, even fungus and worms. (and soon his secretions?) – to name a few. Most of us could add environmental scientists to that list.
Whether or not you’ve met an environmental scientist in person, it’s a solid bet that their work has shaped your life, often for the better. This can apply to everyday support for physical and mental health or to the myriad civic systems that benefit our lives, given the broad scope of the field. But what is an environmental scientist?
What does an environmental scientist do?
At its core, the field of environmental science generally involves identifying and limiting harm between humans and the natural world. The search often illuminates how that damage can go both ways.
Specialists in this field typically monitor and test interactions between humans, animals, plants, or other forces of change, such as chemicals.
As such, the field is inherently interdisciplinary, often overlapping with expertise in chemistry, atmospheric physics, oceanography, glaciology, hydrology, ecology and more, according to Harvard University, which offers custom paths within a respected environmental science program.
Despite its wide scope and application, the framework of this worldwide university and training program only emerged in the 60s and 70soften alongside our understanding that climate change and environmental changes are interconnected with human action.
Read more: Debunking 3 Common Myths About Climate Change
Careers with Bachelor of Environmental Sciences
Job opportunities for individuals with environmental science degrees ranging from conservation and public policy analysis to energy management, urban planning, and business development.
As an example of the demand for such skills, consider the operations in any industrial factory, where waste products may contain toxic substances. Analysis of these compounds and their potential impact on humans, as well as the surrounding ecosystem, is vital to developing a responsible management protocol and keeping nearby residents safe.
That’s why both private companies hire environmental specialists as well as city, county, state and federal governments. These roles often help with permissions, regulations, and oversight.
Demand for jobs in environmental sciences
As climate change and public hazards have gained global awareness in recent decades, so has the demand for jobs in environmental sciences.
In the US alone, approximately 80,000 jobs by environmental scientists and specialists were reported in 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That employment number is projected to rise 5 percent by 2031.
Growth wind energy industry —now expanding offshore in the US—provides an excellent example of new opportunities for this type of work.
As the US Department of Energy gives the green light new wind projects, environmental scientists are helping with the permitting process, setting new regulations, communicating policy changes, and conducting impact studies required for any facility. Many other industries face similar demands.
The pay in this field is not bad either. The median salary for environmental scientists in the US was $76,500 (nearly double the average across all industries), according to the 2021 employment report; As for training, the typical entry-level environmental specialist has a bachelor’s degree, although graduate degrees in the field are often preferred.
Read more: US wind power is (finally) venturing offshore