Guide to building a career in Environmental Science

Did you always dream of having a global career that could help save the world? 

Well, a career in environmental science is just the right thing for you. With the current landscape of our degrading environment, there can be nothing more rewarding than a career option that helps contribute towards a better future. Environmental Science offers a versatile and dynamic career prospect not limited to lucrative positions like Environmental Specialist, Science teacher, Environmental chemist, Marine biologist, Microbiologist, Hydrologist, Air and Water Quality Manager, Ecologist, Geographer, and more.

The degree and career trajectory feature a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the environment. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science is $71,360 and there is a positive job outlook of 8%. While the core education requirements may be the same, each career path may involve additional training, coursework, or certification.

The core undergraduate coursework in Environmental Science runs the gamut from Ecology, Environmental Chemistry, Atmospheric Sciences, Social Sciences, to Geosciences fields of study. This solid base of understanding allows students to branch out into diverse specializations that have a significant impact on our ecosystem. As part of the Environmental Studies program, students often choose an area of specialization, which builds upon core competencies and knowledge while targeting areas of interest. Students typically declare their specializations (~20-course credits) by the end of their sophomore year.

Environmental Science is a career field that is becoming more popular as the environment appears to be in ever-greater need of protection and safeguards. One of the reasons that the Environmental Science jobs’ outlook is growing is because there is a growing concern about the state of the environment. Statistically, more than 60% of Americans now see climate change as a significant threat, according to the Pew Research Center. The impacts are being felt in every community, even the global weather and natural disasters are showing signs of exacerbation in ways that are ever-more-difficult to ignore.

Not all of those concerned Americans are jumping in for a career in Environmental Science. Still, concern for the environment no longer holds the same level of negative association it did in the past. Moreover, an even higher percentage of Democrats (88%) see climate change as a major threat now. There are indeed hold-outs, but the overall statistical trends demonstrate a move in the right direction for public opinion. This move is also reflected in the pursuit of Environmental Studies as a career, particularly with the areas of specialization. 

Specializations for Environmental Science can delve into Politics, Policy and Justice, Ecological Systems, Environmental Education and Communication, or Urban Sustainability. Beyond the disciplinary specialization related to a course of study, students can pursue a topical specialization for areas of concentration that include Water, Health, Climate Change, etc. Environmental Science is part of cultural and political discussions and negotiations around the globe. It is not the domain of a single country. Indeed, the countries doing the most to save the environment include Sweden, Denmark, Gambia, Norway, Rwanda, Costa Rica, Belgium, Singapore, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

As an individual and a student, the Environmental Science degree is the training ground that’s essential to fulfil that dream of changing the world for the better. An undergraduate is a great start for a career in Environmental Science. Then, the next step is to pursue an internship with a government office, research institute, or even a private agency. An internship provides hands-on knowledge and skill development that is most critical for a successful future. Coursework and internships prepare students for the ever-changing Environmental Science landscape, including data analysis, computer modelling, and geographic information systems (GIS).

Not all career options in Environmental Science require a graduate degree, but it certainly never hurts to ensure portability in the job as well as promotions. A graduate degree in Environmental Science demonstrates a dedication to the field and specialization, but it also carries with it a certain credibility. The requirements for advancement may vary depending upon the area of concentration and specialization. Some career paths require a master’s degree with clear evidence of research and a thesis to be considered.

Research management and educational roles often require PhD level studies, particularly for a tenure track or advanced position of authority. For some institutions, the doctoral degree offers evidence of the level of experience, research background, and the level of scholarly pursuit. It is important to carefully research the prospective course of study and specialization to determine if an advanced graduate degree is required for career advancement. Even if graduate-level coursework is required now or in the future, many students take online coursework to fulfil those advanced requirements and/or to offer further insight into the area of specializations they aspire for. 

How can Landon Schertz help?

Landon Schertz has a background as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). He studied Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Michigan, and he offers high-end tutoring in a range of topics including the sciences, math, and literature. He is motivated and passionate in his goal to shape the future by helping students achieve real success.