Heightened public awareness about environmental issues has spurred a demand for environmental scientists and specialists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 11% increase in employment for these professionals through 2026, a rate that is higher than the average for all occupations. State and local governments employ many of these professionals to develop and enforce policies that protect public health and safety. Environmental scientists, technicians, and consultants can also expect expanding career opportunities in a number of industries, helping businesses monitor compliance with regulations that protect air, water and soil quality.
Most jobs in this field require at least a bachelor's degree in environmental science or a related natural science field. For students concerned about the serious threats to our communities and our world -- from climate change and habitat loss to energy depletion and pollution -- an environmental science degree provides the knowledge and skills to make a difference.
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Should I Get a Bachelor's in Environmental Science?
Environmental science degrees attract students who want to understand environmental challenges at the local, national, and international levels. They provide students with the knowledge and skills to solve these problems, and help them to find ways to live more sustainably in the future.
An environmental science bachelor's degree provides a strong foundation in the natural sciences, such as biology, chemistry, geology, and ecology; and some programs may offer courses in hydrology, botany, and zoology. The field of environmental science also embraces multidisciplinary approaches that use business or the social sciences to address issues like natural resource management, public policy, and environmental law. Prior to graduation, students can expect to complete an independent research or a capstone project that addresses a specific environmental issue. Many environmental science degrees require internships or community-based service that apply classroom lessons to real-world settings.
As career possibilities expand, a growing number of schools have introduced bachelor's in environmental science programs that are available both online and on campus. Traditional brick-and mortar programs often attract students coming straight from high school; they benefit from the interaction with students and faculty, as well as the opportunities for collaborative research and co-curricular experiences.
Conversely, the flexibility and convenience of an online environmental science degree may appeal to working professionals seeking career advancement, and others who must handle family and job commitments while trying to finish school. Distance learning programs follow the same rigorous curricula as on-campus degrees, leading to the same career paths and opportunities for advanced graduate work.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Environmental Science?
Environmental scientists and specialists are committed to combating pollution, enforcing policy, and promoting sustainable practices. They require strong analytical and problem-solving skills to translate their scientific expertise into concrete actions that protect the environment and improve the quality of life.
An environmental science degree serves as a pathway to a broad range of rewarding careers. Many graduates find employment in government agencies in order to develop policies and control the spread of ecological degradation. An environmental science bachelor's degree may also open up careers in management, consulting, and engineering services. Environmental scientists and specialists also may spend considerable time in the field, responding to public health risks, cleaning up polluted sites, and implementing plans to minimize community impact.
- Environmental Engineers
Using engineering principles, chemistry, biology, and soil science, these professionals develop solutions to a wide range of environmental problems. They use their expertise to develop recycling programs, improve waste disposal for industries, and minimize water or air pollution. They also consult with businesses to ensure compliance with regulations. Entry-level environmental engineering positions require a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $86,800
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
Hydrologists study the movement of water, and use their training to address concerns about water quality and availability. They may evaluate the feasibility of water-related projects, such as irrigation systems, waste treatment facilities, and hydroelectric power plants. Hydrologists usually enter the field after completion of a bachelor's degree in an environmental science or a related field.
Median Annual Salary: $79,990
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Environmental Scientists and Specialists
These professionals work in government agencies and industries, analyzing environmental problems and developing solutions. They clean up polluted sites, reclaim contaminated land or water, and advise the public about health risks from environmental hazards. Most environmental scientists and specialists enter the field after earning a bachelor's in environmental science or another science-related field.
Median Annual Salary: $69,400
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Conservation Scientists and Foresters
Government offices, private enterprises, and social advocacy organizations hire conservations scientists and foresters to monitor land use and supervise land quality of forests, rangelands, parks and other natural resources. They ensure compliance with government regulations and habitat protection. Most conservation scientists and foresters hold bachelor's degrees in forestry, agricultural science, or environmental science.
Median Annual Salary: $60,970
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Environmental Science and Protection Technicians
These technicians investigate sources of pollution that affect public health and safety. They investigate hazardous conditions and verify compliance with environmental regulations. Many technicians work for state or local government, consulting firms, or testing laboratories. While technicians may enter the field with an associate degree, a bachelor's degree in environmental science offers expanded employment opportunities.
Median Annual Salary: $45,490
Projected Growth Rate: 12%
Best States for Environmental Scientists
Finding the right environmental science program or career can prove an overwhelming task. Each state offers unique geographical qualities that present opportunities and challenges for environmental scientists. For example, some professionals may reside in landlocked states but want to specialize in marine biology or coastal environmental protection. Others may currently work in the Gulf of Mexico, but want to pursue careers studying and preserving mountain ranges or rivers. Students, new graduates, and professionals working in the field of environmental science might locate satisfactory positions based on their area of expertise and their state's geographical characteristics. Students and professionals should also consider potential growth for jobs in each state. Fortunately, the field continues to expand, meaning the demand for environmental science professionals is on the rise.
