Environmental Scientist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

An Environmental Scientist, or Environmental Specialist, applies their knowledge of natural sciences to develop ways to save the environment and protect human health. Their main duties include collecting and analyzing samples of food, soil, air and water; building plans to fix and prevent common environmental issues and educating organizations and the public on potential environmental health hazards.

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Environmental Scientist Duties and Responsibilities

Environmental Scientists have many important duties that they must perform to excel at their job. Their responsibilities include: 

  • Collecting and scientifically analyzing soil, air and water samples to determine the level and cause of environmental contamination.
  • Developing solutions to control, fix or prevent environmental problems.
  • Conducting environmental research projects and preparing reports and presentations on their findings.
  • Advising governmental organizations, businesses and the public on potential environmental hazards and health risks. 

What Does An Environmental Scientist Do?

After they attend different field inspections and carefully analyze samples they’ve found, Environmental Scientists will build presentations and write reports, letting organizations and individuals know what they’ve uncovered. They’ll then develop programs to make certain areas safer by implementing spill prevention programs and drafting various hazardous waste rules and regulations.

Environmental Scientist Skills and Qualifications

A successful Environmental Scientist applicant will have a variety of different skills and qualifications needed to perform the job’s professional demands. Key skills include: 

  • Analytical skills: Environmental Scientists conduct experiments and draw conclusions by analyzing scientific data. 
  • Problem-solving skills: Environmental Scientists use problem-solving skills to develop solutions to environmental problems. 
  • Self-management:  Environmental Scientists often work independently or with limited supervision and self-manage their work and schedules. 
  • Communication skills: Environmental Scientists use the appropriate language to communicate scientific findings and ideas to different audiences including the general public. 

Environmental Scientist Salary Expectations

An Environmental Scientist working in the United States makes an average salary of $68,937 per year. Indeed bases its salary estimates on 532 salaries submitted anonymously by Environmental Scientist employees and users, as well as salaries posted on Indeed in the past 36 months from past and present job advertisements. An Environmental Scientist has an average tenure of 1-3 years.

Environmental Scientist Education and Training Requirements

Most entry-level jobs require Environmental Scientists to hold a bachelor’s degree in environmental science or a similar field such as chemistry, physics, biology or environmental engineering, Some Environmental Scientists may choose to pursue a master’s degree for career advancement. Aspiring Environmental Scientists can benefit from taking classes in hydrology, waste management, environmental policy and regulation, data analysis, computer modeling and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Environmental Scientists who wish to prove their professional skills can earn a certification as a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager through the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management or a professional ecological certification through the Ecological Society of America. 

Environmental Scientist Experience Requirements

The experience requirements for Environmental Scientists vary depending on the field of environmental science and the seniority of the position they are applying to. Environmental Scientists may be required by their program of study to complete an internship, which can help them gain professional experience before earning their bachelor’s degree. Environmental Scientists can gain transferable professional experience from working as environmental scientist technicians, research assistants or in a field such as data analysis. 

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Frequently asked questions about Environmental Scientists

 

What makes a great Environmental Scientist?

An effective Environmental Scientist candidate must be passionate about helping the environment and finding ways to save it. They should have strong research skills to help them regularly study about the environment and apply the knowledge they’ve learned to help them develop effective environmental safety programs. 

Environmental Scientists should also have impressive analytical abilities, as they’re expected to regularly review different environmental statistics and draft in-depth reports based on data they’ve found. They should also possess strong communication and public speaking skills since they meet with executives and individuals to explain how they can practice environmentally friendly strategies.

 

What are the different types of Environmental Scientists?

Environmental Scientists can work in a wide variety of roles using their scientific knowledge to find solutions to protecting the planet. Environmental Chemists closely study the soil and groundwater to determine any long-term risks that could negatively affect human health and other living beings. 

Environmental Biologists spend a majority of their time conducting field work to monitor living beings and assess how different environmental and human factors affect them. They collect and analyze several samples and use math and statistics to closely study and make conclusions about them.  

 

What's the difference between an Environmental Scientist and an Ecologist?

While both of these positions involve protecting the environment, an Environmental Scientist and an Ecologist have key differences when it comes to their responsibilities. Ecologists work closely with animals to better understand how certain species interact with one another and the types of habitats they typically live in. 

Environmental Scientists focus more on ways to help improve the Earth by studying the soil, air and water. They’ll work to find conservation strategies and methods to reduce waste or pollution. Unlike Ecologists, Environmental Scientists spend little to no time with animals.  

 

Do Environmental Scientists have different responsibilities in different industries?

Environmental Scientists typically hold similar responsibilities, but can work in a variety of different industries and specialty areas. Some may work in the healthcare industry, focusing on environmental regulations that help protect people’s health. Others may work for the government, building regulations that work to keep society from harming the Earth and ecosystem further. 

Some may work for organizations that fight against climate change and study the changing climate’s negative effect on the Earth’s ecosystem. Some may work for restoration companies, finding polluted sites to determine how much it’ll cost to fix up the area and to rid it of any waste or harmful chemicals for people to eventually use it for recreational use.

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