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How do I Choose the Best Environmental Science Career?

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

Environmental science is a huge field that incorporates many different career paths. Some scientists conduct laboratory and field research to better understand natural processes and how they affect living things. Others focus on environmental problems like global warming and deforestation, and determine the best courses of action to protect the planet for future generations. Professionals work in many different settings, including government agencies, private research organizations, nonprofit companies, and universities. When trying to choose the best environmental science career, an individual typically should consider what exactly he or she wants to accomplish in the field and the amount of education and training they are willing to pursue.

A prospective scientist can investigate the duties and responsibilities involved in different types of jobs in order to choose the best environmental science career. Research scientists spend lots of time on field expeditions to observe ecosystems and natural phenomena, and collect organic and inorganic samples for laboratory analysis. They learn how ecosystems and climate have changed in the past, and study how animals come to adapt to dynamic habitats. Researchers typically are required to be meticulous in their work to ensure accurate findings.

Environmental scientists may conduct lab work to analyze field samples.
Environmental scientists may conduct lab work to analyze field samples.

An environmental science career in consulting entails helping landowners, governments, and businesses determine the best ways to develop land and protect resources. Forestry consultants analyze the impacts of harvesting trees and advise companies on the most profitable, least environmentally damaging ways to go about business. Consultants also work for oil companies and alternative energy firms to determine how to best extract and conserve natural resources.

Many people who choose environmental science careers do so because they want to study and promote sustainability. Researchers in government environmental protection agencies and nonprofit groups study the negative and positive effects of human activity on the environment. Many experts work for state and national park services, giving tours and educating the public about the importance of conservation. A number of driven scientists lobby for better environmental protection laws or engage in actual public policymaking. In addition, some scientists actively participate in environmental cleanup projects.

A four-year bachelor's degree is usually sufficient to obtain an environmental science career as a conservationist, consultant, or laboratory assistant. Individuals who want to conduct independent research or teach at universities are typically required to pursue doctoral degrees in their specialties. Enrolling in an advanced degree program can be very expensive and take up to four additional years to complete, though the eventual career opportunities far outweigh these factors for some dedicated scientists. In many cases, a bachelor's degree holder who works in the field will decide to pursue continuing education courses in order to obtain a more prestigious environmental science career.

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    • Environmental scientists may conduct lab work to analyze field samples.
      By: Darren Baker
      Environmental scientists may conduct lab work to analyze field samples.