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Become An Environmental Scientist

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Working As An Environmental Scientist

  • Getting Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Deal with People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • $62,192

    Average Salary

What Does An Environmental Scientist Do

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policymakers, or work with industry to reduce waste.


Environmental scientists and specialists typically do the following:

  • Determine data collection methods for research projects, investigations, and surveys
  • Collect and compile environmental data from samples of air, soil, water, food, and other materials for scientific analysis
  • Analyze samples, surveys, and other information to identify and assess threats to the environment
  • Develop plans to prevent, control, or fix environmental problems, such as land or water pollution
  • Provide information and guidance to government officials, businesses, and the general public on possible environmental hazards and health risks
  • Prepare technical reports and presentations that explain their research and findings

Environmental scientists and specialists analyze environmental problems and develop solutions. For example, many environmental scientists and specialists work to reclaim lands and waters that have been contaminated by pollution. Others assess the risks that new construction projects pose to the environment and make recommendations to governments and businesses on how to minimize the environmental impact of these projects. Environmental scientists and specialists may do research and provide advice on manufacturing practices, such as advising against the use of chemicals that are known to harm the environment.

The federal government and many state and local governments have regulations to ensure that there is clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and no hazardous materials in the soil. The regulations also place limits on development, particularly near sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands. Environmental scientists and specialists who work for governments ensure that the regulations are followed. Other environmental scientists and specialists work for consulting firms that help companies comply with regulations and policies.

Some environmental scientists and specialists focus on environmental regulations that are designed to protect people’s health, while others focus on regulations designed to minimize society’s impact on the ecosystem. The following are examples of types of specialists:

Climate change analysts study effects on ecosystems caused by the changing climate. They may do outreach education activities and grant writing typical of scientists.

Environmental health specialists study how environmental factors impact human health. They investigate potential environmental health risks. For example, they may investigate and address issues arising from soil and water contamination caused by nuclear weapons manufacturing. They also educate the public about potential health risks present in the environment.

Environmental restoration planners assess polluted sites and determine the cost and activities necessary to clean up the area.

Industrial ecologists work with industry to increase the efficiency of their operations and thereby limit the impacts these activities have on the environment. They analyze costs and benefits of various programs, as well as their impacts on ecosystems.

Other environmental scientists and specialists perform work and receive training similar to that of other physical or life scientists, but they focus on environmental issues. Environmental chemists are an example.

Environmental chemists study the effects that various chemicals have on ecosystems. For example, they look at how acids affect plants, animals, and people. Some areas in which they work include waste management and the remediation of contaminated soils, water, and air.

Many people with backgrounds in environmental science become postsecondary teachers or high school teachers.

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How To Become An Environmental Scientist

For most jobs, environmental scientists and specialists need at least a bachelor’s degree in a natural science.


For most entry-level jobs, environmental scientists and specialists must have a bachelor’s degree in environmental science or a science-related field, such as biology, chemistry, physics, geosciences, or engineering. However, a master’s degree may be needed for advancement. Environmental scientists and specialists who have a doctoral degree make up a small percentage of the occupation, and this level of training is typically needed only for the relatively few postsecondary teaching and basic research positions.

A bachelor’s degree in environmental science offers a broad approach to the natural sciences. Students typically take courses in biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. Students often take specialized courses in hydrology or waste management as part of their degree as well. Classes in environmental policy and regulation are also beneficial. Students who want to reach the Ph.D. level and have a career in academia or as an environmental scientist doing basic research may find it advantageous to major in a more specific natural science such as chemistry, biology, physics, or geology, rather than a broader environmental science degree.

Students should look for classes and internships that include work in computer modeling, data analysis, and geographic information systems. Students with experience in these programs will be the best prepared to enter the job market. The University Consortium of Atmospheric Research (UCAR) offers several programs to help students broaden their understanding of environmental sciences.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Environmental scientists and specialists base their conclusions on careful analysis of scientific data. They must consider all possible methods and solutions in their analyses.

Communication skills. Environmental scientists and specialists may need to present and explain their findings to audiences of varying backgrounds and to write technical reports.

Interpersonal skills. Environmental scientists and specialists typically work on teams with scientists, engineers, and technicians. Team members must be able to work together effectively to achieve their goals.

Problem-solving skills. Environmental scientists and specialists try to find the best possible solution to problems that affect the environment and people’s health.

Self-discipline. Environmental scientists and specialists may spend a lot of time working alone. They need to be able to stay motivated and get their work done without supervision.


Environmental scientists and specialists often begin their careers as field analysts, research assistants, or technicians in laboratories and offices. As they gain experience, they earn more responsibilities and autonomy, and may supervise the work of technicians or other scientists. Eventually, they may be promoted to project leader, program manager, or other management or research position.

Other environmental scientists and specialists go on to work as researchers or faculty at colleges and universities.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Environmental scientists and specialists can become Certified Hazardous Materials Managers through the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management. This certification, which must be renewed every 5 years, shows that an environmental scientist or specialist is staying current with developments relevant to this occupation’s work.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some environmental scientists and specialists begin their careers as scientists in related occupations, such as hydrology or engineering, and then move into the more interdisciplinary field of environmental science.

