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How to Become an Environmental Scientist

Master's degree

A bachelor's degree in a natural science is required for most environmental scientists' or environmental specialists' jobs.

Work Experience

Many environmental specialists and scientists start their careers as scientists in related occupations including engineering and hydrology. Over time, they may move into environmental science and more interdisciplinary fields.

Education & Training

A bachelor's degree in environmental science or some science related field is required for most entry-level jobs. Acceptable fields of study include: chemistry, engineering, biology, geosciences or physics.

A master's degree is often necessary for advanced positions. Environmental specialists and scientists may further obtain a doctoral degree. This high level of education is mainly required for basic research and postsecondary teaching positions.

Obtaining a bachelor's degree in environmental science provides a wide approach to the natural sciences realm. Typically, students take classes in physics, chemistry, geology and biology. Specialized courses in waste management, fluid mechanics and hydrology are incorporated into the degree as well. Courses in environmental regulation and environmental policy are additionally recommended.

Students wishing to obtain Ph.D. level certification will find it beneficial to major in a specific natural science such as physics, biology, geology or chemistry as opposed to the broader environmental science degrees.

It is recommended that students seek opportunities such as internships and classes that allow for work with data analysis, computer modeling, and geographic information systems. Students with experience in these programs will be better suited for the job market upon graduation.

Skills and Qualities that will Help

Analytical Skills: Environmental specialists and scientists rely on specific analysis of scientific data to base their conclusions on. They need to consider all solutions and methods within each analysis in order to be accurate.

Communication Skills: Environmental specialists and scientists often have to write technical reports in order to explain and present their findings.

Interpersonal Skills: Environmental specialists and scientists may work on teams with engineers, technicians and scientists. In order to reach common goals, team members need to work together.

Problem-Solving Skills: Environmental specialists and scientists seek to find the best solution possible to issues that affect people's health and the environment.

Self-Discipline: Environmental specialists and scientists may spend a good portion of time working on their own. Staying motivated without supervision and getting work done are vital to achieving success.

How To Advance

It is common for these individuals to start their careers as technicians in offices and laboratories. They may be research assistants or field analysts. Once adequate experience is gained, they earn more autonomy and responsibility. Promotions to management research positions, project leaders or program managers may be available. Some environmental specialists and scientists may decide to work as faculty at universities or colleges or become researchers.