Careers for Environmental Studies Majors

Students graduating with a major in Environmental Studies are prepared for a variety of careers. For careers in advanced fields, the BA in Environmental Studies provides an undergraduate foundation that prepares students for graduate studies. The list below highlights common potential career paths. Click on any field below to learn more (data provided by O*Net online)

Corporate Sustainability Officer

Job Description:

  • Develop or execute strategies to address issues such as energy use, resource conservation, recycling, pollution reduction, waste elimination, transportation, education, and building design.
  • Supervise employees or volunteers working on sustainability projects.
  • Research environmental sustainability issues, concerns, or stakeholder interests.
  • Develop methodologies to assess the viability or success of sustainability initiatives.
  • Monitor and evaluate effectiveness of sustainability programs.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require graduate school. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$80.84 hourly, $168,140 annual

  • Employment (2010)

370,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Slower than average (3% to 9%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

111,500

Geographic Information Specialist

Job Desription:

  • Design or prepare graphic representations of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data, using GIS hardware or software applications.
  • Analyze Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data to identify spatial relationships or display results of analyses, using maps, graphs, or tabular data.
  • Maintain or modify existing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) databases.
  • Enter data into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) databases, using techniques such as coordinate geometry, keyboard entry of tabular data, manual digitizing of maps, scanning or automatic conversion to vectors, or conversion of other sources of digital data.
  • Review existing or incoming data for currency, accuracy, usefulness, quality, or completeness of documentation.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$39.01 hourly, $81,140 annual

  • Employment (2010)

210,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Slower than average (3% to 9%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

51,600

Occupational Safety Specialist

Job Description:

  • Order suspension of activities that pose threats to workers' health or safety.
  • Investigate accidents to identify causes or to determine how such accidents might be prevented in the future.
  • Recommend measures to help protect workers from potentially hazardous work methods, processes, or materials.
  • Inspect or evaluate workplace environments, equipment, or practices to ensure compliance with safety standards and government regulations.
  • Develop or maintain hygiene programs, such as noise surveys, continuous atmosphere monitoring, ventilation surveys, or asbestos management plans.
  • Collect samples of dust, gases, vapors, or other potentially toxic materials for analysis.
  • Investigate the adequacy of ventilation, exhaust equipment, lighting, or other conditions that could affect employee health, comfort, or performance.
  • Conduct safety training or education programs and demonstrate the use of safety equipment.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$32.11 hourly, $66,790 annual

  • Employment (2010)

59,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Slower than average (3% to 9%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

25,700

Urban and Regional Planner

Job Description:

  • Hold public meetings with government officials, social scientists, lawyers, developers, the public, or special interest groups to formulate, develop, or address issues regarding land use or community plans.
  • Discuss with planning officials the purpose of land use projects, such as transportation, conservation, residential, commercial, industrial, or community use.
  • Recommend approval, denial, or conditional approval of proposals.
  • Design, promote, or administer government plans or policies affecting land use, zoning, public utilities, community facilities, housing, or transportation.
  • Conduct field investigations, surveys, impact studies, or other research to compile and analyze data on economic, social, regulatory, or physical factors affecting land use.
  • Create, prepare, or requisition graphic or narrative reports on land use data, including land area maps overlaid with geographic variables such as population density.
  • Assess the feasibility of proposals and identify necessary changes.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require graduate school.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$31.36 hourly, $65,230 annual

  • Employment (2010)

40,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Average (10% to 19%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

16,800

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Job Description:

  • Formulate and implement training programs, applying principles of learning and individual differences.
  • Conduct research studies of physical work environments, organizational structures, communication systems, group interactions, morale, and motivation to assess organizational functioning.
  • Conduct presentations on research findings for clients and at research meetings.
  • Provide expert testimony in employment lawsuits.
  • Study consumers' reactions to new products and package designs, and to advertising efforts, using surveys and tests.
  • Review research literature to remain current on psychological science issues.
  • Develop interview techniques, rating scales, and psychological tests used to assess skills, abilities, and interests for the purpose of employee selection, placement, and promotion.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require graduate school.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$40.18 hourly, $83,580 annual

  • Employment (2010)

2,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Much faster than average (29% or higher)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

1,500

Wastewater Engineer

Job Description:

  • Provide technical direction or supervision to junior engineers, engineering or computer-aided design (CAD) technicians, or other technical personnel.
  • Conduct feasibility studies for the construction of facilities, such as water supply systems, run-off collection networks, water and wastewater treatment plants, or wastewater collection systems.
  • Design pumping systems, pumping stations, pipelines, force mains, or sewers for the collection of wastewater.
  • Design domestic or industrial water or wastewater treatment plants, including advanced facilities with sequencing batch reactors (SBR), membranes, lift stations, headworks, surge overflow basins, ultraviolet disinfection systems, aerobic digesters, sludge lagoons, or control buildings.
  • Analyze storm water or floodplain drainage systems to control erosion, stabilize river banks, repair channel streams, or design bridges.
  • Design water distribution systems for potable or nonpotable water.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$38.89 hourly, $80,890 annual

  • Employment (2010)

51,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Faster than average (20% to 28%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

22,600

Energy Auditor

Job Description:

  • Identify and prioritize energy saving measures.
  • Prepare audit reports containing energy analysis results or recommendations for energy cost savings.
  • Collect and analyze field data related to energy usage.
  • Inspect or evaluate building envelopes, mechanical systems, electrical systems, or process systems to determine the energy consumption of each system.
  • Perform tests such as blower-door tests to locate air leaks.
  • Educate customers on energy efficiency or answer questions on topics such as the costs of running household appliances or the selection of energy efficient appliances.
  • Calculate potential for energy savings.