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Environmental Scientist jobs

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Environmental Scientist Career Paths

Environmental Scientist
Environmental Manager Safety Manager General Manager
Chief Operating Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Specialist Licensed Practical Nurse Clinical Research Coordinator
Clinical Project Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Environmental Engineer Project Engineer
Construction Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Scientist Associate Director Operations Director
Director Of Facilities
11 Yearsyrs
Environmental Manager Operations Manager
Division Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Environmental Coordinator Environmental Engineer
Environmental Compliance Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Industrial Hygienist Safety Manager Health And Safety Manager
Environmental Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Environmental Project Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Associate Director Operations Director
Executive Director Of Operations
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Project Manager President Of Operations Vice President & General Manager
Executive Vice President
11 Yearsyrs
Assistant Project Manager Field Supervisor
Field Operation Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Principal Investigator Assistant Professor
Laboratory Director
10 Yearsyrs
Senior Technician Specialist Home Health Aid Environmental Services Supervisor
Manager Of Environmental Services
9 Yearsyrs
Project Scientist Project Manager Program Manager
Managing Director
11 Yearsyrs
Environmental Engineer Project Manager Program Manager
Operations Director
9 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Construction Manager
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Project Manager Marketing Consultant Operations Manager
Operations Project Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Program Manager General Manager
President Of Operations
11 Yearsyrs
Scientist Senior Scientist Project Leader
Quality Assurance Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Safety Specialist Quality Assurance Manager Regulatory Affairs Manager
Regulatory Affairs Director
12 Yearsyrs
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Environmental Scientist Demographics


  • Male

  • Female

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • French

  • Italian

  • German

  • Arabic

  • Russian

  • Swahili

  • Portuguese

  • Chinese

  • Dakota

  • Irish

  • Vietnamese

  • Hindi

  • Dutch

  • Comanche

  • Marathi

  • Somali

  • Deseret

  • Mandarin

  • Korean

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Environmental Scientist

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Environmental Scientist Education

Environmental Scientist

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Real Environmental Scientist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Environmental Scientist Monsanto Company Saint Louis, MO Oct 24, 2016 $90,000
Environmental Scientist Newfields Atlanta, LLC Atlanta, GA Nov 10, 2016 $85,000
Environmental Scientist GHD Inc. Baton Rouge, LA Jul 06, 2015 $83,000
Environmental Scientist Moffatt & Nichol Seattle, WA Sep 18, 2015 $82,000
Environmental Scientist San Antonio Testing Laboratory, Inc. San Antonio, TX Jan 08, 2016 $80,000
Scientist IV, Environmental Aecom Technical Services, Inc. Camarillo, CA Jan 02, 2015 $79,227
Environmental Scientist Anchor QEA LLC Woodcliff Lake, NJ Sep 21, 2015 $78,354
Environmental Scientist Medora Environmental, Inc. Dickinson, ND May 06, 2015 $78,083
Environmental Scientists Broadbent & Associates, Inc. Fairfield, CA Nov 01, 2016 $75,088
Environmental Fate Scientist Bayer Cropscience LP Parkton, NC Sep 08, 2016 $75,000
Environmental Scientist Jacobs Technology Inc.; Dba Jacobs Durham, NC Dec 23, 2016 $74,000
Environmental Scientist IV CDM Smith Inc. Helena, MT Nov 08, 2016 $73,317
Environmental Scientist Sinoamerica Environmental LLC Chanhassen, MN Oct 01, 2015 $73,045
Environmental Scientist Jacobs Durham, NC Aug 07, 2015 $63,544
Environmental Scientist Jacobs Durham, NC Aug 01, 2015 $63,544
Environmental Scientist Jacobs Technology Inc. Durham, NC Nov 29, 2016 $62,000
Environmental & Industrial Hygiene Scientist DAL-Tile Corporation Dallas, TX Apr 09, 2016 $61,800
Environmental Scientist Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc. Parsippany-Troy Hills, NJ Dec 08, 2016 $61,797
Environmental Scientist Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc. Parsippany-Troy Hills, NJ Sep 11, 2016 $61,797
Environmental Scientists Nan Technologies Inc. MD Dec 12, 2016 $61,500
Environmental Scientist Ch Technologies USA Inc. Westwood, NJ Sep 18, 2015 $52,488
Environmental Scientist Pacific Commercial Services, LLC Kapolei, HI Sep 11, 2015 $52,250
Geo-Environmental Scientist Yu & Associates, Inc. Elmwood Park, NJ Sep 12, 2015 $52,000
Environmental Scientist Athenica Environmental Services, Inc. Dix, NY Nov 01, 2016 $51,000
Environmental Scientist Jacobs Durham, NC Aug 07, 2015 $50,024
Environmental Scientist Jacobs Durham, NC Aug 01, 2015 $50,024

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Top Skills for An Environmental Scientist


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Top Environmental Scientist Skills

  1. Environmental Compliance
  2. Groundwater Samples
  3. EPA
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Performed inspections of various facilities to ensure environmental compliance with all applicable permits.
  • Collected and prepared groundwater samples and coordinate for laboratory analysis
  • Prepared daily field reports reporting on all construction activities.
  • Developed work plans, health & safety plans, and final reports to fulfill essential project efforts and completion.
  • Conducted wetland delineations and mitigation plans to avoid impacts to ecologically sensitive areas.

Top Environmental Scientist Employers

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Environmental Scientist Videos

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