About 85,000 environmental scientists and specialists are employed in the United States. Approximately 42 percent work for state and local governments, and about 24 percent work for management, scientific, and technical consulting firms. Others work for the federal government (mainly for the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of the Interior); for private companies that provide architectural, engineering, and related services; or as teachers and instructors at colleges and universities. Some environmental scientists run their own businesses and are self-employed, although this number is small (1 percent).
Many environmental scientists get started in their careers as research assistants, field analysts, or science technicians in laboratories or offices. While in high school, an internship, volunteer work, or a part-time job with an environmental consulting firm, environmental protection agencies, state departments of conservation, or other related state agencies can give you better insight into the field and help you determine which areas of environmental science interest you most. You can explore job, volunteer, and internship listings by visiting organizations' Web sites directly, such as the Careers section of the Environmental Protection Agency's site (http://www.epa.gov/careers), as well as by checking out environmental employment sites such as Environmental Career Opportunities (http://ecojobs.com).
Environmental scientists can advance by handling more complex projects and managing larger teams of researchers. They can be promoted to project leaders, program managers, or other senior management and research positions. Those who are staff employees of companies may leave their positions to start their own consulting businesses. Environmental scientists can also advance by gaining knowledge and honing skills in other areas of science by pursuing advanced degrees.
Tips for Entry
Read the following publications to learn about environmental science specialties and much more:
- Earth (http://www.earthmagazine.org)
- BioScience (http://www.aibs.org)
- ChemMatters https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/resources/highschool/chemmatters.html)
- Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (http://www.frontiersinecology.org)
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Apply for an entry-level job as a field analyst, research assistant, or science technician to gain experience and make networking contacts.
Join professional associations to access training and networking resources, industry publications, certification, and employment opportunities.
Attend industry conferences and other events to network and interview for jobs.