Environmental scientists, hydrologists, sustainability experts, urban ecologists, and environmental planners monitor the environment, conserve rare species, control pest species, manage harvested species and investigate sources of pollution and contamination in soil, air, and water, including those affecting health; conduct public education outreach and programs, conduct sustainability assessments; work in green agriculture or green job sectors; conduct community development projects, and work with engineers or planners on environmentally sound projects. They may work in the private sector or may work for state, federal, or local governments.
The main work of environmental scientists and specialists is to predict and analyze environmental problems and develop solutions. Many environmental scientists and specialists work to reclaim lands and waters that have been contaminated by pollution. Others work to increase appreciation and use of public resources, such as urban forests and fishing. Still others assess the risks new construction projects pose to plants, wildlife, and the environment, then make recommendations to governments and businesses on how to minimize the negative impacts of these projects. They also identify ways that human behavior can be changed to avoid problems such as the depletion of the ozone layer and species loss.
The federal government and many state and local governments have regulations to promote clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and no hazardous materials in the soil. The regulations also place limits on development, particularly near sensitive ecosystems, such as wetlands. Many environmental scientists, government specialists, and environmental scientists from consulting firms work for to ensure that these regulations are followed. Some environmental scientists and specialists focus on environmental regulations that are designed to protect people’s health, while others focus on regulations designed to minimize society’s impact on the ecosystem
Many environmental specialists work in various forms of education, and conduct public workshops, demonstrations, outdoor talks, and other forums to promote wise use of natural resources.
The median annual wage of environmental scientists and specialists was $61,700 in May 2011. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,850, and the top 10 percent earned more than $107,990.
Most environmental scientists and specialists work full time. In many cases, their work involves substantial time in the field gathering data and monitoring projects. They may have to work long or irregular hours when working in the field.