Environmental Conservation & Protection Jobs for Veterans

Military veterans who love the outdoors and nature may find a career in environmental conservation allows them to continue serving their country by protecting its natural resources and environment. Many of these careers require laboratory and testing experience as well as data analysis skills. Below are a number of conservation careers for veterans with different skill sets.

Career Comparison

Job Title Median Wage (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)* Applicable Military Skills/Traits
Environmental Scientists and Specialists $68,910 11% Gathering and analyzing data; presentation preparation
Environmental Science and Protection Technicians $44,190 12% Sampling and conducting lab tests
Conservation Scientists and Foresters $60,610 6% Leadership and management skills; analysis and planning
Environmental Engineering Technicians $49,170 13% Installing and repairing machinery and devices; inspecting and identifying hazards
Hydrologists $80,480 10% Studying water flow across planet; water quality testing

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Careers in Environmental Conservation for Veterans

Veterans can put their military training to work in environmental conservation. Veterans who have worked in labs, intelligence gathering, analysis, planning, and as technicians may all find a position that suits their skills in this sector. Experience with geographic information systems (GISs) and related technology can also be very helpful. In some of these careers, active duty experience may give veterans an advantage over other job seekers.

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Veterans with research, analysis, intelligence, and presentation experience may find a career as an environmental scientist or specialist to be a good fit. It is likely to be best for those veterans who have performed testing or research in hydrology, atmospheric sciences, or earth sciences.

This career category is broadly defined; scientists conduct research on many different issues that impact the planet and environment. They may analyze how to clean up a specific polluted area, for example, or advise an organization on how to minimize negative impacts on the environment. While all of the positions require an interest in the natural world, the central principle from a career perspective is that they are science based. Research is the core of the mission, and that requires testing and data. Ultimately, it also requires publication and presentation. This career requires a bachelor's degree.

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

This career is a good fit for veterans who have experience collecting samples and testing in a lab environment. Those with experience sampling and testing petroleum products, water, and other chemicals may find demand for their skills.

Environmental science and protection technicians support research into pollution and its sources. They may test urban water systems and watersheds. They may also take air and soil samples. They provide the data required to make decisions and enforce pollution standards. An associate's degree is necessary.

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

It might come as a surprise, but veterans who choose to become conservation scientists and foresters may well be those who were involved in military logistics, planning, and even inventory control. These positions require skills with management, timing, budgets, and tracking quantities of goods and condition across areas and over time.

Conservation scientists and foresters manage the forests and federal lands of the United States. This involves tracking the growth and conditions of trees, scheduling cuttings and removals, mitigating damage from fires or other issues, and creating healthy sustainable public lands. These decisions are made on the basis of scientific resource management and resource health. Conservation scientists gather and study data to base their recommendations. A bachelor's degree is required for this position.

Environmental Engineering Technicians

Veterans with experience conducting inspections and handling or repairing machinery in the field can become environmental engineering technicians. Veterans who can quickly troubleshoot mechanical problems and identify potential hazards will find this position plays to their strengths. Prior training with hazardous materials may be beneficial.

Environmental engineering technicians assist engineers. They set up and operate machinery, such as that used to clean up pollution. They also inspect facilities for compliance with environmental regulations and rules. Part of their work includes gathering samples and bringing them back for testing and to collate data. They might put in place automated sampling devices which only have to be visited occasionally, and spend time in the lab downloading and working with data. The career can require a varied skill set and is best suited to individuals who are equally comfortable in the wilderness, alongside an urban creek, in a laboratory, and in the field working with machines. An associate's degree is required; ABET accredits engineering programs at this level.


Military researchers study water systems intensely for a variety of reasons, including campaign planning, crisis preparation, and as a vital resource for nations and regions. Those who have experience sampling and monitoring water systems in addition to analysis skills may enjoy a career as a hydrologist.

Hydrologists specialize in the study of water. They study water as it cycles through the atmosphere, as it runs down rivers to the sea, and as it flows underground into aquifers. In addition to the movement of water, they also study water quality, testing for pollutants and natural chemical variations. Hydrologists require a bachelor's degree.

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