What does an Environmental Scientist Do?

Environmental scientists integrate the use of the physical sciences and biological sciences with real data to find solutions to environmental problems. They provide an interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental systems, identify hazards to the environment, human health, and the earth’s eco systems, and work to find solutions to today’s environmental problems. 

Environmental scientist

What Does an Environmental Scientist Do?

There are different types of environmental scientists, with varying jobs and responsibilities. Environmental scientists may study climate change, environmental health and safety, environmental restoration, Industrial ecology, environmental pollution, or any number of other specialties. In general, the position requires environmental scientists to:

  • Collect and analyze environmental samples of soil, air, water, or other environmental conditions
  • Conduct fieldwork to find, monitor, or investigate contamination of soil, groundwater, air, or other environmental samples
  • Develop solutions that prevent, control, or cure environmental problems
  • Research environmental concerns and offer technical support for environmental programs involving mining, biological contaminations, waste facilities, and federal facilities
  • Perform permitting, compliance monitoring, inspections, and enforcement of environmental policies as necessary
  • Write reports on compliance issues, research findings, potential problems, or other environmental concerns
  • Make recommendations to governmental bodies, businesses, and the public on environmental issues, policies, and hazards
  • Work with private business to help them comply with environmental regulations and policies
  • Work as part of a team in government or business to protect the environment

What Skills Do I Need as an Environmental Scientist?

In addition to an Education in the environmental sciences and a good research background, environmental scientists also need the following skills:

  • Computer skills are essential since environmental scientists use computer modeling, data analysis and integration, remote sensing instruments, and Geographic Information Systems to gather, analyze, and interpret data.
  • Writing skills are necessary to create technical reports, research and grant proposals, and to communicate data and results to other researchers, company managers, government regulators, and the public.
  • Strong communication skills are needed and the ability to work as part of a team with other scientists, engineers, technicians, and business or government managers.
  • Analytical skills and critical thinking are required to analyze data, understand complicated reports, and choose the best ways to solve environmental problems.

What is Required to Become an Environmental Scientist?

For an entry level environmental science position, a bachelor’s degree in an earth science is required. A degree in geology, environmental science, earth science, environmental health, biology, physics, zoology, or chemistry is a good basis for a career as an environmental scientist, along with a good understanding of the other sciences. Research or work experience related to environmental science is helpful.

A broad education in the sciences is desirable with understanding in all areas, since all science specialties work together in our environment. An understanding of environmental laws, regulations, and permitting is also valuable.

To advance as an environmental scientist, a master’s degree is often required, and a Doctorate is helpful.

As you gain experience and wish to progress in your career in environmental science, becoming a Certified Environmental Scientist is helpful. Certification demonstrates your understanding of the underlying principles and disciplines that make up environmental science, including: 

  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Earth Science
  • Environmental Health
  • Meteorology
  • Zoology

It reinforces your experience and knowledge with formal credentials and adds to your resume as an environmental scientist.

Additional certifications may be required to advance in your career, depending on your area of specialty.

Environmental scientist looks into microscope

How Much Money Do Environmental Scientists Make?

The job outlook is good for environmental scientists and the field is growing. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, starting salaries for environmental scientists can vary depending on the type of job, location, and experience. In 2018, starting salaries for environmental scientists averaged above 40K, with more experienced scientists making a median income of approximately 71K. The top earners made in excess of 122K per year. Additionally, employment of environmental scientists and specialists is estimated to increase 5% from 2021 to 2031

How Can an NREPSM Certification Help?

Environmental professionals who meet the educational and work experience requirements should consider becoming a Certified Environmental Scientist and getting any other certifications that may be appropriate to their particular specialty.

Environmental Certifications prove that you are qualified and knowledgeable in the environmental field and that:

  • You are up-to-date and skilled in the profession
  • You are constantly learning and committed to excellence
  • You are ready to meet the challenges of the profession
  • Your skills are validated and on par with the top of your field
  • Management can be confident in your abilities and level of professional expertise

Your Environmental Certification speaks to your qualification to manage tasks related to protecting and preserving the environment. In addition to the prestige it adds to your resume, it provides the following benefits:

  • Listing in the NREPSM’s Official Registry of Environmental Professionals
  • Certifies your qualifications and expertise to clients, employers, and governmental agencies
  • Provides recognition of your achievements and opportunities for career advancements
  • Recognition of your environmental knowledge and experience by the US Military, DOE, EPA, and individual states
  • Provides opportunities for participation in credential development, national conferences, environmental education programs, and local and regional affiliated organizations.