Environmental Careers

If You Love the Earth, Consider One of These Green Jobs

Environmental engineer on a windfarm
••• sturti / Getty Images

Do you care intensely about the earth? Follow your passion and consider one of these environmental careers. People who work in these occupations, also known as green jobs, protect our planet and help repair it.

Now, all you have to do is figure out which one of these is the right career for you, and then fulfill the educational requirements to reach your goal. These occupations pay well, and some require only an associate degree.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts they will have an excellent job outlook.

Agricultural Engineer

Agricultural engineers design farm machinery, equipment, sensors, processes, and structures. They improve the processing of agricultural products and develop ways to conserve soil and water.

Earn a bachelor's degree in engineering with a concentration in agricultural engineering if you want to work in this occupation. For jobs that involve working directly with the public, you will also have to become licensed as a Professional Engineer.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $74,780

Number of People Employed (2016): 2,700

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 8 percent (as fast as the average for all occupations)

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 200

Conservation Scientist

Conservation scientists find ways to utilize land while protecting the natural resources on it. They work with landowners and governments.

A bachelor's degree in ecology, natural resource management, agriculture, biology, or environmental science is required to work in this occupation. Eventually, you may want to get a master's degree or doctorate for advancement.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $61,480

Number of People Employed (2016): 22,300

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 6 percent (as fast as the average for all occupation)

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 1,400

Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers use engineering principles and their knowledge of biology, soil science, and chemistry to solve environmental problems. They have expertise in pollution control, recycling, and public health issues. 

To work in this field, you will need a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering. A professional engineering license is necessary to provide services to the public.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $86,800

Number of People Employed (2016): 53,800

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 8 percent (as fast as the average for all occupations)

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 4,500

Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists' goal is to identify, abate, or eliminate pollutants and hazards to the environment or the health of the population. They conduct research to help them in this endeavor.

It is possible to get an entry-level job with only a bachelor's degree, but you will have to continue your education to make yourself a more desirable job candidate for advanced positions. Most employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a master's degree in environmental science, hydrology, or a related natural science.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $69,400

Number of People Employed (2016): 89,500

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 11 percent (faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 9,900

Environmental Technician

Environmental technicians perform laboratory and field tests to monitor the environment and look for sources of pollution. They work under the supervision of environmental scientists.

The educational requirements to work in this occupation vary greatly. Most jobs require an associate degree or a certificate in applied science or science-related technology. For others, you will need only a high school diploma. There are even some jobs that require a bachelor's degree.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $45,490

Number of People Employed (2016): 34,600

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 12 percent (faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 4,200

Geoscientist

Geoscientists study the earth's composition, structure, and other physical aspects. Some help environmental scientists clean up and preserve the environment.

You will need a master's degree to work in this occupation. Your degree can be in physics, biology, engineering, chemistry, computer science, or mathematics as long as you take classes in geology.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $89,850

Number of People Employed (2016): 32,000

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 14 percent (faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 4,500

Hydrologist

Hydrologists study underground and surface waters. They manage the water supply and solve problems with its quality.

It is possible to get an entry-level job with just a bachelor's degree. If, however, you want to advance beyond that, a master's degree in geoscience, environmental science, or engineering with a concentration in hydrology or water sciences is required. 

Median Annual Salary (2017): $79,990

Number of People Employed (2016): 6,700

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 10 percent (faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 700

Landscape Architect

Landscape architects design outdoor areas, for example, residences, parks, shopping centers, school campuses, golf courses, and parkways. Their goal is to make them beautiful, functional, and compatible with the natural environment.

To practice this occupation, you will need a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) or a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). Individuals with bachelor's degrees in other subjects can earn a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) degree instead.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $65,760

Number of People Employed (2016): 24,700

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 6 percent (as fast as the average for all occupations)

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 1,600

Urban or Regional Planner

Urban or regional planners help local governments decide how to best use their land and resources. They develop plans and programs after meeting with government officials, the public, and developers.

To work as an urban or regional planner, you must have a master's degree in urban or regional planning from an accredited graduate program. Your bachelor's degree can be in a variety of majors, but studying economics, geography, political science, or environmental design at the undergraduate level can be excellent preparation for your graduate studies.

Median Annual Salary (2017): $71,490

Number of People Employed (2016): 36,000

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 13 percent (faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Increase in Jobs (2016-2026): 4,600

 

Comparing Environmental Careers
 Required DegreeLicenseMedian Salary (2017)
Agricultural Engineer Bachelor'sRequired to work with the public$74,780
Conservation Scientist Bachelor'snone$61,480
Environmental Engineer Bachelor'sRequired to work with the public$86,800
Environmental Scientist Master'snone$69,400
Environmental Technician Associatenone$45,490
Geoscientist Master'sRequired to work with the public in some states$89,850
Hydrologist Master'sRequired in some states$79,990
Landscape ArchitectBachelor'sRequired in almost all states$65,760
Urban or Regional PlannerMaster'snone$71,490

 

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Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online