Jobs in the environmental sciences prove profitable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for environmental scientists stands at $69,400. Your salary and access to resources depend on your location and area of expertise. The follows pertains primarily to job growth in each state, but the rankings include important information to consider when pursuing a degree or career in the environmental sciences.
The below list ranks states based on job growth projections by CareerOneStop, PayScale, and the BLS. It accounts for how many new environmental science positions each state should generate over the next several years. For example, this guide ranks California first because it shows the highest probability of generating the most environmental scientist positions by 2026. It also highlight states whose undergraduate and graduate environmental science programs focus on educating students about the unique geographical and environmental qualities of the local environ. The ranking also includes information about active environmental groups in each state offering internship, volunteer, and employment opportunities and resources.
California employs the most professionals in the environmental sciences field, with approximately 4,700 of these workers. By 2026, CareerOneStop projects that employment in California will grow by 12%, increasing by 630 new positions in the field per year.
California is the third-largest state in the U.S., with diverse geographic regions and varying climates, weather, and temperatures. As a result, the state's higher education programs offer environmental science degrees with specializations reflecting this diversity. Degree seekers can engage with illuminating coursework that investigates scientific work regarding the coast, deserts, sea level rise, wildfires, border affairs, and wastewater treatment. Environmental science students and new graduates in the state can also benefit from connecting with the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA). From environmental justice projects to cleanup crews, CalEPA helps young professionals network, find employment, and make an environmental difference in their state.
Florida comes in at number two on our list, with an expected 15% job growth in the environmental sciences by 2026. Floridians can expect about 630 new jobs in the field each year. Education and research represent some of the largest industries in the state, with colleges and universities acting as top employers in this area. Florida professionals in the environmental sciences can pursue fruitful teaching and research-driven careers or work for independent preservation and research groups. Organizations such as The Florida Biodiversity Foundation, for example, seek to conserve the environment and protect animals, plants, and habitats through a variety of eco-driven projects.
Florida boasts some of the most biodiversity in the U.S., and many professionals with training in environmental science work to preserve it. Many colleges and universities in the state offer specialized sciences programs catering to Florida's environmental needs, including in marine biology, biochemistry, environmental studies, and biotechnology. Students can also specialize in understanding and protecting Florida's unique citrus industry.
Texas is the second-largest state in the U.S. and the third-best location for environmental scientists. Occupying 261,232 square miles, the massive southern state takes up about 7% of the total water and land area in the country. Similar to California, Texas offers diverse landscapes and variable climates across the state. It houses parts of the Basin and Range Province, Great Plains, Interior Lowlands, and Gulf Coastal Plains. The state also features over 62.6 million acres of forests and woodlands. Depending on their area of focus or specialization, students and young professionals working in environmental sciences in Texas may take advantage of myriad employment opportunities associated with each region.
CareerOneStop projects that careers in environmental science and protection will increase by more than 17%, with 580 new job openings per year through 2026. Professionals in this field find the most employment opportunities in Midland, Corpus Christi, Beaumont-Port Arthur, Houston, and Austin.
While not a particularly large state, New York offers extensive resources for professionals in the environmental science field. Albany County alone offers public services and environmental protection projects in its health, public works, mental health, and social services departments through the Environmental Protection Agency. CareerOneStop projects that jobs in the environmental sciences will grow by 21% through 2026, creating approximately 540 job openings annually. For trained environmentalists and scientists in this field, areas such as Albany, Syracuse, Nassau, New York City, and Utica boast the most promising outlooks for professional growth in the state.
The state's coastal area is part of the Atlantic Corridor Region and experiences weather similar to parts of Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Depending on their specialties and regional focus, professionals who study and work in New York can branch out and take advantage of employment opportunities and resources around the region.
Professionals working in the environmental sciences can expect a 24% increase in available jobs in the field by 2026, with 430 positions opening each year. Colorado features outstanding university and college programs in environmental studies, with optional specializations in the west and mountainous regions. Moreover, many active facilities and organizations, such as the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, Mountain Research Station, and the Institute for Behavioral Sciences provide interdisciplinary research opportunities and community action projects.
Colorado is also home to the Rocky Mountain State Park, a major attraction for researchers in the environmental sciences. Groups such as the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, Rocky Mountain Wild, and My Rocky Mountain Park connect students and graduates to like-minded professionals, job resources, and conservancy initiatives. The areas with the most projected growth in the field over the next eight years include Boulder, Grand Junction, Denver, Fort Collins, and Greeley.
Professionals in the environmental sciences in Washington state enjoy access to numerous environmental resources, including the Washington Environmental Council, The Department of Ecology, Blue Mountain Land Trust, Washington Native Plant Society, and Washington Wild. Thanks to this abundance of environmentally minded organizations, professionals in the environmental sciences are projected to enjoy a 24% increase in jobs by 2026, or 420 annual openings. The following areas can expect the highest demand for environmental scientists: Olympia, Kennewick, Bremerton, Seattle, Tacoma, and Mount Vernon. Professionals working in these regions also earn median salaries of between $64,070 and $95,350.
