Jobs that Help the Environment & Pay Well

Jan 16, 2020

Career Options for Jobs that Help the Environment and Pay Well

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2018, refuse and recyclable material collectors earned a median annual salary of $37,260. These professionals do help the environment by ensuring that waste is appropriately and safely disposed of. There are also a number of other careers that involve helping the environment, either directly or indirectly, that pay $64,000 per year or more that those who care about the environment may consider pursuing.

Job Title Median Salary* (2018) Job Growth* (2018-2028)
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists $73,020 6%
Urban and Regional Planners $73,050 11%
Lawyers $120,910 6%
Chemists and Materials Scientists $78,330 4%
Agricultural and Food Scientists $64,020 7%
Environmental Scientists and Specialists $71,130 8%
Environmental Science Teachers, Postsecondary $79,910 6%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Jobs that Help the Environment and Pay Well

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Occupational health and safety specialists are specifically focused the environment people work in. This could include indoor and outdoor worksites, and part of what these professionals do is ensure that people are not exposed to toxic materials. By ensuring that materials are properly stored or disposed of, occupational health and safety specialists help safeguard the health of employees, and may help prevent illegal disposal of toxic materials that could contaminate water supplies or harm wildlife. A bachelor's degree is required to work in this field.

Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and regional planners prepare for their career by earning a master's degree in their field. Their work involves determining where structures can be built. They help the environment by ensuring that regulations are followed when new building permits are issues and that appropriate environmental areas are protected. Some of these professionals, known as environmental and natural resources planners, focus on resource and ecosystem conservation as well as repairing pre-existing environmental damage while new structures are being built.


Lawyers typically work in offices and courtrooms, but their work can reach far beyond the buildings they spend most of their time in. Environmental lawyers usually represent clients such as advocacy groups or government agencies in pursuing legal action to protect environmentally sensitive areas. They expose the companies that pollute, and convince a judge to force the culprit to take measures that will repair environmental damage and follow current regulations. These professionals need to pass the bar exam to obtain their law license after earning a law degree.

Chemists and Materials Scientists

Entry-level jobs for chemists and materials scientists require a bachelor's degree; advanced positions may require a graduate degree in this field. Chemists and materials scientists perform research and use their work to determine the best ways to develop products. These professionals can contribute positively to the environment by developing environmentally-friendly items or investigating environmentally safe ways to process other materials. They can also test an existing material's composition to see if it contains any toxic elements and how much of it may exist.

Agricultural and Food Scientists

Agricultural and food scientists may be involved in researching and developing ways to improve agricultural processes. Those who specialize as soil scientists, for example, can directly contribute to the environmental health of agricultural areas by exploring ways to conserve soil and ensure that the land is environmentally safe. Plant scientists may help identify safe ways to remove weeds and improve crop yields for the season. Agricultural and food scientists must have a bachelor's degree or graduate degree to work in this field.

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists can enter this field with a bachelor's degree. Their work specifically focuses on ensuring the environment is healthy. They gather samples, perform tests and identify environmental problems or areas that are at risk. They can be involved in taking steps to remove pollution, or they may develop plans to try to prevent pollution. Some specialize in specific areas such climate change, in which they study problems related to it, as well as educate the public and grant writing to obtain funds.

Environmental Science Postsecondary Teachers

Environmental Science postsecondary teachers can have a significant impact on shaping societal views, legal and political policies, and how businesses operate in regards to the environment. Through their work these educators have the ability to influence what future politicians understand about environmental issues, how things are manufactured or how scientists perform their work. They also perform research and typically publish findings related to their studies, and those that focus on environmental law or environmental business factors or public policy may be able to influence professionals who can take action to protect the environment. A doctoral degree is normally needed to become a postsecondary teacher.

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