Careers in Environmental Geography: Job Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed have a career in environmental geography. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and prospects to find out if this is the career for you.

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Urban planners, environmental consultants and conservation scientists are all professionals who work in the field of environmental geography. A bachelor's degree is required for entry-level positions as a conservation scientist or environmental consultant. Those interested in advancement or a career as an urban planner are required to have a master's degree.

Essential Information

As an examination of human impact on the Earth, environmental geography encompasses both natural and social sciences. Postsecondary degrees in environmental geography are available; however, the field offers a range of career types, each of which has many possible educational paths.

Required Education Master's degree in related field common
Other Requirements Licensing also common
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for urban and regional planners
Median Salary (2015)* $68,220 annually for urban and regional planners

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Urban Planner

Urban planners are often employed by local governments to develop ideas for how land will be used in a given area. Environmental issues in this field might include the preservation of wetlands, forests and other sensitive areas, and the location of landfills and other trash management facilities. Urban planners might recommend locations, zoning regulations and other planning details that minimize environmental impact. Additionally, urban planners may help create legislation pertaining to urban development projects.

Urban Planner Requirements

Most entry-level jobs in urban planning require a master's degree in a related field. You may be able to find a master's degree in urban planning with specialized courses or a concentration in environmental issues. Some schools even offer dual graduate-level degrees in urban planning and natural resources. Training and experience using GIS technology can also be helpful in securing a job in the field. Though requirements vary by state, urban planners might need to be licensed.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected employment for urban and regional planners to increase by 6% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS noted that urban and regional planners saw a median annual salary of $68,220 in its May 2015 report.

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Environmental Consultant

An environmental consultant might work for a firm or as an independent contractor. In general, environmental consulting involves working with clients to identify environmental issues and propose solutions. Environmental consultants might advise companies on how to clean water pollutants at their work site or on how to meet government emission standards. They might work with construction companies to determine how to build without harming surrounding wildlife, or they may help a company start a recycling program. The position often involves traveling to meet with clients and might require working outside, especially when assessing environmental contaminants.

Environmental Consultant Requirements

Environmental consultants are usually required to have a postsecondary degree, and higher degrees are recommended for career advancement. Successful consultants should have excellent communication skills, attention to detail and superior problem-solving abilities.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS includes environmental consultants within the larger category of environmental scientists and specialists, who were expected to see employment grow at a rate of 11% from 2014 until 2024. The median salary for all environmental specialists and scientists was $67,460, the BLS stated in May 2015.

Conservation Scientist

Conservation scientists manage the use and development of a variety of natural resources. They may specialize in a particular conservation area, such as forestry or soil. Conservation scientists are knowledgeable in how to protect natural resources against pests, disease and unnecessary waste. They advise landowners in how to develop land efficiently while conserving the environment by, for example, proposing plans to manage soil erosion issues on a farm.

Conservation Scientist Requirements

Most conservation scientists hold a bachelor's degree in a related field, and advanced degrees might be necessary for positions involving teaching or research. Conservation science work can be physically demanding and may take place outdoors. Some positions require the use of technology, such as GIS and remote sensing. Certain specialties such as forestry may require licensure.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Conservation scientists were predicted to see an employment growth rate of 7% during the 2014 to 2024 decade, the BLS found. Their median annual salary as of May 2015 was $61,110, the BLS said.

Environmental geography professionals focus on how people affect the Earth. This can be applied to a career as an urban planner to determine the best locations to build on, or what zoning is needed to protect sensitive environmental areas. Environmental consultants may advise companies about how to comply with government environmental regulations, and conservation scientists focus on protecting natural resources.

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