There are approximately 85,000 environmental scientists and specialists employed in the United States. By far the majority of land and water conservation jobs (about 75 percent) are in the public sector. This includes the federal government, the largest employer. The Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey are among the federal agencies that manage U.S. conservation. Other public sector opportunities are with states, regions, and towns. Opportunities in the private sector can be found with utilities, timber companies, and consulting firms. An additional area of employment is in teaching.
Internships provide an excellent point of entry into this field. You can volunteer with such groups as the Student Conservation Association (SCA), which places people in resource management projects. Programs include two- to five-week summer service opportunities for high school students. If you have already graduated from high school (and are over age 18), you can check with SCA for internships in forest, wildlife, resource, and other agencies.
Another option is to contact a federal or local government agency directly about an internship. Many, including the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management, have internship programs. Programs are more informal at the local level. Visit https://www.usajobs.gov/Help/working-in-government/unique-hiring-paths/students to learn more about opportunities with the federal government.
As for the private sector, an internship with a nonprofit organization may be possible. Such groups include the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Entry-level ecologists also may take advantage of temporary or seasonal jobs to gain experience and establish crucial contacts in the field.
Mid-level biological scientists may move to managerial positions within biology or to nontechnical administrative, sales, or managerial jobs. Ecologists with a Ph.D. may conduct independent research, advance into administrative positions, or teach on the college level, advancing from assistant professor to associate and tenured professorships.
Tips for Entry
Visit https://www.usajobs.gov for job opportunities with the federal government.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Read publications such as Ecosphere, Ecology, and Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment to learn more about ecology. Information on these resources can be accessed at https://www.esa.org/publications.