Is an Environmental Science Degree Right for You?

People who are passionate about environmental research, education, and field work should consider earning an online bachelor’s degree in environmental science. The ideal student for an environmental science program loves being outdoors, enjoys physical work, and has a propensity toward the natural sciences. Environmental science is also a good fit for people who wish to prepare for emerging green jobs in environmental protection, renewable energy, recycling and waste reduction, consulting, and regulatory administration.

Advice for Earning Your Environmental Science Degree Online

Since environmental science is such a broad field, it’s helpful to narrow your studies to the specialization you find most interesting, like environmental policy, fisheries and wildlife, or applied ecology. Be advised that certain required courses in the natural sciences, such as biology, will have campus-based lab requirements, and working students will need to make arrangements with their employer for attending these classes. Many online programs will accept transfer credits from local community colleges that are regionally accredited to fulfill these lab requirements. Last but not least, students should look for programs that work hard to connect students with internships and field work opportunities, as these will make for a much stronger resume upon graduation.

Required Courses

The foundational course work in an environmental science bachelor’s degree will include calculus, biostatistics, biology, chemistry, and physics. Students will complete an environmental science core and a selection of specialization courses that relate to their chosen concentration. Specific core courses you might take include:

  • Environmental Law & Policy
  • Environmental Toxicology
  • Environmental Risk Assessment
  • Environmental Economics
  • Ecology

Common Career Paths

Earning a degree in environmental science can lead to a wide range of jobs within environmental conservation, including protecting and preserving forests, water supplies, and air quality. Salaries for careers in environmental science vary greatly depending on your level of experience, education, the size and type of your employer, and the part of the country you live in. Consider the following career options:

Environmental Scientist or Specialist

  • Expected Growth: 19%
  • Average Annual Salary: $68,970

Environmental scientists and specialists work to protect the environment and reduce environmental pollutants. They collect and analyze air, soil, water, and food samples to detect any threats to the environment; develop and implement plans to prevent or fix problems; provide consultation to government officials; and prepare reports to share their research and findings. A bachelor’s degree in environmental science, or another natural science such as biology or chemistry, is required to qualify for entry-level positions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The above job outlook and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Conservation Scientist

  • Expected Growth: 5%
  • Average Annual Salary: $63,590

Conservation scientists work to manage natural areas and resources. They also develop plans for farmers and ranchers that allow them to develop their land without causing undue harm to the surrounding environment. Approximately 70% of conservation scientists were employed by federal, state, and local government in 2010, according to the BLS. Conservation scientists typically need a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, forestry, agricultural science, or a related field. The employment growth projection and salary figure provided above are available through the BLS.

Forester

  • Expected Growth: 5%
  • Average Annual Salary: $57,140

Foresters manage public and private forests, making sure that any use of them for profit or recreation does not interfere with conservation efforts. They make sure that new trees are planted to replace any that are harvested for timber and develop strategies for preventing and combating forest fires. A bachelor’s degree in a relevant area, such as forestry or environmental science, is typically required for a position in forestry, the BLS explained. The above job growth and salary statistics were provided by the BLS.

Climate Change Analyst

  • Expected Growth: 10%-19%
  • Average Annual Salary: $62,920

Climate change analysts study the effects of climate change, such as significant changes in weather patterns, and the causes of climate change, such as increases in greenhouse gases. They analyze climate change research and advise legislators, government officials, and environmental groups on the implications of such research. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in an area like environmental science or environmental studies is typically required for careers in climate change analysis, according to ONET Online. The above job outlook and salary figures are available through ONET.

Natural Sciences Manager

  • Expected Growth: 8%
  • Average Annual Salary: $130,400

Natural sciences managers direct the work of teams of environmental scientists and other scientists. They may be in charge of hiring and training team members and also drawing up budgets for projects and programs in environmental science. Those with graduate degrees may lead scientific research and development (R&D) programs. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area of the sciences is required, although some jobs will require a master’s degree or Ph.D., the BLS explained. The employment growth projection and salary average provided above were drawn from the BLS.

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