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an oil spill protection boom in the Gulf of Mexico Environmental scientists and specialists analyze air, food, water, and soil for the purpose of identifying health and environmental hazards and finding solutions to these issues.  Degradation, conservation, recycling, and replenishment are all key issues that environmental workers must understand.  Environmental specialists often use their knowledge to design and monitor waste disposal sites, preserve water supplies, and reclaim contaminated land and water.  They also write technical proposals and give presentations to managers and regulators on the risk assessments of construction and other environmental concerns.  Environmental scientists may specialize in subfields such as environmental ecology and conservation, environmental chemistry, environmental biology, or fisheries science.

A high percentage of environmental scientists and specialists are employed by federal, state, and local governments.  These governments enact regulations to ensure clean, breathable air, safe drinking water, the elimination of hazardous material in the soil, and certain limitations on development.  Environmental scientists and specialists working for the government are responsible for ensuring that these regulations are followed.

Some environmental scientists and specialists are hired by consulting firms to help private companies comply with environmental policies and regulations.  Consulting firms may be large and multidisciplinary, employing thousands, or small, employing only a few workers.  Environmental scientists working with large firms are more likely to undertake long term projects, while those working with smaller firms may work with businesses, government, and the private sector.

Entry-level environmental scientists and specialists spend a lot of time in the field before being promoted to office and laboratory-based work.  They may travel and work in a variety of climates.  Researchers are often responsible for finding funding, and may face the stress of tight deadlines when writing technical reports for clients.

Most jobs in the government and private sector require a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree is usually preferred.  A Ph.D. is only required for teaching or research positions.  Environmental sciences, biology, chemistry, physics, and geosciences are the most helpful undergraduate degrees.  In addition to a degree, computer skills are necessary, particularly experience with computer modeling, data analysis and integration, digital mapping, remote sensing, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  Strong oral and written communication skills are also important.

Employment of environmental scientists and specialists is expected to grow much faster than the national average, largely due to population growth and increasing environmental awareness.  For more information on training and career opportunities for environmental scientists and specialists, please visit the American Geological Institute.

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About Environmental Services