Education:

  • Most occupations in this zone require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$31.31 hourly, $65,120 annual

  • Employment (2010)

1,064,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Average (10% to 19%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

327,200

Environmental Journalist

Job Description:

  • Report news stories for publication or broadcast, describing the background and details of events.
  • Arrange interviews with people who can provide information about a story.
  • Review copy and correct errors in content, grammar, and punctuation, following prescribed editorial style and formatting guidelines.
  • Review and evaluate notes taken about event aspects in order to isolate pertinent facts and details.
  • Determine a story's emphasis, length, and format, and organize material accordingly.
  • Research and analyze background information related to stories in order to be able to provide complete and accurate information.
  • Gather information about events through research, interviews, experience, or attendance at political, news, sports, artistic, social, or other functions.
  • Investigate breaking news developments, such as disasters, crimes, or human-interest stories.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$17.25 hourly, $35,870 annual

  • Employment (2010)

52,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Decline slowly or moderately (-3% to -9%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

18,400

Park Naturalist

Job Description:

  • Provide visitor services, such as explaining regulations, answering visitor requests, needs and complaints, and providing information about the park and surrounding areas.
  • Conduct field trips to point out scientific, historic, and natural features of parks, forests, historic sites or other attractions.
  • Prepare and present illustrated lectures and interpretive talks about park features.
  • Perform emergency duties to protect human life, government property, and natural features of park.
  • Confer with park staff to determine subjects and schedules for park programs.
  • Assist with operations of general facilities, such as visitor centers.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$29.38 hourly, $61,100 annual

  • Employment (2010)

23,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Slower than average (3% to 9%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

4,000

Soil and Water Conservationist

Job Description:

  • Implement soil or water management techniques, such as nutrient management, erosion control, buffers, or filter strips, in accordance with conservation plans.
  • Monitor projects during or after construction to ensure projects conform to design specifications.
  • Visit areas affected by erosion problems to identify causes or determine solutions.
  • Advise land users, such as farmers or ranchers, on plans, problems, or alternative conservation solutions.
  • Develop or maintain working relationships with local government staff or board members.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$29.38 hourly, $61,100 annual

  • Employment (2010)

23,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Slower than average (3% to 9%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

4,000

Water Resource Specialist

Job Description:

  • Perform hydrologic, hydraulic, or water quality modeling.
  • Conduct, or oversee the conduct of, investigations on matters such as water storage, wastewater discharge, pollutants, permits, or other compliance and regulatory issues.
  • Develop plans to protect watershed health or rehabilitate watersheds.
  • Develop strategies for watershed operations to meet water supply and conservation goals or to ensure regulatory compliance with clean water laws or regulations.
  • Identify and characterize specific causes or sources of water pollution.
  • Write proposals, project reports, informational brochures, or other documents on wastewater purification, water supply and demand, or other water resource subjects.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$55.64 hourly, $115,730 annual

  • Employment (2010)

49,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Slower than average (3% to 9%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

33,500

City Recycling Coordinator

Job Description:

  • Oversee recycling pick-up or drop-off programs to ensure compliance with community ordinances.
  • Supervise recycling technicians, community service workers, or other recycling operations employees or volunteers.
  • Assign truck drivers or recycling technicians to routes.
  • Coordinate recycling collection schedules to optimize service and efficiency.
  • Coordinate shipments of recycling materials with shipping brokers or processing companies.
  • Create or manage recycling operations budgets.
  • Design community solid and hazardous waste management programs.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$21.72 hourly, $45,180 annual

  • Employment (2010)

167,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Faster than average (20% to 28%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

80,000

Agricultural Engineer

Job Description:

  • Prepare reports, sketches, working drawings, specifications, proposals, and budgets for proposed sites or systems.
  • Provide advice on water quality and issues related to pollution management, river control, and ground and surface water resources.
  • Design and supervise environmental and land reclamation projects in agriculture and related industries.
  • Design agricultural machinery components and equipment using computer-aided design (CAD) technology.
  • Discuss plans with clients, contractors, consultants, and other engineers so that they can be evaluated and necessary changes made.
  • Design food processing plants and related mechanical systems.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$35.58 hourly, $74,000 annual

  • Employment (2010)

3,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Slower than average (3% to 9%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

800

Environmental Lawyer or Lobbyist

Job Description:

  • Represent clients in court or before government agencies.
  • Present evidence to defend clients or prosecute defendants in criminal or civil litigation.
  • Select jurors, argue motions, meet with judges and question witnesses during the course of a trial.
  • Study Constitution, statutes, decisions, regulations, and ordinances of quasi-judicial bodies to determine ramifications for cases.
  • Interpret laws, rulings and regulations for individuals and businesses.
  • Present and summarize cases to judges and juries.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require graduate school

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$54.58 hourly, $113,530 annual

  • Employment (2010)

728,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Average (10% to 19%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

212,000

Environmental Economist

Job Description:

  • Write technical documents or academic articles to communicate study results or economic forecasts.
  • Conduct research on economic and environmental topics, such as alternative fuel use, public and private land use, soil conservation, air and water pollution control, and endangered species protection.
  • Assess the costs and benefits of various activities, policies, or regulations that affect the environment or natural resource stocks.
  • Collect and analyze data to compare the environmental implications of economic policy or practice alternatives.
  • Prepare and deliver presentations to communicate economic and environmental study results, to present policy recommendations, or to raise awareness of environmental consequences.

Education:

  • Most of these occupations require graduate school.

Wages and Employment Trends:

  • Median wages (2012)

$44.16 hourly, $91,860 annual

  • Employment (2010)

15,000 employees

  • Projected growth (2010-2020)

Slower than average (3% to 9%)

  • Projected job openings (2010-2020)

5,800