Environmental biology educational training programs prepare students for employment as science technicians; those with at least a bachelor's degree could also become environmental scientists. Bachelor's and master's degree programs are available in environmental science, as are certificate programs for students who already possess a bachelor's degree in a different field or, sometimes, who are simply pursuing a bachelor's degree at the same time.
Professional certifications are available to those who have satisfied educational and experience requirements and who pass an examination.
Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science
Four-year bachelor's programs require a high school diploma or equivalent and standardized test scores. Some programs may require prerequisite coursework or interviews.
These programs include fieldwork in campus laboratories, wildlife sanctuaries and cooperating environmental sites in addition to substantial coursework in the natural sciences. Students may choose to pursue a major or minor in another field to develop a concentration on a particular topic, such as environment and society. General education subjects of math, science and English, as well as specialized topics in biology, ecology, chemistry and geology are also included. Some core topics are:
- Natural science statistics
- Environmental issues and policies
Certificate in Environmental Biology, General Biology or Environmental Studies
Certificate programs in environmental biology, general biology or environmental studies are offered to students who have a bachelor's degree or current enrollment in a bachelor's program. Participants study ecology, evolution, biology, statistics and environmental topics. Upon graduation, a certificate of completion is awarded. Most programs are part-time.
Courses in environmental biology certificate programs are similar to the bachelor's degree studies, excluding general education requirements. Some common courses include:
- Molecular biology
- Animal physiology
- Marine animal biology
Master of Science in Environmental Science
Most master's programs suggest or require background education in chemistry, physics, math and statistics prior to enrollment. Previous environmental science coursework is also helpful. Students must already possess a bachelor's degree, and some colleges require a major in specific science or engineering specialties.
Master's degree programs in environmental science build on academic studies in environmental topics and support the development of advanced research and management skills. Some offer different areas of concentration such as ecology, environmental education, water resources or quantitative analysis. Students must typically maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) throughout the program. Graduates are awarded a Master of Science (MS) degree.
Master's degree-level coursework in environmental science includes core courses in the specialty, along with advanced math and science classes. A thesis or research project is usually required. Some course titles might include:
- Natural resource management
- Water and wetlands
- Environmental soil sciences
- Microbial ecology
Popular Career Options
Most positions in the environmental biology field require at least a bachelor's degree for employment. Here is a list of some jobs that people with a bachelor's degree in environmental science can hold:
- Environmental advisor
- Environmental toxicologist
- Environmental ecologist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), environmental science and protection technicians earned a median annual wage of $46,170 in May of 2018 (www.bls.gov). At that time, the BLS also reported that the lowest 10% of wage-earners in this profession made $28,530 annually or less, while the highest 10% earned $80,130 or more.
Environmental scientists and specialists may clean polluted areas, advise policy or work to reduce waste with the goal of protecting the environment and human health. According to the BLS, many companies prefer to hire environmental scientists who already possess a master's degree. In May of 2018, the BLS also reported that the median annual wage was $71,130 for environmental scientists and specialists.
Continuing Education and Certification Info
Environmental science students can continue their studies in Ph.D. programs. Also, certification is available through the National Registry of Environmental Professionals in a variety of job titles including Associate Environmental Professional (AEP), Certified Environmental Scientist (CES), Registered Environmental Professional (REP) and Environmental Technician (ET). To become certified, applicants must meet specific educational and work experience requirements, pass an exam and pay a fee.
In certificate and degree programs in environmental biology, students may have the opportunity to participate in fieldwork and/or select a specialization in addition to taking core courses. Professional certification is offered by the National Registry of Environmental Professionals, and employment can be found as an environmental science and protection technician.