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Environmental Scientist

Career Overview

Enviromental scientists work as researchers and analysts to assess the quality of water, air and soil in a variety of situations. Many are employed primarily to assess polluted locations such as former industrial sites, railroad yards or military installations. Others work for agencies that are charged with maintaining environmental standards such as air pollution control districts, clean water agencies, public utilities that operate power, water and sewer systems, and for developers or engineering firms engaged in a project that has the potential for environmental harm.


Environmental scientists that wish to work for a government agency or for most of the consulting firms in the business should hold a master's degree. Today there are many colleges and universities that offer degrees in environmental science, but many people who work in the field hold a degree in one of the life sciences such as geology, physics, hydrology, chemistry or geophysics. They use their academic training to focus on environmental issues and develop experience in the field.


In 2006 there were about 92,000 environmental scientists working in the United States, according to the Department of Labor. About 43% of them worked for a government agency at the state, local or federal level. Another 21% were employed by consulting firms, and an additional 15% by engineering, architectural and related businesses.

Job Outlook

Available positions for environmental scientists are expected to grow by 24% in the decade 2006 - 2016, nearly twice the projected average rate for all jobs.


10th Percentile $36,310

Median Salary $59,750

90th Percentile $102,610

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

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