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What Does an Environmental Scientist Do?

Environmental scientists may analyze samples in a laboratory.
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  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2014
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An environmental scientist applies a scientific understanding of the natural world to the protection of nature. These members of the scientific community are concerned with balancing human needs with the needs of organisms in the natural environment and the needs of future generations who may be harmed by environmental abuses. To practice in this field, someone usually needs at least a bachelor's degree in environmental science, and graduate degrees are often strongly recommended.

The work that an environmental scientist performs very much depends on where he or she works. Some work as educators, for example, teaching members of the public about environmental issues and promoting environmental education. Educators can work for nature centers, schools, and environmental advocacy programs, working with people of all ages, from young children just being introduced to environmental topics to older adults being taught about new ways to use natural resources.

An environmental scientist can also work as a researcher, conducting studies which are designed to provide insight into the natural environment and the ways in which it is used. Some environmental scientists focus on studying pristine populations so that they can learn about the complex relationships which exist in the natural environment, while others are interested in the intersection between human populations and the environment. For example, an environmental scientist might study the impact of damming on a river, a population of endangered animals, or look at how farming impacts plant biodiversity.

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Some environmental scientists work on developing and enforcing policies which protect the natural environment. They can work for government agencies concerned with environmental safety and protection, and for private organizations which advocate for the environment. These environmental scientists may spend a lot of time in the office, developing relationships with organizations, individuals, and governments which are designed to contribute to environmental protection.

Other environmental scientists work as consultants. An environmental scientist may be brought in to consult on any type of project which could have an impact on the environment, ranging from new construction to beach nourishment. Consultants study the proposed project, look at the natural environment, and make recommendations which will help the project go more smoothly.

An environmental scientist can opt to focus on a specific area of interest, such as particular types of ecosystems or unique subfields in environmental science. In some situations, a team of environmental scientists may work together, combining their knowledge and skills to address a complex environmental problem, issue, or concern.

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anon968894
Post 8

I wanted to be a type of engineer such as civil, mechanical or electrical but since that recommends math c, I decided I couldn't do it and so I was wondering what subjects are required to study during my senior year of high school to become an environmental scientist, and if they do some outdoor work since I enjoy construction work and all. Do you guys have any other career advice like on similar careers which may include construction type work and not engineering please?

anon286939
Post 6

I am trying to decide what to major in. I wanted to be an environmental engineer, but the sheer number of years it takes to be an engineer of any type is out of the question for me.

I am concerned with the corruption of the agencies, since natural resource managers and environmental scientists deal with reporting to a company, or the government, both of which do a lot to minimize the public's knowledge of its pollution/action.

I don't want to abandon my beliefs or lose my job over the facts or changing the facts to make the company look good. This is the last thing I want, and if I can't find a relatively respectable option, I may abandon my goal altogether.

Would you have any information on the corruption of research gatherers of this field? Or know a place that does? This is my future (and the planet's!) after all.

anon155879
Post 3

I am currently studying Environmental science and Ecology at Uni, and I don't see much of a difference between the two.

Glasshouse
Post 2

@ Fiorite - Hydrologists are also considered Environmental scientists. They study the movement, formation, and precipitation of ground and surface water. Fresh water resources are scarce worldwide; so many governments and private firms hire hydrologists. There is considerable demand for hydrologists, and their salaries can be quite good.

Many hydrologists work for engineering and architectural firms. Others work for the USGS or other government agency. Still others work in water treatment facilities.

There are many different specializations in within the environmental scientist field. With the challenges facing businesses and governments due to limited resources and growing populations, there should be plenty of work for decades to come.

Fiorite
Post 1

Environmental scientists often work in preservation, conservation, waste management, and water preservation. To become an environmental scientist you can go to school and study environmental science (a broad interdisciplinary science), or you can study any of the physical sciences to become a specialist.

Almost half of environmental science majors work for the government, but as the article said they can consult, or work for private firms. To become a teacher, a PhD is often necessary, and most research positions require a master’s. Entry-level jobs can be found with only a bachelor’s though.

The Bureau of labor and statistics is a good resource for those looking to become an environmental scientist. The bureau lists everything from curriculum to study to job prospects and salaries.

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