How Do I Become an Environmental Scientist?

Do you enjoy researching and analyzing data and have a passion for the environment? If so, you may be wondering how to become an environmental scientist. The goal of environmental scientists is to use scientific methods and principles to research and evaluate potential dangers to the environment and devise ways to minimize those dangers.

When conducting research, environmental scientists must determine the best method to accurately gather information and environmental samples for their investigations. Following data collection, environmental scientists analyze and interpret the information to learn what dangers pollution and other environmental concerns pose to the environment. Once environmental scientists evaluate these threats, they invent ways to prevent and repair problems like contamination and pollution. Environmental scientists educate governments, businesses and the public about their research and findings so that necessary steps can be taken to protect the environment and diminish health risks.

To begin a career in environmental science, a student will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. Coursework may include biology, geology, chemistry, physics, waste management, hydrology, fluid mechanics and environmental policy and regulation. Degrees in biology, chemistry, geosciences and other natural sciences may also prepare students for entry-level environmental science positions such as field analysts, research assistants and laboratory technicians. While an undergraduate education may be sufficient for students to enter entry-level positions, access to management and advanced research opportunities such as program manager and project leader may be limited to those students who pursue a graduate degree. For certain research positions, as well as college-level teaching positions, a doctoral degree may be required.

Aside from a thorough understanding of natural science concepts and methods, aspiring environmental scientists should also possess excellent analytical skills and problem-solving abilities. Since their work requires collaboration with engineers, technicians and other scientists, environmental scientists should also display successful interpersonal skills and be comfortable sharing their research through written reports and spoken presentations.

Environmental scientists most frequently find employment within local, state and federal governments, often making sure that environmental regulations are followed to prevent pollution and contamination of air, land and drinking water. Consulting firms also employ environmental scientists to guide companies through complying with these governmental regulations. Whether employed by the government or in the private sector, environmental scientists spend most of their time working in laboratories and offices and doing fieldwork, like collecting information and samples, in the environment.

The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts career opportunities in the field of environmental science to increase approximately 19 percent during the 2010-2020 decade, as compared to an anticipated 14 percent job growth rate for all occupations. As of May 2011, environmental scientists enjoyed a median salary of $61,700, which is a significantly higher salary than the median salary for all occupations, $33,840.

If you excel at science, have good analytical skills and want to protect the environment, knowing how to become an environmental scientist can help you launch a well-paid and personally rewarding new career.

Featured Degree Programs