Best Environmental Career Options

In-Demand Green Jobs That Pay Well

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.

Explore Environmental Career Opportunities

These occupations pay well, and some require only a bachelor’s degree. (In one job, an associate degree is enough to get started.) The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that all these jobs will have a solid occupational outlook.

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 (2019): $62,410
  • Number of People Employed (2019): 36,100
  • Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 5% (faster than the average for all occupations)
  • Projected Increase in Jobs (2019-2029): 1,700

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 (2019): $88,860
  • Number of People Employed (2019): 55,800
  • Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 3% (as fast as the average for all occupations)
  • Projected Increase in Jobs (2019-2029): 1,700

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. Some employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a master's degree in environmental science, hydrology, or a related natural science.

  • Median Annual Salary (2019): $71,360
  • Number of People Employed (2019): 90,900
  • Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 8% (much faster than the average for all occupations)
  • Projected Increase in Jobs (2019-2029): 7,100

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 (2019): $46,540
  • Number of People Employed (2019): 34,700
  • Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 8% (much faster than the average for all occupations)
  • Projected Increase in Jobs (2019-2029): 2,900 

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 (2019): $92,040
  • Number of People Employed (2019): 31,800
  • Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 5% (faster than the average for all occupations)
  • Projected Increase in Jobs (2019-2029): 1,600

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 (2019): $81,270
  • Number of People Employed (2019): 7,000
  • Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 5% (faster than the average for all occupations)
  • Projected Increase in Jobs (2019-2029): 400

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 (2019): $74,350
  • Number of People Employed (2019): 39,700
  • Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 11% (faster than the average for all occupations)
  • Projected Increase in Jobs (2019-2029): 4,400
Comparing Environmental Careers
  Required Degree License Median Salary (2019)
Conservation Scientist Bachelor's none $62,410
Environmental Engineer Bachelor's Required to work with the public $88,860
Environmental Scientist Master's none $71,360
Environmental Technician Associate none $46,540
Geoscientist Master's Required to work with the public in some states $92,040
Hydrologist Master's Required in some states $81,270
Urban or Regional Planner Master's none $74,350

Article Sources

  1. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Conservation Scientists and Foresters.” Accessed Oct. 8, 2020.

  2. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook. “Environmental Engineers.” Accessed Oct. 8, 2020.

  3. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook. “Environmental Scientists and Specialists.” Accessed Oct. 8, 2020.

  4. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook. “Environmental Science and Protection Technicians.” Accessed Oct. 8, 2020.

  5. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook. “Geoscientists.” Accessed Oct. 8, 2020.

  6. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook. “Hydrologist.” Accessed Oct. 8, 2020.

  7. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook. “Urban and Regional Planners.” Accessed Oct. 8, 2020.