Want to save the world? If you’re an environmental studies or environmental science (ES) major, you’re preparing yourself for a range of careers that can do just that.
ES majors ground their idealism in scientific rigor. As a student in this field, you’ll need the ability to understand and apply complex concepts in biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. You’ll also learn to apply quantitative and qualitative analytical skills to solving problems and interpreting research data. Your creativity will help you design research models to study environmental issues.
Ultimately, your career path will depend on the unique configuration of skills, interests, and values you bring to the table, but it will help if you are passionate about topics like sustainability, conservation, ecology, climate change, and alternative energy sources. It could lead you to a role as a chief sustainability officer on a leadership team.
Top Jobs for Environmental Studies Majors
Organizations of all kinds need to prepare environmental impact studies when they are planning to develop virgin land or use currently developed land for an alternative purpose. As an environmental consultant, you'll use analytical tools to assess how development projects might impact the water, soil, air or wildlife in the area. When problematic impacts are identified, you will suggest ways to ameliorate the potential effects. In other cases, organizations might bring you in to address existing problems—like pollution—and to recommend solutions.
You'll tap the writing and presentation skills honed while you earned your degree to compose technical reports and deliver recommendations to clients.
Salary: According to PayScale, environmental consultants earn an average annual salary of $55,966.
ES majors gain a broad-based perspective on environmental issues which can serve you well as an environmental educator. You'll learn about the environment surrounding your geographic area of practice and rely on your training to collect and interpret information and to conduct fieldwork.
It's important to convey a sense of excitement in your interactions with visitors or students, and public speaking skills polished on campus will help you provide dynamic presentations.
Salary: Glassdoor reports that environmental educators earn an average annual salary of $50,900.
Public Relations Specialist
Environmental organizations need to influence public perceptions to gain political and financial support for their initiatives. As a public relations specialist or communications staff member, you'll use the knowledge acquired as an ES major when generating press releases about programs and activities at your employer's or client's organizations. You'll use your writing skills to develop content for the websites of environmental entities and to help compose text for fundraising brochures and letters.
Salary: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public relations specialists earn a median annual salary of $61,150.
If you choose to go to law school after earning your ES degree, your scientific knowledge will be an asset when working with clients on environmentally related cases. You'll interview expert witnesses like environmental engineers, biologists, chemists, and other environmental scientists as you prepare and litigate cases. You'll need to interpret scientific material and evaluate the validity/reliability of those findings.
As an attorney, your writing skills will help you compose legal briefs and other documents. You may help draft the language for environmental regulations if you work for a governmental entity.
Salary: ZipRecruiter reports that environmental attorneys earn an average annual salary of $74,569.
When technical solutions are required to resolve problems with environmental contamination or pollution, environmental engineers often are called upon to propose and implement those systems. In this role, you'll draw upon knowledge of environmental science when designing environmental technology and tap the quantitative skills developed as an ES major when calculating the physical dimensions of systems.
You'll be expected to write proposals for projects and present recommendations to clients that show you've researched and defended a position collaborated with other professionals, devised solutions and presented them in a clear, concise way.
Salary: Per PayScale, environmental engineers earn an average annual salary of $65,464.
Organizations of all kinds are seeking greener ways of carrying out their functions. As a sustainability specialist, you'll assess the environmental practices and impact of an organization and recommend and implement strategies to conserve resources and limit environmental damage.
Knowledge of scientific methodology is essential to carrying out sophisticated assessments of the impact of current operations on the environment and determining what conservation benefits are derived when alternate processes are implemented.
You'll use your writing, presentation, and interpersonal skills developed as an ES major to write proposals and urge colleagues to adopt alternative practices.
Salary: Glassdoor reports that sustainability specialists earn an average annual salary of $50,900.
To effectively target prospective donors for contributions to environmental causes, fundraisers must have a solid understanding of their organizations' goals and operations. As an ES major, you are well positioned to gain this knowledge and convey the benefits of supporting environmental initiatives.
In this role, you’ll rely on solid communication skills to compose letters and make pitches to prospective contributors. You must also be organized to orchestrate fundraising events and plan campaigns.
Salary: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fundraisers earn a median annual salary of $57,970.
Generating realistic proposals for environmental policy requires an in-depth knowledge of scientific concepts. As an ES major, you should possess the aptitude for learning new scientific information as well as a solid foundation in biology, chemistry, and physics.
Your research skills will help to uncover information related to public policy recommendations, and your analytical and statistical skills will help to interpret and process that information. The technical writing skills you cultivated as an ES major will be needed to compose scientifically oriented policy documents.
Salary: Per Glassdoor, policy analysts earn an average annual salary of $58,926.