Detailed 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. These laws limit the impact that human activities such as construction and operation of industrial facilities have on environmentally sensitive areas. These fragile areas include wetlands and old growth forests. Environmental Scientists write risk assessments on these activities and describe the effects they may have on the environment. They also conduct on-site inspections of current project activities to determine the extent of any ongoing environmental impacts.
Environmental Scientists and Specialists develop, review, and make comments on draft environmental documents such as environmental impact reports and environmental impact assessments. They assist in preliminary planning and site selection for new facilities. They also write technical proposals to obtain funding or approval for special projects or studies. Environmental Scientists prepare, apply for, and monitor compliance with permits, such as Domestic Water Supply, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), or air emissions permits. They manage waste materials safely by adequately assessing waste management programs. They evaluate programs to improve air quality or protect waterways in conjunction with new growth and regional activity.
Environmental Scientists 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. Environmental Scientists also review and prepare reports on the data collected from contaminated sites.
Environmental Scientists work closely with local, state, and federal agencies, stakeholders, and the public to make sure relationships and effective communication are established. They also convey information to these interested parties on a wide variety of technical topics, which range from environmental analysis and policies to health and safety protocols and environmental reports. Sometimes they provide environmental training to various groups.
Some Environmental Scientists help formulate governmental policies to identify ways human behavior can be modified to avoid or lessen problems, for example ground-water contamination and depletion of the ozone layer. Others monitor the environmental impacts on the health of the population, checking for risks of disease and providing information about health hazards. They provide toxicological and medical information concerning decisions involving public health to local, state, and federal agencies. They evaluate the availability of safe drinking water sources and the adequacy of environmental controls for new manufacturing and energy facilities.
Environmental Scientists specialize in many different areas, such as environmental biology, chemistry, conservation, or ecology; fisheries; geology; hydrology; or human health. They work in a wide range of sectors, including consulting firms, corporate planning offices, government agencies, industrial facilities, and health care organizations. However, the main focus of Environmental Scientists and Specialists is always on environmental issues, such as conservation, degradation, implementation, and pollutants that affect the environment and human health. In addition, they help determine acceptable actions for supplying the needs of society with safe drinking water, reliable energy, and the comforts of everyday life while also protecting the environment and complying with legal requirements.
Climate Change Analysts research and analyze policy developments related to climate change. They make climate-related recommendations for actions such as legislation, development of regulations, awareness campaigns, or fundraising approaches.
Environmental Restoration Planners collaborate with field and biology staff to oversee the implementation of restoration projects and to develop new products. They process complex scientific data into practical strategies for restoration, monitoring, or management.
Industrial Ecologists apply principles and processes of natural ecosystems to develop models for efficient industrial systems. They use their knowledge of the physical and social sciences to maximize the effective use of natural resources in the production and use of goods and services.
Tools and Technology
Environmental Scientists use a variety of tools including ambient air samplers, biological and water sampling equipment, chemical analysis equipment, computers, industrial emission monitors, radiation detectors, and traffic monitors. The technologies they use may include geographic information systems (GIS), site restoration methodologies, and wastewater treatment systems. Scientists also use software, such as analytical or scientific and computer aided design (CAD).
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.
Important Tasks and Related Skills
Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.
|View the skill definitions|
|Task||Skill Used in this Task|
|Collect, synthesize, analyze, manage, and report environmental data, such as pollution emission measurements, atmospheric monitoring measurements, meteorological and mineralogical information, site ecological conditions, and soil or water samples.||Critical Thinking|
|Analyze data to determine validity, quality, and scientific significance, and to interpret correlations between human activities and environmental effects.||Science|
|Communicate scientific and technical information to the public, organizations, or internal audiences through oral briefings, written documents, workshops, conferences, training sessions, or public hearings.||Speaking|
|Process and review environmental permits, licenses, and related materials.||Written Expression|
|Prepare charts or graphs from data samples, providing summary information on the environmental relevance of the data.||Mathematics|
|Determine data collection methods to be employed in research projects and surveys, and continuous environmental monitoring.||Judgment and Decision Making|
|Research sources of pollution to determine their effects on the environment and to develop theories or methods of pollution abatement or control.||Inductive Reasoning|
|Provide advice on proper standards and regulations or the development of policies, strategies, and codes of practice for environmental management.||Law and Government|
|Monitor effects of pollution and land degradation, and recommend means of prevention or control.||Complex Problem Solving|
|Supervise or train students, environmental technologists, technicians, or other related staff.||Instructing|
Below is a definition for each skill.
|View the tasks to skills list|
|Critical Thinking||Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.|
|Science||Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.|
|Speaking||Talking to others to convey information effectively.|
|Written Expression||The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.|
|Mathematics||Using mathematics to solve problems.|
|Judgment and Decision Making||Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.|
|Inductive Reasoning||The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).|
|Law and Government||Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.|
|Complex Problem Solving||Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.|
|Instructing||Teaching others how to do something.|
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.
