Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment. They identify problems and find solutions that minimize hazards to the health of the environment and the population.
Environmental scientists and specialists typically do the following:
Environmental scientists and specialists analyze environmental problems and develop solutions. For example, many environmental scientists and specialists work to reclaim lands and waters that have been contaminated by pollution. Others assess the risks new construction projects pose to the environment and make recommendations to governments and businesses on how to minimize the environmental impact of these projects. They also identify ways that human behavior can be changed to avoid problems such as the depletion of the ozone layer.
The federal government and many state and local governments have regulations to ensure that there is clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and no hazardous materials in the soil. The regulations also place limits on development, particularly near sensitive parts of the ecosystem, such as wetlands. Many environmental scientists and specialists work for the government to ensure that these regulations are followed. Other environmental scientists work for consulting firms that help companies comply with regulations and policies.
Some environmental scientists and specialists focus on environmental regulations that are designed to protect people’s health, while others focus on regulations designed to minimize society’s impact on the ecosystem. The following are examples of types of specialists:
Environmental health specialists study how environmental factors impact human health. They investigate potential health risks, such as unsafe drinking water, disease, and food safety. They also educate the public about potential health risks present in the environment.
Environmental protection specialists monitor the effect human activity has on the environment. They investigate sources of pollution and develop prevention, control, and remediation plans.
Other environmental scientists do work and receive training that is similar to that of other physical or life scientists, but they focus on environmental issues. Environmental chemists are an example.
Environmental chemists study the effects that various chemicals have on ecosystems. For example, they look at how acids affect plants, animals, and people. Some areas in which they work include waste management and the remediation of contaminated soils, water, and air.
Many people with backgrounds in environmental science become professors and teachers. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition