Inside Environmental Scientist Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Scientists Are Part-Time Writers...
People would be surprised by how much writing I do. Between writing my own research papers and proposals and helping others with theirs, I spend about a third of my time writing and editing." (Scientist; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Arizona, female
School: Studied Environmental Engineering at Princeton University in New Jersey; completed Doctorate degree in 2012

"Gender Inequality Is Alive And Well...
I think what is most surprising is that it's still difficult for women to get ahead in this type of career. You think the glass ceiling no longer exists and there is no gender bias, but that's simply not true. Although I have several years of experience in my field, people still say to me, "Is there a man I can talk to?" It's ridiculous and demoralizing." (Compliance Solutions Consultant; 2014)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, female
School: Studied Environmental Health And Safety at East Tennessee State University in Tennessee; completed Bachelor degree in 2006

"Variability In Job Opportunities And Work Environments...
The lack of entry level permanent jobs is severe in environmental and biological sciences. Most jobs are seasonal until you have many years of experience or go on to attain a masters degree and conduct a personal research project. The opportunity to work independently and outside most of the time though is substantial." (Environmental Scientist /Ecologist; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in California, female
School: Studied Environmental Science at Humboldt State University in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Program Vision And Patience Is As Important As Science Education...
I was most surprised by the amount of time we spent developing a program to implement and how little time we actually spent on implementation. Developing a government program for environmental or public health protection requires patience and the willingness to stick it out (lots of false starts). But I was also happily surprised by the amount of interaction with the general public." (I Was An Environmental Program Manager; 2014)

Career: 20 years of experience, currently based in Alaska, female
School: Studied Environmental Sciences at University Of Alaska Fairbanks Campus in Alaska; completed Bachelor degree in 1983

"Job Security And Opportunity Does Increase With A College Degree...
What most surprised me about my profession is that I was able to immediately find work out of college. People complain these days that college degrees are less important now and job security won't increase with one, but my degree definitely did. Within three weeks of graduating, I was approached by multiple renewable energy companies in North Carolina for work." (Sustainable Energy Policy And Economics; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, male
School: Studied Environmental Science-Sustainable Energy at North Carolina State University in North Carolina; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"The Environment Is Science...
The science involved in the creation and operation of our planet is fascinating. I was surprised that my profession as an scientist would be as technical and uplifting as it is. This profession allows you to do a good deed that helps every living thing on Earth." (Environmental Scientist; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Environmental Science at University Of Phoenix in Arizona; completed Master degree in 2012

"Archaeologists Have Many Skills...
Most people are surprised that archaeologists are a jack of all trades." (Archaeologist; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Texas, male
School: Studied Anthropology at Texas A&M University in Texas in 2009

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Fish Population Dynamicist: "I love that my job has an impact on an important and underestimated resource. Fish populations have been at risk for years as fishermen have removed fish faster than they can reproduce. I like that my job has a positive impact on the environment and helps to protect a valuable resource that will need to be rehabilitated for many more generations. As much as I am happy to be positively affecting fish populations, sometimes I am daunted by the work that still needs to be done. There are so many species that have not been evaluated or that need to be further protected. Sometimes the bureaucracy can limit the effectiveness of what I want to accomplish since the government must compromise between nature and humans. What the fishermen don't realize is that they can not continue taking away from the resource since it can not replenish itself as fast as it is being depleted." (2011)

Research Associate For A Public University: "The best part of my career is being able to interact with the community in which I grew up. I research issues that affect local farming communities, and the research we conduct has a visible impact on the families we work with, and this is very rewarding. The research can also benefit other farming communities across the country. The worst part of my job is constantly wondering if we will have long term funding. We are considered "soft money," which means that if we can't secure grants, our jobs are not funded. Given the current economy crisis, funding sources are hard to come by." (2011)

Ecosystem Ecologist: "The best parts of my current position have been the opportunities to travel and work in interesting places, and work with interesting people on projects that I find fascinating. I have also been fortunate to have a high degree of independence and a flexible work schedule. The major down sides are the very low pay for graduate research assistants (although, getting paid to go to graduate school isn't a bad deal) and the (often unwritten) expectation that you will work brutally long hours." (2009)

Career Background

Environmental Scientist

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Tips

"Research Experience Is A Must...
If you want a career in the sciences, try to get involved with volunteer or internship opportunities in scientific research as early as possible. Your classes might seem like they should be the priority, but your work experience matters way more than your grades." (Scientist; 2014)

"How To Ensure A Successful Career In Environmental Science...
If you want to be successful in being an Environmental Scientist, you need to be passionate about a specific focal area in the field, and be able to reach out to your community for information and opportunities." (Sustainable Energy Policy And Economics; 2014)

"Necessary Skills And Training...
To find success in environmental science you should take a variety of science classes such forestry, range land sciences, and geographic information systems. It is also excellent to build up your outdoor or back country experience for job skills such as topographic map and compass navigation, 4WD driving, using a GPS and hiking through rough terrain and conditions for extended time periods." (Environmental Scientist /Ecologist; 2014)

"Not Your Typical 9 To 5...
Look for unconventional ways to use your degree. There are many rewarding careers that involve teaching, consulting and working with students." (Compliance Solutions Consultant; 2014)

"In It For The Long Haul...
I you are interested in working in an environmental program implementation (such as those that implement the safe drinking water program or clean air act) it is important to know that on-the-job training is as essential as what you learn in college. You need to be willing to start at an entry level and work your way up. To feel effective and successful in what you do you will need to become an expert in your field and that takes time (years). But its worthwhile." (I Was An Environmental Program Manager; 2014)

"Enjoy Doing Good For A Living...
You can do good and enjoy what you do for a living. This creates a sense of power and respect for those who do good, they can do great." (Environmental Scientist; 2013)

"Archaeology Broad Science Disciplines...
If you want to be a successful archaeologist, learn all the other science disciplines. Geology is a good one to start with." (Archaeologist; 2013)

"Take More Math Courses...
Even though coursework in biology or fisheries may not require many courses in math, it is wrong to think that those courses are unimportant. Scientists must take as many courses in math as they can. Getting hands on experience in the field is also important. I had several internships, but getting even more experience would have been useful. A wide variety of experience would be the best so that you can determine exactly which aspect of fisheries you might want to undertake. Keep close relationships with your professors. They know many of the people who will be your colleagues and can help you find work study options and connect you with important people in your career." (Fish Population Dynamicist; 2011)

"Try Volunteering At A University Lab...
If at all possible, volunteer for a university before applying for a job. Every summer we hire interns to help with field work and lab work. This will give you a hands on opportunity to see whether or not you want to pursue academic research as a career. Secondly, be flexible. My job duties are constantly changing to meet the goals of the different grants we secure. This means I may be working on several different grants, all with different objectives and schedules, at the same time. You have to be able to adapt to the changing tempos that come with the job." (Research Associate For A Public University; 2011)

"Success Can Depend On Communication Abilities...
Nobody goes into science for the money, so anyone who sticks with it does so because he or she finds the work interesting and believes that his work will "make a difference." Probably 85% of my time is spent writing and editing, which people may not associate with the job of a scientist. Your success as a scientist depends on communicating your findings to a larger audience--often in the form of journal articles--and the better you write, the easier this task will be. Take as many writing classes as possible. I also wish I had taken more classes in math, computer programming, and statistics as an undergraduate." (Ecosystem Ecologist; 2009)