1. Careers
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Environmental Scientist

Career Information


Researchers in biology lab
CZQS2000/STS/Photodisc/Getty Images

Job Description

Protecting the environment is an environmental scientist's goal when he or she goes to work each day. To achieving that goal he or she conducts research in order to identify, decrease the harmful effects of, or eliminate pollutants and hazards to the environment or to the health of the population.

Employment Facts

There were 90,000 environmental scientists employed in 2012. Most work for state governments and consulting firms. Local governments also employ many of them. Some work for the Federal government.

Environmental scientists typically work in offices and laboratories but may have to spend some time doing fieldwork. Most positions are full time. While doing fieldwork, which involves gathering data and checking conditions, their hours may be irregular.

Educational Requirements

Although it's possible to get an entry-level job as an environmental scientist with a bachelor's degree in earth science, many employers will hire only those who have earned a master's degree in environmental science, hydrology or a related natural science.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements

In addition to the technical skills one learns in school, an environmental scientist also needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this field. Good communication skills, including speaking, listening and writing abilities, are important because he or she will have to share research findings with colleagues. An environmental scientist will need good critical thinking skills in order to weigh possible solutions to problems in order to pick the one which is most likely to be successful.

Advancement Opportunities

An environmental scientist begins his or her work in field exploration or sometimes in the laboratory as a technician or research assistant. With experience, he or she gets more difficult assignments and may eventually move into a supervisory role.

Why Do You Need to Know About Advancement?

Job Outlook

The job outlook for environment scientists is excellent. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment growth that is faster than the average for all occupations through 2022.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?


Environmental scientists earned a median annual salary of $63,570 and median hourly earnings of $30.56 in 2012.

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much an environmental scientist currently earns in your city.

A Day in an Environmental Scientist's Life:

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for environmental scientist positions found on Indeed.com:

  • Conduct field work under the direction of a senior scientist to investigate the nature and extent of soil, sediment, groundwater and other media contamination.
  • Observe and log soil explorations via soil boring equipment, Geoprobe and test pit excavations.
  • Evaluate and apply local, state and federal air regulations to determine requirements for permit modifications.
  • Perform program research, planning and development, permitting, compliance monitoring, inspections/enforcement, and technical support services in relation to air, water, waste, federal facilities, corrective action, mining, biology, and other environmental programs.
  • Manage budgets, evaluate budget vs. plan, and analyze cost control efficiencies.
  • Write reports, develop plans, and implement steps to move projects toward closure in the most cost effective manner.
  • Utilize communications skills to interact with both internal and external clients.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Environmental Scientist, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm (visited April 4, 2014).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Environmental Scientist, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/19-2041.00 (visited April 4, 2014).

Should You Become an Environmental Scientist? Take a Quiz to Find Out.

Learn About Other Green Jobs

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.