There is a wide assortment of career opportunities for individuals who want to protect and improve the health of the environment. The following is a short list of career fields available to environmental science majors in the private and public sectors, including businesses, government entities and nonprofit organizations.
The duties of an environmental scientist include investigating, identifying, preventing and solving environmental problems to protect the planet and all living creatures. They conduct experiments to determine how toxic chemicals, oil and other potentially hazardous substances might disperse in a body of water or the air after an accidental spill. They use the data to create maps and graphs to illustrate the effects over time. This information is used to make policy decisions that lessen the effects on the planet. Environmental scientists also monitor the water quality of lakes, ponds and beaches to ensure that they are safe and contaminant-free.
Geoscientists use their academic training in the earth’s soil, water and atmosphere to provide solutions for real-world problems, such as water and waste management. A geoscientist studies the negative impact that industries and certain activities have on humans, wildlife and the planet. They also identify methods and processes to minimize or eliminate these effects. They serve as consultants to governmental agencies and private businesses, helping to prevent soil and ground water contamination. Geoscientists conduct research to help determine the location for new landfills or underground disposal sites. Their expertise is also crucial for managing urbanization and preventing floods and erosion.
Environmental biologists study regional ecosystems to assess the impact that human activity has on those locations. They use statistical tools and scientific methods to create timelines and predict possible outcomes. The information derived from these studies and research is vital for the development of conservation policies and techniques that will be implemented. Their work helps ensure the protection of habitats and the wildlife living in those ecosystems. While general biology provides a solid foundation, students pursuing environmental biology as a career should also take classes in the natural sciences and specialized electives as well as whole organism and evolutionary biology.
Environmental engineers are also in strong demand. This career path combines the fields of biology and chemistry with the basic principles of engineering to develop solutions for ecological problems. In addition to finding innovative ways to reduce waste and pollution, their duties include improving recycling initiatives and the preventative measures being taken to ensure public health and safety. Environmental engineers prepare, review and update reports. They analyze scientific data and provide advice to government entities and private organizations for cleanup protocols regarding the best techniques to handle toxic chemical spills. These engineers also design projects that help preserve the environment.
Environmental lawyers use their legal expertise to protect the environment. They can focus on legal matters concerning the air, land and water. These attorneys defend the rights of individuals, wildlife and the environment as well as the government, corporations, farmers and communities. Environmental lawyers lobby for balanced regulations regarding pollution, ecosystems and biodiversity. They can help develop laws and regulations governing air and water quality along with mineral and other natural resource management. In addition to overseeing and reviewing environmental impact statements, environmental lawyers help create chemical safety and cleanup regulations. They also provide legal advice on eco-friendly, sustainable practices.
Environmental science is a broad field of study. Students who select this course of study as their major should also select a minor or another major that complements the chosen field.