Career Development

What Does an Environmental Specialist Do?

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

Environmental specialists are responsible for protecting and preserving the natural environment. They commonly work with federal, state, or local government agencies to ensure that our air, water, and land is clean and safe to use.

Environmental specialists may also work in private industry on projects related to environmental protection. This might include anything from developing new technologies to help reduce pollution to conducting research into how human activity impacts the environment.

Environmental Specialist Job Duties

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

  • Conducting research and collecting data on topics such as air quality, water conditions, or greenhouse gas emissions in order to identify potential problems
  • Developing plans for pollution prevention by working with industrial facilities to design waste treatment systems or recycling programs or by encouraging consumers to recycle their trash
  • Performing inspections of industrial facilities to ensure that they are complying with environmental regulations
  • Writing reports about environmental concerns and making recommendations for improving conditions
  • Monitoring the quality of air, water, and soil to detect changes that could indicate environmental degradation or pollution
  • Conducting environmental impact studies to identify potential environmental impacts of proposed development projects before they begin
  • Developing educational programs and materials to raise awareness about environmental issues and teach people how they can take action to protect the environment
  • Preparing proposals for funding of research projects or other activities related to environmental protection
  • Preparing reports about the findings of research projects, including writing scientific papers for publication in peer-reviewed journals

Environmental Specialist Salary & Outlook

Environmental specialist salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the company they work for.

  • Median Annual Salary: $66,500 ($31.97/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

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

As populations grow, the demand for clean water, clean air, and clean land will increase. Environmental specialists will be needed to ensure that new developments do not degrade the environment. In addition, environmental concerns, such as climate change, are expected to continue to generate policy discussions and debates.

Related: Environmental Specialist Interview Questions and Answers

Environmental Specialist Job Requirements

To become an environmental specialist, you may need to have the following:

Education: Environmental specialists are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, biology, chemistry, ecology or a similar field. Some employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree in environmental science or a related field.

Many environmental specialists choose to earn a master’s degree in environmental science to increase their earning potential and qualify for higher-level positions. Courses in this program include environmental law, environmental policy, environmental management and environmental toxicology.

Training & Experience: Environmental specialists typically receive on-the-job training once they are hired. This training may include learning about the company’s specific policies and procedures, as well as how to use the company’s computer systems. Environmental specialists may also receive training in the use of specialized equipment.

Certifications & Licenses: Environmental specialists may pursue certifications to bolster their credentials and increase their earning potential.

Environmental Specialist Skills

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

Communication skills: Environmental specialists often communicate with other professionals, such as engineers, managers and clients. They also need to communicate complex technical information in a way that their audience can understand. Effective communication skills include active listening, speaking clearly and using appropriate body language.

Technical knowledge: Environmental specialists need to have a thorough understanding of environmental regulations, environmental impact assessments and other technical information related to their job. They also need to be able to interpret data and research to determine the best course of action for their work.

Problem-solving skills: Problem-solving skills are essential for environmental specialists, as they may be called upon to find solutions to environmental issues. These professionals may be asked to find ways to reduce the amount of pollution in a body of water, for example, or to find ways to reduce the amount of waste produced by a company.

Organization skills: Environmental specialists often have strong organizational skills, as they often have to keep track of many different files and documents. This can include keeping track of environmental data, research and reports, as well as keeping track of the status of projects and tasks.

Teamwork skills: Environmental specialists often work in teams to complete projects. This can include working with other specialists, such as engineers, to develop a plan for a new building or working with construction teams to ensure the project follows the plan. Working well with others can help you develop a positive reputation in your field and help you advance in your career.

Environmental Specialist Work Environment

Environmental specialists work in a variety of settings, including offices, laboratories, factories, and field sites. They may spend considerable time outdoors, conducting field research or monitoring environmental conditions. They typically work a standard 40-hour week, although they may work longer hours to meet deadlines or to respond to environmental emergencies, such as oil spills. Environmental specialists who work in hazardous waste management may be required to wear protective clothing, such as respirators, and to follow safety procedures to avoid exposure to hazardous materials.

Environmental Specialist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how environmental specialists work. Environmental specialists 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 Technical Skills

The need for more technical skills is a trend that is being driven by the increasing complexity of environmental issues. As the world becomes more industrialized, there is an increased demand for professionals who can solve complex environmental problems.

Environmental specialists can capitalize on this trend by becoming more familiar with the latest technologies and methods for solving environmental problems. This will allow them to be more effective in their work and help to solve some of the most difficult challenges facing our planet today.

More Collaboration Between Government and Businesses

As businesses become more environmentally conscious, they are looking for ways to collaborate with government agencies to find solutions to common environmental problems.

This trend is creating opportunities for environmental specialists who are able to bridge the gap between business and government. By understanding the needs of both parties, these professionals can help to create solutions that are beneficial to everyone involved.

Greater Focus on Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency has become a major focus for businesses across all industries, as they look for ways to reduce costs and improve their bottom line.

Environmental specialists can capitalize on this trend by developing expertise in energy-efficient technologies and practices. They can then use this knowledge to help businesses make informed decisions about how to save money while also reducing their impact on the environment.

How to Become an Environmental Specialist

Environmental specialists have a wide range of career options. They can work in government, non-profit organizations, or private industry. They can also specialize in a particular area of environmental science, such as wildlife conservation, pollution prevention, or ecosystem restoration.

No matter which path they choose, environmental specialists should keep up with the latest scientific discoveries and developments. They should also stay informed about current environmental issues and legislation that could affect their work.

Advancement Prospects

Many environmental specialists start their careers in entry-level positions. With experience, they may advance to supervisory or managerial positions. Some may become consultants or open their own environmental consulting firms. Many environmental specialists have a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, biology, chemistry, or another natural science. Some have a master’s degree or doctorate in environmental science or engineering.

Many environmental specialists and scientists work for government agencies. Some work for private companies, environmental consulting firms, or nonprofit organizations. Many are self-employed.

Environmental Specialist Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we are looking for an Environmental Specialist to join our team. The Environmental Specialist will be responsible for conducting environmental audits and site assessments, developing and implementing environmental management systems, and writing environmental reports. The ideal candidate will have a degree in environmental science or engineering, and experience working in the environmental field. They will be detail-oriented, organized, and able to work independently.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Serve as the environmental specialist on a variety of projects, providing support and expertise to ensure compliance with all applicable environmental regulations
  • Conduct field investigations to collect data for environmental impact studies, risk assessments, and other analyses
  • Prepare reports detailing findings and recommendations based on collected data and observations
  • Review project plans and designs to identify potential environmental impacts and recommend mitigation measures
  • Develop and implement environmental management plans to minimize negative impacts and optimize positive ones
  • Monitor compliance with environmental regulations during construction and operation phases of projects
  • Educate project teams and the public about environmental issues and best practices
  • Serve as liaison between project stakeholders and regulatory agencies
  • Keep abreast of new developments in environmental science and technology and share relevant information with colleagues
  • Assist with the development and implementation of environmental policies and procedures
  • Participate in environmental audits and inspections
  • Perform other duties as assigned

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in environmental science, biology, chemistry, or related field
  • 5+ years professional experience in environmental consulting, engineering, or a related field
  • Strong analytical and research skills
  • Excellent writing and communication skills
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office, with aptitude to learn new software and systems
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in environmental science, biology, chemistry, or related field
  • 7+ years professional experience in environmental consulting, engineering, or a related field
  • Working knowledge of GIS software
  • Experience conducting fieldwork, including sampling and data collection
  • Professional certification, such as Certified Environmental Professional (CEP) or Registered Environmental Manager (REM)


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