California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

   Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health in California

May also be called: Air Analysts; Environmental Consultants; Environmental Health and Safety Specialists; Environmental Protection Specialists; Hazardous Substances Scientists; Marine Scientists; Research Environmental Scientists; Water Pollution Specialists; and Water Quality Analysts

Specialties within this occupation include: Climate Change Analysts; Environmental Restoration Planners; and Industrial Ecologists

What Would I Do?

Environmental Scientists and Specialists protect the health of our environment and population by evaluating activities and identifying pollutants that may cause unsafe conditions. They make sure that local, state, and federal environmental laws and regulations requiring environmental permitting, review, and compliance are followed. Environmental Scientists also gather, monitor, and assess data from field investigations on air, biological resources, cultural resources, food, soil, water quality, and wetlands to evaluate a project’s effects and help minimize those effects on the environment and the public’s health. However, the Environmental Scientist's and Specialist's main focus is always on environmental issues, such as conservation, degradation, implementation, and pollutants that affect the environment and human health.

Green Economy: Environmental Scientists will play an important role in the emerging green economy. They will assist in protecting the environment and public health from pollutants and harmful activities such as unlawful wastewater discharge.

Environmental Scientists work in office buildings or laboratories. They frequently spend time outdoors in all types of weather and terrain such as agricultural fields, forests, streams, and wetlands. Scientists travel to many different locations to collect samples and meet with agencies, clients, investors, or stakeholders. Environmental Scientists, especially those who participate in field work, should be in good physical condition to reduce risk of injury. When working with hazardous wastes or materials, Environmental Scientists must be trained in proper health and safety procedures and in many cases, must wear personal protective equipment. Most Scientists work a standard 40-hour week, but can expect occasional evening, weekend, and holiday work to meet deadlines.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Environmental Scientist may appeal to those who enjoy working with ideas and searching for facts using a variety of sources to solve problems. In addition, those who like to work outside and tackle practical, hands-on problems and solutions may also enjoy this type of work.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The median wage in 2016 for Environmental Scientists, Including Health in California is $80,683 annually, or $38.79 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

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Annual Wages for 2016Low
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(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Environmental Scientists generally receive excellent benefits, including health and life insurance, vacation, sick leave, and pension plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

With the increased focus on the environment, increased opportunities are expected for Environmental Scientists. California leads the nation in terms of its support of environmental practices, thus creating a strong market for Environmental Scientists. However, during economic downturns, the number of job openings may decline.

How Do I Qualify?

A bachelor's degree in biological, chemical, physical, or environmental science or a related field is usually the minimum educational level that employers will consider for a position as an Environmental Scientist. However, most Scientists need a master's degree or a Ph.D. for research positions.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers is one of the most common and effective job search methods. Jobs may also be found through classified advertisements in newspapers, online job boards, and professional organizations. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

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