Ten Careers in Environmental Science
One of the best outcomes of studying environmental science is realizing that you can play a role in creating a cleaner, more sustainable world to live in. Many students find that whatever their career choice, they can incorporate consideration of the ecosystem, energy use, pollution, or human health into their daily work.
As more people seek to live more sustainably, companies that sell products will want to meet that need, and they’ll need marketing professionals to help them reach the public.
You can also sell the idea of sustainability to the companies that manufacture and produce consumer products. For example, you could find ways to convince commercial industries that sustainability is part of a long-term business plan and then develop transitional paths from current unsustainable practices toward sustainable practices for the future.
Restoring natural landscapes
Where efforts to conserve or preserve ecosystems have failed, the field of restoration ecology comes to the rescue. Restoration ecologists seek to restore damaged places to their natural state. For example, as a restoration ecologist, you might change vacant lots filled with weeds into natural habitats for local plants and animals or replant native plant species along highways and roads where invasive species have taken over.
Spreading the word and educating others
One of the most important jobs in environmental science is helping people understand the issues related to pollution, environmental damage, and ecosystem health. If you’re interested in spreading the word about environmental issues, you have numerous career options available, including journalism, photography, writing, and public speaking.
Many students who study environmental science find they want to teach others about how ecosystems function and how environmentally damaging practices affect each and every living thing. Careers in environmental education range from teaching in a classroom to spending your days outdoors.
Many national parks, wildlife reserves, zoos, parks, and recreation areas employ educators to take visitors on tours. These tours combine the experience of the natural beauty with an understanding of ecosystems and environmental health and sustainability.
Continuing study and research
Although you may think that almost everything about the natural world and the way living things interact is already known, that’s far from the truth! Every day scientists studying ecology, biology, chemistry, toxicology, geology, atmospheric science, oceanography, and many other sciences add to the knowledge used to create more sustainable solutions to environmental problems around the world.
A scientific research career in any area of study has some environmental applications. Scientists working in the field, in the lab, and in the library drive forward scientific understanding of ecosystem interactions and the effects of environmental pollution. While scientific progress appears to move forward one tiny step at a time, the combination of these steps is what adds up to real, visible progress in the accumulation of scientific knowledge.
Defending the environment
If you’re interested in enforcing regulations and making sure that anyone who doesn’t comply with environmental health and safety laws is held responsible, environmental law may be the career path for you.
Practicing environmental law gives you an opportunity to combine legal knowledge and research with the environmental values of sustainability and responsible stewardship of the earth. Some aspects of environmental law include conservation, pollution control, remediation, resource management, and urban planning and infrastructure.
A career in risk assessment involves doing scientific sampling, analysis, and study of environmental conditions to determine what ecosystem or human health risks are present in a given situation. Private companies and government agencies often hire risk assessors to analyze how current practices are affecting the environment.
For example, assessors may study the current levels of pollutants in a lake and describe how those pollutant levels are likely to affect the lake’s ecosystem or the people who live nearby. Based on the risk assessment, companies and agencies will develop new approaches or reformulate existing practices to comply with laws or to reduce their environmental impacts.
As policymakers seek to create a more sustainable world through laws and regulations, they need the help of someone in the know. That’s where you’d come in if you were an environmental policy analyst. Environmental policy analysts help create new policy, analyze existing policies, and suggest improvements.
They examine the social, environmental, and economic implications and outcomes of government (or private corporation) environmental laws, and they play an important role in developing more sustainable practices for both government agencies and independent corporations.
A little careful planning goes a long way toward fixing (or avoiding) many environmental problems. Environmental engineers have played an important role in creating infrastructure that helps keep the environment clean and safe. Some of the first environmental engineers built the Roman aqueducts — bringing fresh water to the Roman people. Nowadays environmental engineers construct everything from sewage systems and hydropower dams to cleaner industrial air and waste systems.
Conserving farm and ranch land
Many private consulting firms and government agencies have positions for conservation scientists, who act as consultants for farmers, ranchers, and resource managers seeking to conserve or use their land and resources in sustainable ways. As a conservation scientist, you could help a farmer or rancher transition away from environmentally damaging practices to sustainable long-term approaches that maintain their livelihood as well as the health of the ecosystem they depend on.
If your career interests lie more in finance, you can still keep the environment in mind. Many investors today are concerned with where their money is being spent but don’t necessarily have time to research every company in their portfolio’s mutual funds. An investment advisor with some experience, education, and interest in the environment can play an important role in helping people choose the most sustainable companies to invest in.