Career Development

What Does an Environmental Scientist Do?

Find out what an environmental scientist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as an environmental scientist.

Environmental scientists are responsible for studying the Earth and its ecosystems. They may focus on a particular area of interest, such as climate change or pollution, but they all strive to better understand how our planet works.

Environmental scientists commonly use scientific methods and techniques to study the environment and its effects on humans, animals, plants, and other living things. This can include everything from observing wildlife in their natural habitats to performing experiments in controlled lab settings.

Environmental Scientist Job Duties

Environmental scientists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Surveying land to record data about physical characteristics, such as topography, soil composition, and vegetation types
  • Consulting with environmental engineers, architects, urban planners, engineers, government officials, and other professionals to ensure that the best solutions are implemented
  • Conducting laboratory tests to identify pollutants in soil, water, or air samples collected from various locations
  • Participating in research studies to develop more efficient and effective ways to manage natural resources
  • Conducting scientific studies to determine the impact of human activity on the environment and natural ecosystems
  • Developing methods to improve recycling practices and promote conservation of natural resources
  • Designing and implementing programs to protect public health and safety from environmental hazards
  • Reviewing plans for construction projects to ensure that they comply with laws regarding environmental protection
  • Conducting research on environmental issues such as climate change, pollution, species extinction, habitat destruction, wildlife management, and ecosystem management

Environmental Scientist Salary & Outlook

Environmental scientists’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of company they work for. Those who work for private companies typically earn more than those who work for government agencies.

  • Median Annual Salary: $70,500 ($33.89/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

The employment of environmental scientists is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

As populations grow and urbanize, concerns about pollution and its effect on human health are likely to increase. In addition, environmental concerns, such as climate change, have become global in scope. As a result, governments and businesses will continue to hire environmental scientists to help solve these issues.

Environmental Scientist Job Requirements

To become an environmental scientist, you will likely need:

Education: Environmental scientists need a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, biology, chemistry, environmental engineering or a related field. Some universities offer bachelor’s degrees in environmental health, environmental management or environmental studies.

Many environmental scientists also have a master’s degree in environmental science, environmental engineering or biology. A master’s degree can help an environmental scientist qualify for higher-level positions or increase their earning potential.

Training & Experience: Environmental scientists typically receive on-the-job training in their entry-level positions. This training helps them learn the specific computer programs and techniques used by the company. It also allows them to become familiar with the company’s workflow and procedures.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications are not usually a requirement to become an environmental scientist, but they can make you a more competitive candidate when applying for jobs.

Environmental Scientist Skills

Environmental scientists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Technical skills: Technical skills are the abilities to use software, conduct research and perform calculations. Environmental scientists use technical skills to analyze data, create reports and develop solutions to environmental issues.

Communication skills: Environmental scientists often communicate with other professionals, such as engineers, managers and other scientists. They also communicate with the public, explaining complex topics in a way that’s easy to understand. Effective communication skills can help you explain technical information to a layperson and vice versa.

Problem-solving skills: Problem-solving skills are necessary for success in any career. Environmental scientists use their problem-solving skills to find solutions to environmental issues. They use their problem-solving skills to find ways to reduce pollution, find alternative energy sources and develop environmentally friendly products.

Research skills: Environmental scientists need research skills to help them understand the environmental issues they’re working on. They need to be able to research the causes of environmental issues, the effects of those issues and the best ways to solve them.

Teamwork skills: Environmental scientists often work in teams to complete projects. This is because many environmental projects involve multiple departments and personnel. For example, a project to improve water quality may involve a team of scientists, engineers and technicians. Working well with others is an important skill for an environmental scientist to have.

Environmental Scientist Work Environment

Environmental scientists work in a variety of settings, including offices, laboratories, and field sites such as forests, lakes, and air quality monitoring stations. They may spend considerable time outdoors, conducting field research and collecting samples. They also may travel to attend conferences or to visit other sites. Environmental scientists typically work a standard 40-hour week, although they may work longer hours to meet the deadlines of grant proposals or reports. They also may be on call 24 hours a day to respond to environmental emergencies, such as oil spills or hazardous waste releases.

Environmental Scientist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how environmental scientists work. Environmental scientists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Interdisciplinary Collaboration

The field of environmental science is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, as scientists are realizing the need to collaborate with colleagues from other fields in order to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

This trend is leading to a greater demand for environmental scientists who are able to work effectively across disciplines and communicate with people from different backgrounds. In order to be successful in this new environment, environmental scientists will need to be able to collaborate effectively and understand the needs of other professionals.

More Focus on Sustainability

As businesses become more aware of the importance of sustainability, they are looking for professionals who can help them achieve their goals. This has led to an increased focus on sustainability in all industries, including environmental science.

Environmental scientists who are able to focus on sustainability will be in high demand, as they will be able to provide valuable insights into how businesses can reduce their impact on the environment while still achieving their goals.

Greater Attention to Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is a concept that refers to the fair treatment of all people, regardless of race or income level, when it comes to environmental issues.

As environmental justice becomes more important, environmental scientists will need to learn how to identify and address the root causes of environmental injustice. They will also need to be able to communicate these issues to the public in a way that is easy to understand.

How to Become an Environmental Scientist

A career as an environmental scientist can be very rewarding. It offers the opportunity to make a difference in the world by helping to protect our environment and ensure that we have clean air, water, and land for future generations.

To become an environmental scientist, you need to have a strong background in science, math, and engineering. You also need to be able to think critically and be able to solve problems creatively. Most importantly, you need to be passionate about protecting the environment and want to make a difference in the world.

Related: How to Write an Environmental Scientist Resume

Advancement Prospects

Environmental scientists typically advance in their careers by taking on more responsibility and/or obtaining more education. As they gain experience, they may be promoted to positions with more responsibility, such as project manager or field supervisor. Those who wish to move into management or teaching positions may obtain a master’s or doctorate degree in environmental science or a related field.

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