Environmental ScientistJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Environmental Scientists do the vital work of conducting research, analyzing data, and developing plans on how to avoid, repair or minimize hazards that affect the environment and public health. Their research typically involves collecting and analyzing samples from the environment, examining published data from fellow scientists, and exploring ways to help solve pressing issues as broad as deforestation, pollution, and the quality of our water, soil, and air.  

After doing scientific work, Environmental Scientists often have to present and defend their findings and conclusions. Government agencies, policymakers, and business leaders depend on these findings to inform positive actions to help the environment. 

Sample job description

Environmental scientists identify environmental issues that could be harmful to the health of the population, such as pollution, and develop solutions that help protect the environment. To become successful as an environmental scientist, you must have excellent verbal communication, listening, and writing skills, solid critical thinking skills, and exceptional analytical skills. [Your Company Name] is looking for an experienced environmental scientist to help us keep the planet safe through our company’s efforts. If you have experience collecting data and analyzing and developing solutions to the dangers that affect the ecosystem, you might be our perfect candidate.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Collect and analyze soil, air, water, and other samples from various sites and areas of concern
  • Provide scientific support for environmental risk projects
  • Perform environmental impact analyses and examine scientific data
  • Prepare and write reports and research papers based on findings
  • Present findings to policymakers, business leaders, and decision-makers 
  • Create environmental plans for construction projects

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, biology, natural resource management, or a related field, preferably with coursework in chemistry, mathematics, and water/air/soil sciences. Employers often prefer candidates with CES certification and experience as a research assistant, field analyst, or lab technician.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Broad knowledge of federal, state, and local environmental regulations
  • Experience with ecological surveying and reporting
  • Knowledge of various sampling techniques and equipment
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Robust technical writing, analytical, and communications skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s degree in science
  • 1+ years of experience working as an environmental science
  • Strong handling of raw data
  • Ability to think outside of the box for solutions

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for an environmental scientist is $82,700 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$82,250$111,250
Los Angeles, California$92,800$125,550
Denver, Colorado$77,350104,600$
Washington, DC$94,200$127,450
Miami, Florida$76,950$104,150
Orlando, Florida$71,000$96,050
Tampa, Florida$71,700$97,000
Atlanta, Georgia$75,200$101,750
Chicago, Illinois$86,450$117,000
Boston, Massachusetts$93,500$126,500
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$74,500$100,800
New York City, New York$98,400$133,150
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$80,150$108,400
Dallas, Texas$78,050$105,550
Houston, Texas$77,350$104,600
Seattle, Washington$90,000$121,750
National Average$70,300$95,100

Typical work environment

Environmental scientists can be found in offices, laboratories, or in the field. Some environmental scientists have to travel to meet with clients or present research findings. Environmental scientists typically work 40-hours weeks, but may have to work overtime as the project demands. 

Typical hours

The typical work hours for an Environmental Scientist are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, typically in an office or laboratory setting, as well as in the field as needed. 

Available certifications

Environmental scientists typically specialize in a particular aspect of the environment, and many institutions offer certifications. Here are two of the best certifications for environmental scientists: 

  • Certified Environmental Scientist (CES). The National Registry of Environmental Professionals offers the CES credential to environmental professionals who possess an in-depth understanding of the basic principles of environmental science. Topics included are air, water, waste, brownfields, green chemistry, radiation, and more. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in an environmentally related discipline. Three years of work experience may be substituted for each year of an academic degree program. Certification is awarded upon passing an exam. 
  • Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer (CESCO). The CESCO certification is designed to help environmental professionals gain a deep understanding of the laws and regulations that pertain to air, water, wastewater pollution, solid/hazardous wastes, and safety. The minimum requirements are two years of experience working in an environmental and/or safety-related industry. Candidates must receive a 75% or better on an online examination. Topics include environmental, health, and safety auditing, hazardous material and regulations, and environmental site assessments.

Career path

The path to becoming an Environmental Scientist typically starts with earning a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, biology, natural resource management, or a related field. Beyond that, obtaining certification as a Certified Environmental Scientist demonstrates that a job candidate has met standards in education, experience, and knowledge. 

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 19-2041

2020 Employment87,100
Projected Employment in 203094,400
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 8% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift7,300 increase

Due to a growing informed public and other factors, Environmental Scientists will be expected to help manage, or at least minimize, a host of environmental concerns and issues. These topics include the environmental impact and emissions rising from cement production and use, growing water scarcity, human waste management, emissions from the beef industry, and the ever-increasing demands placed on the environment by population growth.

Sample interview questions

  • What does an environmental scientist do?
  • What are the principal characteristics of the environment?
  • What interests you about this position?
  • What motivates you?
  • Can you describe when you had to overcome a challenging work situation?
  • What are your greatest strengths and your greatest weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment as an environmental scientist?
  • How would you describe your teamwork skills?
  • How familiar are you with the soil types found in this area?
  • What do you think is the most important environmental issue we are currently experiencing?
  • How would you determine the pollution level in a given body of water?
  • What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had while working as an environmental scientist?
  • Have you ever conducted fieldwork? If so, where?
  • What is the Toxic Substances Control Act?
  • Are you familiar with the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts?
  • How do you assess the risks to plants and animal species in a given area?
  • What experience do you have preparing and submitting field research reports?
  • What are the most common contaminants present in the area?

Environmental Scientist Jobs in Ashburn

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