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Sustainable Development Careers: Job Descriptions and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to pursue a career in sustainable development. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and career options to find out if these careers are for you.

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Sustainable development careers include three professions: environmental scientist, conservation scientist and landscape architect. Education at a bachelor's level is needed for all three, and a graduate degree and licensure is required for some jobs.

Essential Information

Careers in sustainable development include environmental scientist, conservation scientist and landscape architect. Requirements include at least a bachelor's degree for all three, although coursework varies, and additional education or certification is required for many positions.

Career Environmental Scientist Conservation Scientist Landscape Architect
Required Education Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Master's degree or doctorate recommended for independent research Graduate degree for teaching, licensure for some positions State licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 11%* 7% for conservation scientists and foresters* 5%*
Median Salary (2015) $67,460* $60,220* $63,810*

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

Environmental Scientist

Job Description

Environmental scientists often work for the government or as consultants for private firms, though some may work in universities and research. Environmental scientists working in sustainable development use their knowledge of ecology, chemistry and microbiology to research and promote regulations that prevent health and environmental hazards. Typical duties include data collection and analysis, as well as environmental policy review and implementation.

Environmental scientists acting as consultants may also provide guidance on environmental regulation adherence. Entry-level positions tend to entail more physical, outdoor work in various weather conditions, while experienced professionals tend to work more so in laboratories and offices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the middle half of all environmental scientists and specialists earned $40,350-118,070 annually, as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov).

Requirements

Entry-level positions generally require at least a bachelor's degree in an earth science-related program. For upper-level government or consultant positions, requirements may include a master's degree in environmental science, as well as supplementary courses in business and engineering. Environmental scientists who want to work in research and academia will likely need a doctorate.

Courses may range from water conservation to hazardous-waste management. Students may also consider taking technical classes that teach them to use computer software like geographic information systems (GIS) to map landscapes and other areas.

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Conservation Scientists

Job Description

Conservation scientists are involved in the preservation and cultivation of the earth's natural resources. Within the field of conservationism, scientists may specialize in areas such as range management, soil conservation and water conservation. Often, conservation scientists will work with various levels of government, as well as property owners like farmers and ranchers, in order to coordinate improved land usage for recreational and agricultural purposes alike. The BLS stated that the middle half of all conservation scientists earned annual wages of $37,380-91,830, as of May 2015.

Requirements

The minimum educational requirement for conservation scientists is a bachelor's degree in areas related to agricultural and environmental science programs, or natural resource and rangeland management. A graduate degree may be needed for research and teaching jobs. Students may take classes on remote sensing, soil formation and resource administration.

Some states also require a license to work as a conservation scientist, which often may include earning a 4-year degree and accruing work experience. Certification options may also exist for particular subfields, such as the Certified Professional in Rangeland Management and Range Management Consultant credentials offered by the Society for Range Management.

Landscape Architect

Job Description

Landscape architects design areas, such as gardens, playgrounds, parks and campuses with an eye towards not only beauty and functionality, but also being environmentally friendly as well. This entails coordinating with other architects, engineers and surveyors to plan out the best possible placement of roads, walkways, plants and buildings. Therefore, landscape architects may also be involved in the process of securing funding and dealing with clients. According to the BLS, the median annual wage of all landscape architects was $63,810, with the middle half earning $40,230-$104,710 in May 2015.

Requirements

Entering the field typically requires a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture or a master's degree in landscape architecture if the applicant holds an undergraduate degree in another field. These professionals must be licensed in almost all states. Licensure generally requires passing the Landscape Architect Registration Examination, in addition to degree and work requirements. Creativity and a good understanding of the latest technology will also help one advance in the field, possibly to a managerial or supervisory position.

Sustainable development professionals often work as landscape architects, conservation scientists or environmental scientists. All three professions require at least a bachelor's degree with some states requiring additional education or licensure. Through obtaining new skills (especially in technology and management), one can expect movement and growth in the field.

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