Washington, the 20th largest state in the U.S., offers widely diverse landscapes. Students, graduates, and working professionals in the state can take advantage of nearby environmental attractions including volcanoes, the Olympic Mountains, Cascade Range, Puget Sound, and evergreen forests. Washington professionals in the field commonly study natural resources related to these areas, including fossil fuels and sustainable water management.
CareerOneStop projects a 14% increase in job openings for professionals in the environmental sciences by 2026, which translates to about 390 annual openings. Students and professionals in the field will notice the most significant changes in employment opportunities and resources in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Wilmington, New Bern, and Jacksonville. The state offers a variety of natural attractions including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Outer Banks, the Appalachian Trail, coastal plains, Piedmont, and mountains. North Carolina is also home to several top-ranking colleges and universities offering degrees in environmental science that study regional geography. Students can major in marine-centered bioacoustics, terrestrial field ecology, environmental toxicology, environmental policy and justice, and landscape preservation.
The state also offers environmental scientists and those in related fields significant opportunities for employment, internships, and general involvement in preservation efforts around the state. Organizations such as Preserve Communities, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Balsam Mountain Preserve, and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation serve as excellent resources for young professionals and recent graduates in the environmental sciences.
Ohioans can expect an 8% increase in environmental science jobs over the next eight years, totaling 330 annual job openings. In addition to several major universities with widely acknowledged environmental science programs, the state is home to more than two dozen state-recognized environmental organizations. Groups like the Appalachia Ohio Alliance, Cardinal Land Conservancy, and Coal River Mountain Watch strive to protect natural resources and raise awareness about regional environmental concerns.
College programs help students and young professionals develop transferable skills that help them gain employment in Ohio and neighboring states with comparable geography. Additionally, organizations such as Environment Ohio provide group action projects for nature preservation efforts around the state -- along with job boards and internship opportunities. New graduates in the field can also apply for fellowship opportunities through Environment Ohio that lead to impactful, environmental protection-driven careers that focus on global warming pollution, wind power, wildlife, and forest fracking.
CareerOneStop projects that careers in environmental science in Virginia will grow on par with the national median, by 11% -- with 320 annual job openings through 2026. The areas most affected by this increase in environmental science positions include Richmond, Arlington, Harrisonburg, Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Kingsport. Virginians working in the field today enjoy a median annual salary of $71,040. Those working in the Arlington area enjoy the highest median annual salary in the state, at $111,410.
Those interested in pursuing a degree or career in environmental science can find substantial support from various colleges, universities, and organizations in the state. Students can take courses such as pollution analysis, environmental economics, and conservation biology, or engage in hands-on internships through dozens of environmentally focused associations. In-state universities offer degree specializations in ecology, geoscience, biological conservation, and hydrology. Environmental groups such as Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Cape Henry Audubon Society, The Clinch Coalition, and Friends of Norfolk's Environment offer employment and networking opportunities, community involvement, and statewide projects.
Environmental scientists and professionals in related fields should see approximately 300 annual job openings now through 2026, or a 6% increase. Illinois features a notably diverse landscape of rivers, valleys, and woodlands known as the Shawnee Hills. Illinois is also considered "Gulf Coastal" at its southernmost tip, the land between the Ohio River and Mississippi River. Students and workers in the environmental sciences can pursue specialized areas of study and careers that serve the terrain, climate, and thriving industries in the state.
Professionals in the environmental sciences can expect to see the most significant increase in opportunities in Springfield, Chicago, and Champaign. Some of the major industries in Illinois include agriculture, manufacturing, and mining. Environmental scientists in the state often work with organizations who help enforce and update regulations in these areas. Those professionals working in the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville area see the highest median salaries at $87,820 per year.
Though one of the smallest states in the U.S., New Jersey is home to four mainland regions: the Atlantic Coastal Plain, the New England Upland, the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Region, and Piedmont. New Jersey's environmental science professionals are projected to enjoy an 8% growth, or 290 annual job openings, through 2026. Locations with the highest concentrations of environmental scientists include Trenton, Newark, Camden, Atlantic City, and Ocean City, each of which should experience significant growth in the field.
Current and aspiring environmental scientists and professionals in related fields can find fulfilling careers and high-level training in New Jersey university programs. Professionals in the field can also take advantage of organizations that specialize in preserving and raising awareness for environmental issues. New and established environmental scientists may take an interest in active groups and organizations such as the Alliance for a Living Ocean, D&R Greenway Land Trust, Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association, and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
New graduates and professionals in the environmental sciences can expect an 11% increase in open positions by 2026. According to CareerOneStop, this means approximately 260 new jobs in the field will open each year. Environmental scientists in Michigan make slightly less than the U.S. median, but those residing in Jackson and Lansing earn salaries above the national median. Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Ann Arbor boast the highest concentrations of environmental scientists in the state.
