A Career in Environmental Sciences

Author:  Maria Zagorulya

Institution:  University of Rochester


What are environmental sciences?

The environmental sciences are the study of the world around us. Combining knowledge from fields like ecology, meteorology and geology, environmental scientists research the Earth’s natural and unnatural processes and provide solutions to environmental problems. For example, a few days ago, environmental scientists developed an improved computational model for predicting climate change.


What are the career options for an environmental scientist?

Environmental scientists participate in diverse activities ranging from tackling problems such as the global climate change and air pollution to the improvement of earthquake prediction and the study of deep oceanic life. Generally, the environmental sciences discipline can be divided into four main directions:

  • Agriculture and forestry relates to the improvement of food production, discovery of alternative sources of energy and conservation of natural resources. Careers in this field include agricultural engineer, wildlife officer, forest firefighter, and soil and plant scientist.

  • Environmental policy addresses the issues of administration and management of environmental preservation initiatives. Environmental economist, environmental policy analyst, urban planner and transportation engineer are examples of professions in environmental policy.

  • Sustainability refers to the development of innovative technologies for the efficient and environmentally friendly production. Examples of sustainability careers include wind and solar energy engineer, chemical engineer, petroleum engineer, and geoscientist.

  • Public health focuses on the issues associated with preventable diseases, aging population, occupational health, and health effects of environmental dangers such as natural disasters and pollution. Those interested in public health can pursue careers as an epidemiologist, air pollution analyst, environmental inspector, and data management specialist.


How to get started with a career in environmental sciences?

Academic requirements for professions in environmental science vary depending on the specific career choice. Agricultural inspectors, who monitor food production and ensure that it follows governmental regulations, and hydrographic surveyors, who use advanced equipment to collect data in order to make or improve existing maps, are only required to have a high school diploma. In contrast, environmental lawyers, who resolve legal disputes related to environmental issues including pollution, climate change and toxic waste, and scientists, such as geoscientistspetrologists and agricultural food scientists, who perform specialized academic research, can require doctoral degrees.


Who should pursue the career of an environmental scientist?

Students who are both passionate about maintaining and improving the environment and curious about the natural sciences will certainly enjoy a career in environmental sciences. Conveniently, the choice of administrative, field and laboratory research, engineering, and physically challenging roles is available to an aspiring environmental scientist in any specific field. Mathematical, physical and written skills or a combination of these can be central to the profession. Additionally, in fields related to solving specific environmental problems, the ability to work in teams may be important. Thus, the possibility of choosing a career reliant on any type of skill and job environment means that there will be options suitable for any individual.


Why become an environmental scientist?

There are many motivations for students to pursue environmental sciences. One is the opportunity to utilize the fascinating combination of physical, chemical and biological knowledge in solving the modern problems of air and water quality, waste management and wildlife protection. Another incentive is the public recognition of the usefulness of the profession, for achievements in environmental protection and public health have demonstrated the value of environmental scientists’ expertise for improving the environment. Furthermore, as the population grows and becomes more aware of environmental dangers, the field of environmental sciences is expected to expand and the number of available jobs to increase. Finally, the career is morally rewarding: by striving to make the world a better place, the environmental scientist brings benefit to the society.