Environmentalists and environmental scientists work to protect the natural environment from harmful human activities. Their activities can include reducing pollution and finding alternative sources of energy, but also campaigning on issues such as preventing the spread of non-native plants that upset biodiversity. Being an environmentalist is not a job in itself, but people who care about the environment often have jobs that reflect their beliefs. The most high-profile of these are jobs as environmental lobbyists or campaigners.
For an entry-level position as an environmental scientist you must have at least a bachelor's degree in biology, environmental science, chemistry or a related subject. Researchers and senior researchers, especially if they are working in a university, need doctoral degrees in environmental science or a relevant specialty such as plant biology. Environmental lobbyists and campaigners usually have a bachelor's degree, either in environmental science, politics or communications. If you want to become a lobbyist, you may find it useful also to have a law degree.
Environmental scientists work in universities, non-governmental organizations and some environmental charities. Many of them work for governments, energy and water companies or environmental consultancies to help businesses and other organizations adhere to environmental legislation. Environmental lobbyists and campaigners tend to work for specialist lobbying or communications consultancies that run campaigns on behalf of clients.
As an environmental lobbyist, you research and analyze environmental legislation as well as scientific papers and reports. You meet politicians to provide them with information that is relevant to legislation that is being debated and persuade them to support your arguments. You also write papers and attend political meetings. If you are an environmentalist campaigner, you organize campaigns. Sometimes these involve public demonstrations. Sometimes you use social media or traditional media. You write articles and news releases and organize press trips so that journalists can see environmental damage or the improvements that your client is putting in place.
Environmental Scientist Responsibilities
An environmental scientist conducts environmental research projects, investigations and surveys. This involves collecting environmental data, for example, samples of water, plants or soil, and analyzing them to assess possible environmental threats. Based on your research, you recommend plans to prevent, mitigate or solve environmental problems. You also write papers and technical reports and give presentations to academic audiences.
2016 Salary Information for Environmental Scientists and Specialists
Environmental scientists and specialists earned a median annual salary of $68,910 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, environmental scientists and specialists earned a 25th percentile salary of $52,150, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $91,450, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 89,500 people were employed in the U.S. as environmental scientists and specialists.
- University of Wisconsin Madison: Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment: Career Profile: Environmental Lobbyist
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Environmental Scientists and Specialists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Environmental Scientists and Specialists
- Career Trend: Environmental Scientists and Specialists
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