As one of the leading manufacturing states in the nation, environmental scientists ensure that factories and plants uphold state and federal emissions and testing laws. These professionals also help improve manufacturing facilities around the state through innovative engineering and research. As a Great Lakes state, students and professionals in Michigan can pursue specialized degrees and careers in freshwater studies. Organizations dedicated to the protection of rivers and bodies of freshwater in the state, such as the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and Friends of the Detroit River, can provide helpful resources, potential employment, and networking opportunities.
Pennsylvania professionals in the environmental sciences can expect a 9% increase in open positions by 2026. From now until then, CareerOneStop projects that jobs in the field will increase by approximately 240 jobs annually. The highest concentrations of workers and employers in the field are located in Harrisburg, State College, Lancaster, and Pittsburgh. Top-earning workers in the field reside in York, State College, Allentown, and Philadelphia, and all earn above the national median.
Pennsylvania is home to four major rivers, including the Allegheny, Susquehanna, Delaware, and Ohio. Most of the state is landlocked, but its northwest corner touches Lake Erie. Organizations such as the Clearwater Conservancy, Allegheny Valley Trails Association, Brodhead Watershed Association, and Lackawanna River Corridor Association can help graduates and young environmental scientists break into new and exciting careers that focus on the Great Lakes and statewide river systems. Many colleges and universities in the state offer programs in environmental biology and optional specializations in freshwater studies.
Minnesota, the 12th largest state in the U.S., features rocky ranges, lakes, rolling plains, and some of the richest farmland in the nation. The southeastern section of the state also touches the Mississippi river. Students and professionals in the environmental sciences field conduct research on this diverse landscape and work as climatologists and private firm consultants, often for nonprofit organizations.
Areas with the highest concentrations of workers and resources in the field include Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth. The highest earners work in St. Cloud, St. Paul, and Minneapolis. CareerOneStop projects a 14% increase in environmental sciences jobs by 2026, or about 200 annual openings.
Many active environmental organizations in the state that cater to preserving and studying the landscape, including Friends of the Minnesota Valley, the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and the Minnesota Naturalists' Association.
Massachusetts is home to dozens of foundations and organizations that strive to raise awareness for environmental preservation around the state. The Massachusetts Environmental Collaborative comprises 20 member organizations and serves as a forum for pooling resources and carrying out projects that address environmental concerns around the state.
Though one of the smaller states in the U.S., Massachusetts boasts a thriving job climate for environmental scientists and specialists. CareerOneStop projects a 13% increase in jobs by 2026. From now until then, the state should see approximately 190 job openings per year. Lowell, Barnstable Town, Boston, Cambridge, and Quincy boast the highest concentrations of professionals in the field; they serve as home to top universities such as Harvard, Boston College, MIT, Tufts University, Boston University, and the University of Massachusetts. As a bustling coastal state with astounding resources, working professionals and students in the field can choose to specialize in marine science, hydrogeology, water chemistry, and marine protection.
Maryland features many environmentally focused groups that help like-minded students, graduates, and working professionals stay in touch, share resources, and find employment. Organizations such as the Maryland Climate Coalition partake in a conglomerate of local, state, regional, and national nongovernmental groups dedicated to protecting the state's environment and climate. Members of this organization include The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Climate Law and Policy Project, Environment Maryland, and The League of Women Voters of Maryland. Additional members of the group that focus on jobs in the field include Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative and 1199SEIU. The coalition also features its own clean energy jobs campaign.
The market for environmental scientists and related professions should grow by approximately 180 new jobs per year for the next several years, or a 4% increase by 2026. The highest concentrations of workers in the field are in Silver Spring, Baltimore, and Salisbury. Environmental scientists in the state enjoy a slightly above-average annual salary at $74,600.
|17||Distrtict of Columbia||
Washington, D.C. is home to dozens of hardworking nonprofit organizations that focus on global warming, neighborhood rebuilding, air pollution, trash removal, and the Anacostia River. The DC Environmental Network (DCEN) works on the forefront of environmental efforts in Washington, D.C., along with the Anacostia Watershed Society and the U.S. Green Building Council. The network actively campaigns to clean rivers, improve drinking water quality, and diminish diesel pollution. DCEN also spearheads a green budget campaign that, if successful, should create more jobs in the field, promote energy efficiency, and further secure sustainable development around the area.
Environmental scientists and professionals in related fields will see an increase of approximately 170 jobs annually through 2026, or a projected 5% growth overall. Most professionals employed in the environmental sciences work in Washington, Arlington, and Alexandria, and they enjoy above-average employment opportunities. Environmental science professionals in Washington, D.C. also earn a staggering $50,000 above the national median each year.
Located in the mid-South, Tennessee spans six major land regions, including the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian Mountains, the Highland Rim, and the Nashville Basin. Tennessee also makes up a significant part of the Gulf Coastal Plain area, extending up from the Gulf of Mexico to the southern tip of Illinois. In nonmountainous areas, Tennessee offers superior farmland along with rolling streams, rivers, and an abundance of wildlife.
