What Is an Environmental Scientist?

No matter where you live or what you enjoy doing, your life is directly influenced by your environment — and vice versa. The study of this interaction as well as the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the environment is known as environmental science. In the face of population growth and modern pressures on the environment, environmental scientists are needed now more than ever.

An environmental scientist studies hazards to both the environment and humanity while working toward mutually beneficial solutions. If you’re passionate about protecting the environment and want to learn how to become an environmental scientist, it’s important to learn about the responsibilities and challenges of jobs in this field.

Environmental scientists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment. Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policymakers, or work with industry to reduce waste.

What is Environmental Science? Definition and Scope of the Field

What does an environmental scientist do?

Job responsibilities vary depending on your specialty area, but common job responsibilities for environmental scientists include:

A senior-level environmental scientist also has these duties:

What is an environmental scientist?

Environmental scientists use their understanding of natural sciences to protect human health and the environment. Most environmental scientists specialize in a particular environmental aspect, such as toxic waste cleanup, acid rain, air pollution, wildlife preservation, land conservation, mining reclamation or soil erosion. No matter what field they work in, all environmental scientists help manage, reduce or remove negative affects to the environment. Job titles for environmental scientists may include:

Where do environmental scientists work?

Environmental scientists work in an array of settings. They work in the field collecting samples, analyzing sites and performing inspections. Some environmental scientists work in offices or classrooms. You may also spend time in a laboratory setting analyzing samples.

Most environmental scientists work for local, state or federal government agencies. Environmental scientists can also find work with manufacturing companies, environmental consultants, environmental agencies, wildlife conservation groups and universities.

How to become an environmental scientist

Becoming an environmental scientist requires study, hands-on training and a desire to protect the environment. Use the following steps as a guide to becoming an environmental scientist:

1. Get a bachelors degree

To become an environmental scientist, consider earning a bachelors degree in environmental science or a related field. Other applicable majors include agricultural science, weather, ecosystem science, geography, plant science, soil science, ecology, evolutionary biology or biology. Your undergraduate studies should include coursework in geology, biology, hydrology and environmental policy. Classes in Geographic Information Systems data analysis and computer modeling are especially helpful when looking for a job after college.

2. Participate in an internship or work as a volunteer

Pursue and complete an internship or consider volunteering. Most environmental science undergraduate programs include an internship that provides students with both field and laboratory experience. Internship or volunteering opportunities are also available with government agencies, environmental organizations and privately owned companies.

3. Become certified in your area of expertise

Although not always required for entry-level jobs, certification in a specialty area can help you stand out from other job candidates and help you advance in your career. Environmental scientists that work in hazardous waste treatment and removal typically need to earn the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administrations Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response certification.

After three years of work in your field, consider becoming certified as a registered environmental scientist. Environmental professionals with a masters or doctoral degree may also become certified as a registered environmental professional (REP). Certification as an REP demonstrates a high-level understanding of environmental regulations and laws.

College graduates can earn certification for roles such as:

4. Join a professional organization

Professional organizations offer the opportunity to network with other professionals, stay updated on environmental news, attend conferences, continue your education and find employment. Consider joining these environmental professional organizations:

5. Earn advanced degrees

Most entry-level jobs do not require advanced degrees, but a masters or doctorate can help you advance in your career. Consider pursuing an advanced degree program in environmental science if youre interested in environmental research, policy, management and professorship.

Frequently Asked Questions About Environmental Scientists

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about the role of environmental scientists:

How much do environmental scientists earn?

What skills do you need as an environmental scientist?

Successful environmental scientists are inquisitive and passionate about the environment. Other skills that can help you in this role include:

Is environmental science a growing field?


Is environmental scientists a good career?

Environmental science careers can be extremely rewarding. Not only can you work in a career that brings important change for the entire planet, you can earn a sizable income while doing so. But to enjoy this excellent profession, you need the right education.

What skills do environmental scientists need?

Environmental scientists need at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field for most entry-level jobs.
  • Analytical skills. Environmental scientists often use scientific methods and data analysis in their research. …
  • Critical-thinking skills. …
  • Interpersonal skills. …
  • Problem-solving skills. …
  • Speaking skills. …
  • Writing skills.

What are environmental scientists called?

Environmental scientists, sometimes called ecologists, study the physical, chemical and biological conditions of the environment and how these conditions impact organisms.

What do environmental scientists do on a daily basis?

The daily tasks of an environmental scientist depend on the place in which they work, the goals of a particular study, and their area of expertise. Generally, environmental scientists conduct research, analyze data, and develop plans to avoid, control, or repair environmental problems.

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