Environmental science is the academic study of how society and individuals interact with the world’s physical, chemical, ecological and biological processes, materials and ecosystems. This field has many subcategories that lead to different careers, focuses and outcomes.
Academic Environmental Science
An environmental science major will develop the interdisciplinary skills and understanding needed to deal with human impacts on environmental systems. Environmental science degrees use a holistic curriculum that develops expertise in topics like math, economics, natural sciences, environmental policy and public administration. Environmental science usually involves courses related to environmental analysis, risk assessment, policy review and problem solving.
There may be classes in applied environmental solutions that involve basic engineering, sustainability, project management and public land administration. Most degree programs require student to complete field experiences working on projects in the region and community. Some degrees may focus more on the natural sciences than the environmental studies part. Other degrees focus more on policy, psychology and the social sciences to help students to gain stronger backgrounds in the natural sciences.
What is Environmental Science?
Environmental science focuses on solving health, pollution and sustainability problems through research that determines root causes and suggests potential solutions. Most environmental scientists conduct theoretical research to increase our understanding of how the natural world is impacted by society’s behaviors and choices. Environmental science can include anything from asbestos sickness in old buildings to mysterious deformations in fish to unexplained disease occurrences in a neighborhood.
Environmental scientists’ ultimate goal is to minimize and eliminate these problems. They use a holistic approach and multidisciplinary attitude to identify, control and prevent disruption to the environment. They use their knowledge of the earth’s ecosystems to protect nature and human health. They may clean up contaminated areas, make policy recommendations, work with industry leaders to reduce pollution. Most environmental scientists work for federal, state, or local governments.
Careers in Environmental Science
Environmental scientists work in applied settings and interdisciplinary fields analyzing the impacts that humans have on their surroundings. There are employment opportunities in agriculture, academic research, health care and business consulting. Most jobs require them to collect data, use observations, collect samples, implement research methods and review current scientific literature. They must often present their research findings to non-technical stakeholders through a variety of technology mediums.
For example, an air quality environmental scientist will contribute to corporate compliance by monitoring utility and energy operations. They will implement regulatory standards, conduct inspections and coordinates annual audits. As air quality inspectors, they will deal with capacity assessments, program evaluations, record-keeping quality and air emission analyses. They may conduct pre-inspection checks and oversee regulatory officials during visits. They may oversee continuous emission monitoring (CEM) programs to ensure accurate data is reported, stored and shared.
Related Resource: 20 Deals: Small Colleges for Environmentally-minded
Anyone who wants a career in environmental science should visit the BLS’ career page to learn about the education requirements, working conditions, average salary, similar occupations and projected job outlook. This field is growing at 11 percent, which is faster than average. The standard entry-level education for an environmental science job is a bachelor’s degree.