Environmental scientists and professionals in related fields can find employment across the state with organizations such as The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee, Harpeth River Watershed Association, and Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning. Environmental professions in the state can expect approximately 140 jobs to open annually for the next several years. This results in a notable 15% increase by 2026.
For scientists in training or professionals who wish to work in the academy, Tennessee features many top-tier colleges and universities and a plethora of academic and employment opportunities. Standout schools with programs in environmental science in the state include Belmont University, Lipscomb University, Sewanee-The University of the South, The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, and Rhodes College.
Louisiana professionals working as environmental scientists and specialists can expect about a 14% increase in jobs by 2026, or approximately 140 new careers in the field each year. Those living in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles enjoy above-average employment opportunities in the field. Other advantageous locations for environmental science professionals in Louisiana include New Orleans and Lafayette. Environmental scientists in Baton Rouge earn a median salary of $62,930 per year -- about $5,000 more than the state median.
As a Gulf Coast state with marshes, bayous, and swamp terrain, students and professionals in environmental science can pursue specializations or careers in coastal engineering, wetland management, hydrology, oceanography, and horticulture. Environmental organizations such as the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana help professionals in the field stay connected and make concerted efforts to preserve Louisiana's natural treasures.
Arizona employs only about 1,280 environmental science professionals, but CareerOneStop projects the occupation to increase by 15% through 2026. At this growth rate, Arizona should see 140 job openings in the field per year. Locations with average to above-average employment opportunities in the state include Flagstaff, Yuma, Tucson, and Phoenix.
Arizona is the sixth-largest state in the U.S., and approximately 50% of the state consists of mountains and plateau areas, including one of the largest Ponderosa Pine forests in the U.S. The remainder of the state is mostly desert. Some students in the field choose to study the Arizona landscape and similar areas in the southwest. Wide-reaching programs in resource economics, soil and water, and general ecology prepare young professionals for careers in the southwest and other locations. Prospective and current Arizona environmental scientists can work with various organizations to connect with like-minded individuals, pool resources, and pursue geographically specific preservation campaigns.
CareerOneStop projects that environmental scientist and specialist jobs in Wisconsin will increase by 12% through 2026, totaling approximately 130 job openings per year. The state's most advantageous locations for professionals in this field include Madison, Bloomington, and Green Bay.
Wisconsin is home to several major universities that offer specialized training in the environmental sciences. Students and professionals in the state focus on environmental policy and history, restoration ecology, energy resources, and animal and plant ecology. Statewide environmental education organizations help graduates and professionals make connections around Wisconsin and the region. These organizations include EEinWisconsin, the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education, the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education, and the Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program. In addition to adult education programs and ties to environmental preservation projects around the state, members can access extensive networking opportunities and job boards.
Environmental scientists in Georgia will enjoy approximately 130 annual job openings over the next several years, resulting in a 19% increase by 2026. Professionals living in Albany, Athens, Macon, and Atlanta should see the most growth in the environmental science field. Environmental scientists living in Albany enjoy a median salary totaling approximately $8,000 more than the state median and $2,000 more than the national median.
Georgia environmental organizations such as Coastal Wildscapes, Georgia Conservancy, and Georgia Forest Watch help students and professionals in the field engage with coastal marsh projects, land and water conservation efforts, petroleum pipeline regulation, and sustainable growth campaigns. The state's diverse landscapes include mountain ranges, sea islands, plateaus, and swamps, allowing students and professionals in Georgia to center their studies or careers around these geographical areas. Georgia also features several notable universities offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in environmental science, environmental chemistry, and ecological health.
CareerOneStop projects that New Mexico's jobs in the environmental sciences will increase by 11% by 2026, with approximately 120 jobs per year opening across the state. Locations with above-average opportunities for professionals in the field include Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Farmington, and Albuquerque. Environmental scientists in Los Alamos earn a median annual salary of $125,110, about $55,000 more than the national median.
Organizations such as the Environmental Education Association of New Mexico offer annual conferences, environmental education certification programs, professional development workshops, and regular networking opportunities. The nonprofit grassroots organization New Mexico Wild focuses on protecting and restoring New Mexico's wildlands and wildlife. These groups need educated professionals to spearhead projects, raise awareness and support, and communicate with governing bodies to fund their efforts. Environmental scientists and those in related fields can take advantage of New Mexico's growing job market and join one of a dozen environmental advocacy organizations to establish contacts and find employment around the state.
With about 100 jobs opening annually, environmental science professionals in Alabama will see a 7% increase in available jobs by 2026. Montgomery and Decatur harbor the highest concentration of professionals in the field and experience above average employment opportunities. Several of Alabama's top colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate training in the field, with majors available in sustainability, biological and environmental sciences, and field biology.
Alabama also features dozens of active environmental agencies that can help students, graduates, and young professionals locate employment, pool resources, and find partners for environmentally based projects. The Alabama Coastal Foundation offers volunteer opportunities for those interested in working with coastal regions and marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, organizations like Conservation Alabama and Alabama PALS offer citizen advocacy and membership opportunities to help graduates try out different types of environmental preservation and protection jobs.
