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Career Information for a Degree in Environmental Studies

An undergraduate degree in environmental studies typically allows students to choose a career-based concentration area within this broad field. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary information for environmental studies graduates.

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An individual who earns a bachelor's degree in environmental science may look into becoming an environmental ecologist, policy specialist, or conservation scientist, among other jobs unlisted. Environmental studies is a broad field that covers various subjects, so the job possibilities are large.

Essential Information

The majority of environmental studies degree programs are designed with an interdisciplinary structure. Concentration areas may include topics such as sustainability, social advocacy, environmental communication, environmental policy reform, resource management, urban development or environmental education. Common environmental studies coursework includes multiple classes in the natural sciences, such as chemistry, biology and ecology. Students are also required to take courses within the social sciences, such as environmental management, environmental economics, world politics and global environmental issues.

Career Environmental Ecologist Environmental Policy Specialist Conservation Scientist
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree; master's degree may be required by some employers Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 11% for environmental scientists and specialists 12% for social scientists and related workers 7%
Median Annual Salary* (2015) $67,460 for environmental scientists and specialists $76,380 for social scientists and related workers $61,110

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Environmental studies encompasses several academic disciplines in order to address environmental issues from multiple perspectives. A degree in environmental studies prepares workers for many career fields, including ecological studies, policy reform and conservationism. Some positions will be more available to those who hold graduate degrees within specific subfields. Keep reading to learn about three careers in this field.

Environmental Ecologist

Environmental ecologists study the way in which living creatures affect and are affected by their environments. They examine various factors that affect an organism's quality of life, such as population growth, availability of resources, pollution and urban development. They may run tests and write reports with recommendations on how to improve certain ecological habitats.

According to predictions from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers in the field of environmental sciences are expected to see 11% job growth during the decade between 2014 and 2024. Reasons for this fast rate of job growth include increased public interest in environmental problems and population growth, which can negatively impact the environment. The 2015 median annual salary for environmental scientists and specialists was $67,460, per BLS.

Environmental Policy Specialist

Often working for political advocacy organizations, environmental policy specialists work on redesigning laws and policies concerning environmental issues. Some policy specialists focus on individual environmental concerns, such as air pollution, ocean preservation, alternative energy or industrial waste. They also conduct research into various environmental causes and, if necessary, advocate for changing public policies.

The BLS classifies environmental policy specialists as social scientists and related workers. According to the BLS, the 2015 median annual salary for this group was $76,380. Social scientists and related workers are expected to see 12% job growth between 2014 and 2024, per BLS.

Conservation Scientist

Often working as consultants, conservation scientists help landowners and government officials determine the most efficient ways to use land and natural resources. They may make recommendations concerning the amount of livestock or agriculture that a piece of property can support or test soil and water samples to determine the quality and amount of natural resources within a given area.

During the time period of 2014 to 2024, the BLS predicted that open or new positions in the field of conservation would increase by 7%. In 2014, the median annual salary for conservation scientists was $61,110, per BLS.

To work in conservation, policy reform, or ecology, one must hold an undergraduate degree at minimum in environmental science/studies, which is an interdisciplinary program. Some positions may require a master's degree or higher, especially research jobs.

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