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What Does it Take to Be an Environmental Scientist or Specialist?

Example of Environmental Scientist or Specialist Job Conduct research or perform investigation for the purpose of identifying, abating, or eliminating sources of pollutants or hazards that affect either the environment or the health of the population. Using knowledge of various scientific disciplines, may collect, synthesize, study, report, and recommend action based on data derived from measurements or observations of air, food, soil, water, and other sources.

Life As an Environmental Scientist or Specialist: What Do They Do?

  • Supervise or train students, environmental technologists, technicians, or other related staff.
  • Develop programs designed to obtain the most productive, non-damaging use of land.
  • Design or direct studies to obtain technical environmental information about planned projects.
  • Investigate and report on accidents affecting the environment.
  • Develop methods to minimize the impact of production processes on the environment, based on the study and assessment of industrial production, environmental legislation, and physical, biological, and social environments.
  • Research sources of pollution to determine their effects on the environment and to develop theories or methods of pollution abatement or control.

What Every Environmental Scientist or Specialist Should Know

Below is a list of the skills most Environmental Scientists and Specialists say are important on the job.

Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Active Listening: Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Reading Comprehension: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

Writing: Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

Speaking: Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Science: Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.

Types of Environmental Scientist or Specialist

  • Environmental Consultant
  • Environmental Specialist
  • Research Environmental Scientist
  • Pollution Control Chemist
  • Environmental Services Assistant

Environmental Scientist or Specialist Job Outlook

In 2016, there was an estimated number of 89,500 jobs in the United States for Environmental Scientist or Specialist. New jobs are being produced at a rate of 11.1% which is above the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 9,900 new jobs for Environmental Scientist or Specialist by 2026. Due to new job openings and attrition, there will be an average of 9,500 job openings in this field each year.

Forecasted Number of Jobs for Environmental Scientists and Specialists in U.S.

The states with the most job growth for Environmental Scientist or Specialist are Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. Watch out if you plan on working in Maine, Alaska, or Maryland. These states have the worst job growth for this type of profession.

Salary for an Environmental Scientist or Specialist

The typical yearly salary for Environmental Scientists and Specialists is somewhere between $42,520 and $124,620.

Salary Ranges for Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental Scientists and Specialists who work in District of Columbia, California, or Colorado, make the highest salaries.

How much do Environmental Scientists and Specialists make in different U.S. states?

State Annual Mean Salary
Alabama $67,630
Alaska $80,220
Arizona $72,150
Arkansas $58,540
California $91,890
Colorado $93,010
Connecticut $83,220
Delaware $59,890
District of Columbia $115,190
Florida $58,790
Georgia $72,860
Hawaii $69,780
Idaho $60,470
Illinois $78,640
Indiana $62,590
Iowa $74,140
Kansas $76,780
Kentucky $51,740
Louisiana $68,570
Maine $67,390
Maryland $77,300
Massachusetts $82,580
Michigan $69,430
Minnesota $74,880
Missouri $53,820
Montana $68,660
Nebraska $61,020
Nevada $63,920
New Hampshire $75,520
New Jersey $80,350
New Mexico $87,200
New York $79,340
North Carolina $64,850
North Dakota $72,860
Ohio $74,750
Oklahoma $65,490
Oregon $77,980
Pennsylvania $74,430
Rhode Island $82,160
South Dakota $61,250
Tennessee $72,470
Texas $80,880
Utah $68,480
Vermont $66,440
Virginia $85,550
Washington $85,090
West Virginia $56,380
Wisconsin $61,030
Wyoming $68,940

What Tools do Environmental Scientists and Specialists Use?

Below is a list of the types of tools and technologies that Environmental Scientists and Specialists may use on a daily basis:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Web browser software
  • Microsoft Access
  • Word processing software
  • SAP
  • Microsoft Project
  • Autodesk AutoCAD
  • Spreadsheet software
  • Adobe Systems Adobe Acrobat
  • Structured query language SQL
  • Database software
  • Microsoft Visual Basic
  • Adobe Systems Adobe Illustrator
  • IBM SPSS Statistics
  • Geographic information system GIS software
  • Graphics software

How do I Become an Environmental Scientist or Specialist?

Are there Environmental Scientists and Specialists education requirements?

Environmental Scientist or Specialist Degree Level

What work experience do I need to become an Environmental Scientist or Specialist?

Environmental Scientist or Specialist Work Experience

Who Employs Environmental Scientists and Specialists?

Environmental Scientist or Specialist Sectors

The table below shows the approximate number of Environmental Scientists and Specialists employed by various industries.

Environmental Scientist or Specialist Industries

You May Also Be Interested In…

Those interested in being an Environmental Scientist or Specialist may also be interested in:

Are you already one of the many Environmental Scientist or Specialist in the United States? If you’re thinking about changing careers, these fields are worth exploring:


Image Credit: Lynn Betts via Photo by Lynn Betts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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