The Environmental Education Association of Indiana (EEAI) serves as one of the major hubs for resources in the field today. In addition to hosting annual conferences, EEAI focuses on improving environmental protection education for children and students around the state. EEAI members can also receive email updates about job openings in the field around Indiana. Other active environmental groups in Indiana include the Hoosier Environmental Council, Save the Dunes Council, and Oak Heritage Conservancy.
Environmental scientists and professionals in related fields can expect a 19% job increase by 2026. According to CareerOneStop, that equates to approximately 100 position openings each year. While Indiana places last in this ranking, the state's growth rate for environmental scientists still nearly doubles the national average. Currently, Gary and South Bend offer the most opportunities and resources for workers in the field. Professionals in Indianapolis make slightly less each year than the national median salary, but still earn the highest salary for environmental scientists in Indiana.
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Environmental Science Program
Selecting the right bachelor's degree in environmental science depends on a number of factors, including program length, quality, location, and cost. Whether you choose a campus-based program or an online environmental science degree, do your homework. Most bachelor's degrees require four years of full-time study. Part-time attendance or distance learning may appeal to students with employment or family obligations who need flexible schedules. Graduation requirements, such as an internship or fieldwork, may increase the time needed to complete the degree. Many environmental science degrees also require laboratory work, research projects, or a capstone course.
Almost all schools that offer an environmental science bachelor's degree have received national or regional accreditation; additionally, some programs have been awarded a programmatic accreditation in specialized areas (see below). Students should look for programs that align with their interests and career goals, and review any available specializations such as sustainability, wildlife management, or environmental policy.
The cost of an environmental science degree varies widely by type of program and school location. In general, public schools cost less than private institutions. Be sure you apply for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn more about financial aid opportunities, work-study, and other on-campus and off-campus jobs. Students should also consider cost-of-living expenses (e.g., food and housing) in addition to what they must spend on tuition, books, and supplies.
Students commuting to campus must budget for transportation costs -- including gas and vehicle maintenance -- or bus, train, or airfares. Some online bachelor's in environmental science programs may also charge supplemental technology fees, or require students to travel to on-campus residencies a few times a year to supplement their web-based coursework.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Environmental Science Programs
A regionally or nationally accredited school has undergone an extensive evaluation by an independent agency to ensure its overall educational quality. Most colleges and universities that offer environmental science degrees have received regional accreditation. Meanwhile, schools with lower tuition, less restrictive admissions, and who offer predominantly vocational or distance-learning course options may hold national accreditation.
Some environmental science degree programs within a regionally accredited institution hold specialized, programmatic accreditations. The National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC) describes itself as the only programmatic accreditation agency specific to environmental science programs. Forestry science programs at the bachelor's and master's level may apply for specialized accreditation from the Society of American Foresters. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) administers programmatic accreditation in several areas related to environmental science, including engineering, technology, applied science, and computer science.
Graduates of programs that feature these kinds of specialized accreditations can benefit from faster career advancement, increased salaries, and improved chances for graduate school admission.
Bachelor's in Environmental Science Program Admissions
Each school that offers a bachelor's degree in environmental science establishes its own admission requirements. Traditional programs place considerable weight on academic performance, looking at factors like a student's GPA, and SAT or ACT scores. Because online programs often attract working professionals or those trying to earn a degree while juggling family commitments, their admissions policies may consider life experiences acquired since high school graduation, and give less emphasis to standardized tests and grades.
While most schools set application deadlines for February, online programs may offer rolling admissions throughout the year. Students who plan to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar college can begin applying as early as the summer after their junior year. As a general strategy, students should decide on a couple of “target schools” where they really want to attend, and are likely to gain admission. They should also select a few “safety schools” where they feel their chances for admission are high, and one or two “reach schools” that they would like to attend but may not be competitive enough to get into the acceptance pool.
- Minimum GPA: Most schools require a GPA of 3.0 out of a 4.0 scale, with some programs establishing a 3.5 minimum. Schools may sometimes consider applicants with lower grades or look for steady improvement from ninth grade through senior year.
- Application: Filling out college applications can be time-consuming, but the CommonApp makes this process more manageable. Students using CommonApp fill out one form to apply to any of their 750 member schools.
- Transcripts: Almost every college wants a stamped, official transcript of high school grades submitted with an application, which shows your GPA and courses taken each term. Some high schools charge a small fee for mailing these transcripts.
- Letters of Recommendation: Some colleges may require as many as three letters of recommendations. Ask your recommenders well before the application deadline, and choose teachers or advisors who know you well and will describe you in ways that make you stand out.
- Test Scores: Some schools consider SAT or ACT scores as one of many factors in their admission decision, along with grades, co-curricular activities, and recommendations. Most schools do not require a minimum cutoff test score.