Unionization is not common in this occupation. However, Environmental Scientists who work for government agencies may belong to a union.
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. Environmental Scientists also need to be able to work alone or as part of a team. Effective oral and written communication skills are essential. This occupation would be a good choice for an individual who has an understanding of environmental laws and regulations and who is interested in protecting and enhancing the environment and public health.
What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?
The median wage in 2016 for Environmental Scientists, Including Health in California was $80,683 annually, or $38.79 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.
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.
Projections of Employment
In California, the number of Environmental Scientists, Including Health is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Environmental Scientists, Including Health are expected to increase by 25.3 percent, or 4,000 jobs between 2014 and 2024.
|Estimated Employment and Projected Growth|
Environmental Scientists, Including Health
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Due to Net
|View Projected Growth for All Areas|
Annual Job Openings
In California, an average of 390 new job openings per year is expected for Environmental Scientists, Including Health, plus an additional 490 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 880 job openings.
|Estimated Average Annual Job Openings|
Environmental Scientists, Including Health
|Jobs From Growth||Jobs Due to|
|View Data for All Areas|
How Do I Qualify?
Education, Training, and Other Requirements
A bachelor's degree in biological, chemical, engineering, 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. Additional courses in environmental law and statistics are very helpful. They also need to be knowledgeable of environmental regulations related to air, water, and waste issues; the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA); and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Environmental Scientists should have an understanding of pollutants and hazardous materials that affect the environment, people, and wildlife. Advanced computer skills, analytical writing, public speaking skills, and scientific research methods are also vital.
Many employers seek applicants with at least one-to-three years of experience in environmental science; ecological studies; data analysis or laboratory methods; field sampling, design, and interpretation; or industrial compliance support. However, some employers may consider a college graduate or a graduate from a master’s or Ph.D. program.
Early Career Planning
High school students planning to become Environmental Scientists should take courses in computer technology, English, mathematics, physical and life sciences, and statistics.
Some colleges and universities may help students find internship programs. These internships are frequently paid and are an opportunity for the sponsoring organization to recruit future employees. Many conservation organizations hire temporary seasonal help to assist with field work and other activities, but students are sometimes discouraged by the pay scale and working conditions. However, this is an excellent opportunity of gaining experience and learning from seasoned environmental professionals. Other volunteer opportunities can also be found with government, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, which can be helpful in expanding a student’s network and professional qualifications.
Continuing education is currently not a requirement. However, most Environmental Scientists stay current with the constant changes to environmental codes and regulations and new technical developments. Environmental Scientists that are Registered Environmental Health Specialists are required to take continuing education units to renew their license. Also, some certifications may require continuing education units in order to be recertified.
Licensing and Certification
While a license is not required for an Environmental Scientist, some Scientists may possess a Registered Environmental Health Specialist license. To become licensed, Scientists must have at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and in addition have completed 30 semester units of basic science courses. The license is renewed every 2 years along with 24 contact hours of continuing education. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.
Some certifications may be required for Environmental Scientists, such as Certified Environmental Scientist or a Certified Water Technologist. These certifications are offered by various professional organizations. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.
Where Can I Find Training?
There are two ways to search for training information:
- Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Environmental Health, Hazardous Materials, Pollution Control and Toxicology.
- Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.
Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.
Where Would I Work?
The largest industries employing Environmental Scientists, Including Health are as follows:
|Industry Title||Percent of Total Employment for Occupation in California|
|Management & Technical Consulting Svc ||33.3%|
|State Government ||18.0%|
|Local Government ||16.2%|
|Architectural and Engineering Services ||9.6%|
|Federal Government ||3.6%|
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 www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.
To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).
Yellow Page Headings
You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Environmental Scientists, Including Health.
- Environmental Consultants
- Environmental Services
- Environmental Testing
- Government Offices
Find Possible Employers
To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:
- Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
- Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
- Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
- Contact the employer for possible employment.
Where Could This Job Lead?
As Environmental Scientists gain experience, they may become managers, senior experts, or supervisors. A master’s degree or Ph.D. may lead to teaching opportunities as an environmental educator. Environmental Scientists and Specialists may also use their background to pursue further career development as an environmental attorney, public administrator, or corporate executive.
Below is a list of occupations related to Environmental Scientists, Including Health with links to more information.
|Biochemists and Biophysicists||Guide|
|Soil and Plant Scientists||Guide|
These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.
For the Career Professional
The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.