- Application Fee: Students can expect to pay an average of $40 for each application. Some schools charge more, while others may not ask for any fees. Schools may waive application fees for students who document financial hardship.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Environmental Science Program?
Most environmental science degrees consist of courses in geology, chemistry, ecology, and other foundational subject areas; however, the curricula, specializations, and graduation requirements differ for each school and program. Graduation requirements may include capstone courses or research projects, and many programs feature fieldwork or internships for students to apply their academic training in real-world settings.
|Environmental Technology and Management||This concentration explores technologies and strategies for assessing, managing, and controlling environmental factors that may affect the quality of life. Coursework includes management systems, pollution control strategies, technological developments in contaminant treatment, mediation, and disposal, and mitigation plans for hazardous materials. Students learn how to conduct environmental assessments, oversee containment efforts, and develop and implement regulations.||Public health and safety administrators, environmental researcher, policy analyst|
|Fish and Wildlife Management||Students learn to monitor and protect fish and wildlife, and develop and implement conservation policy to address the erosion of the earth's biodiversity. Coursework includes public land management, environmental policy, conservation biology, botany, and population ecology. Students also engage applied studies in areas such as botany, mammalogy, fishery biology, and ornithology.||Natural resource and habitat preservation specialist,
wildlife conservation officers, national park rangers, gamekeeper, pest control specialists
|Environmental Health and Public Policy||This concentration develops ways to protect communities from natural, human-caused, unintentional, or deliberate threats to the environment. Course requirements may include public health policy and environmental regulations, with electives from the fields of chemistry, microbiology, ecology, immunology, toxicology, and epidemiology. Students also learn about emergency response, oil spill prevention and containment, and hazardous waste operations.||Public health and safety administrators, disease control researchers, emergency response specialists, hazardous waste containment specialists|
|Geospatial Technologies and Environmental Engineering||Students in this concentration apply natural science and computer technologies to design systems that address a variety of environmental challenges that threaten public health. Coursework introduces environmental applications for remote sensing, geospatial analysis, geographic information systems, and mapping technologies. Courses typically highlight issues related to safe land use, contamination risks, water, and air and soil monitoring.||Environmental engineers, pollution control specialists, geographic information systems analysts, flood and fire containment specialists|
|Sustainability||Coursework covers energy and resource sustainability, habitat preservation, green infrastructure, and renewable technologies. Students learn to overcome social and economic barriers to the acceptance of sustainable products and services. Sustainability studies address a variety of challenges, from adopting renewable energy strategies and lessening dependence on fossil fuels to promoting more efficient land use and reducing waste.||Sustainability researcher and consultant, energy and sustainability engineer, sustainability advocate, educator|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Environmental Science Program
As schools increasingly develop environmental science degrees, students benefit from expanding program and specialization choices that align with their career goals and interests. Each program offers a different approach, which can depend on the expertise of the faculty. While a common curriculum does not exist, most programs require foundational courses in the natural sciences along with choices for electives and concentrations.
- Environmental Geology
Students interested in careers as engineers, environmental scientists, and specialists benefit from this specialized geology course. The course analyzes the earth's environment using a multidisciplinary approach, and focuses on the interconnections among atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and anthrosphere systems. Coursework includes methods of study, physical and chemical composition, and human-caused effects.
- Environmental Chemistry
Students gain an understanding of the interaction of the living portion of the environment with its nonliving components, and how human activities alter these interactions. Courses cover the basic principles of atmospheric, aquatic, and lithospheric chemistry, with applications for natural and polluted environments. This course provides a strong background for students planning to attend graduate school and for careers in chemistry or chemical engineering.
- Water and Wetlands Management
This course focuses on the impact of human consumption on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the social, economic, and environmental implications of water management. A major theme explores the link between water and biodiversity and the services that ecosystems provide. This course benefits students interested in pursuing careers in environmental biology, sustainability management, public policy, or public health.
- Environment Policy and Politics
This seminar explores U.S. environmental policy and the behavior of interest groups, political parties, and policymakers in crafting policy. Students examine case studies that illustrate how political factors, economic interests, and social values may outweigh scientific reasoning in determining environmental policy outcomes. Students interested in careers in policy analysis, lobbying, or public service gain useful insights from this course.
- Climate Change
Designed for students with a generalized interest in environmental issues -- and those considering advocacy or sustainability-related careers -- this course provides an overview of the current scientific understanding of climate change. The course emphasizes the role humans have played in this change, historical evidence, current forecasting models, and international efforts to reduce climate change.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Environmental Science?
An environmental science degree may take four years to complete with full-time study, or more if attending part time. Most programs require about 40 courses, or approximately 120 credits. Students may reduce the length of time it takes to finish by transferring credits from other schools, or by completing high school AP courses that waive required or introductory courses.
Many factors affect the length of time needed to graduate with a bachelor's degree in environmental science. Some students attend classes continuously over the course of eight semesters. Others have financial or personal reasons that limit them to part-time enrollment, or force them to take time off for a semester or two. The flexible schedules provided by online programs may appeal to working professionals and other students managing family obligations. Requirements vary widely from school to school, but some web-based programs offer accelerated degrees while others may be completed in 18 months to two years.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Environmental Science?
The cost for an undergraduate environmental science degree can be anywhere from $8,000 to more than $30,000 a year, and tuition rates have continued to rise since 2011. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that the average tuition for private nonprofit four-year institutions increased to $33,500 in 2016-17, a 15% spike from 2010-11. Tuition rates also grew at public four-year institutions in the same period to $8,800, a 12% increase.
Because each college determines its tuition pricing differently, students need to carefully consider the factors that impact their educational costs. For example, programs at public institutions may offer better value than private schools, but financial aid can also help offset the costs. Submit your FAFSA to find out if you qualify for any scholarships or grants and weigh the pros and cons of taking out a student loan.
Attending a school in your home state may make more financial sense than enrolling out-of-state. When looking at schools located away from your home, make sure to budget for transportation expenses, lodging, and food, as well as for tuition, books, and supplies. Investigate the cost of living for the communities around campus, as well. If you have to find a job, find out if your intended school offers work-study opportunities and check out the availability of off-campus employment.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Environmental Science Prepares For
- Board Certified Environmental Scientist (BCES)
The American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAESCB) offers this credential to environmental scientists. Applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree in environmental sciences recognized by the AAESCB and hold a full-time professional position. The certification process requires specialty-specific written and oral examinations and peer review.
- Certified Environmental Scientist (CES)
The National Registry of Environmental Professionals administers several professional certifications in environmental and safety specializations. The Certified Environmental Scientist designation establishes the applicant's expertise in environmental science subject areas, including physics, chemistry, biology, meteorology, and environmental health. Applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree in an environmental science-related field and three years of work experience.
- Certified Environmental Professional (CEP)
The CEP designation, administered by the Board of Certified Environmental Professionals, recognizes high standards of conduct and professional skills in environmental assessment, documentation, operations, planning, sustainability; and research and education. Applicants must undergo a substantial background review, pass a written exam, and submit a minimum of four letters of recommendation from colleagues who hold the CEP or a similar professional designation.
- Professional Ecologist
The Ecology Society of America administers several levels of certifications. Graduates with a bachelor's degree just beginning their careers may apply for the Ecologist in Training category. The Associate Ecologist category applies to bachelor's degree holders with at least one year of postgraduate professional experience. Ecologist and Senior Ecologist certifications require graduate degrees and several years of experience.
- Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM)
Environmental professionals working in the hazmat industry may apply for this certification through the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management. This certification requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, two letters of reference, and minimum of four years of experience in hazardous materials management or a related field. All applicants must successfully pass a three-hour exam.
Resources for Environmental Science Students
GSA provides a wide range of earth-science related resources. It offers access to Geofacets, a web-based database of georeferenced geological maps. The organization's GeoTeacher site provides educational resources for educators and students at all grade levels.
This daily publication presents breaking news on energy and environmental issues, major legislation, court cases, and technological developments. Professionals rely on Greenwire to stay current on environmental-related controversies, ranging from climate change and energy policy to public lands management.
Maintained by the National Education Association, this collection of resources includes study guides, lesson plans and teaching strategies designed primarily for K-12 educators teaching in all areas of environmental science, biodiversity, and sustainability.
This online platform, hosted the North American Association for Environmental Education, provides a searchable database for educators, students, and other environmental practitioners. Research is available in environmental literacy, conservation, social justice, health, and human development.
This nonprofit focuses on the environmental impact of government policies, corporate practices, and investment decisions. It presents research and opportunities for advocacy on a broad range of issues, including fracking, ocean dumping, and climate change.
Professional Organizations in Environmental Science
Professional associations offer many memberships benefits to students pursuing a bachelor's degree in environmental science. Student members may take advantage of networking events, attend conferences and workshops, and connect with other students and established professionals in environmental science-related fields. Membership also provides access to job listings and information on certification and exam preparation. Most organizations offer free or reduced membership to full-time students.
NAEP promotes and advances environmental professionals of all specializations. It sponsors an annual conference, offers a career center with job listings and publishes newsletters and research. Full-time students receive a discounted membership rate.
AAEES provides workshops and seminars and administrates accreditation for university environmental engineering and science programs. It also administers board certifications for environmental engineers and environmental science professionals. Full-time students receive free membership.
This nonprofit organization promotes public awareness of the importance of ecological science, and lobbies to ensure the appropriate use of ecological science in environmental decision-making. The Society offers a discounted membership rate to students.
AESS advances the study of environmental science-related fields, and provides professional development and maintains a syllabus databank for educators. It also offers career assistance through its academic career/mentor support portal, and a reduced membership for full-time students.
SCB membership comprises 4,000 professionals from across the world interested in the study of biological diversity. It offers reduced memberships to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. Membership allows access to career resources and job listings.