What are the highest paying Jobs in Environmental Science?

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that there were 89,500 environmental scientists in the U.S. as of 2016 (most recent data). This figure based upon those with a bachelor’s degree. The BLS also reports that 9,900 jobs will change over ten years through 2026. This number represents an 11% increase or turnover in positions, which is above the national average.

However, not all jobs in the profession pay the same – especially with an undergraduate degree. Generally, your pay and stature in a company are commensurate with your education level. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree should earn more than those with an associate’s. Graduates with a master’s expect their salary to be higher, and graduates with a doctorate assume they will make the most. In the workplace, your level of education is not always a measure of income.

The following are some of the top paying jobs with a degree in environmental science or related field.

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Chief Sustainability Officer

The name refers to one of the executive positions that starts with the letter ‘C.’ Other familiar Cs are CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), and COO (Chief Operating Officer). Now add CSO or Chief Sustainability Officer to the list. Not just fire departments like to use the title of Chief.

The CSO is not an entry-level job, but something you can aspire to reach after demonstrating your leadership qualities and knowledge of the environment. Unfortunately, there is not an extensive list of companies with a CSO. The good news is that they are on the rise-between 2003 and 2008, the number doubled. However, the total of CS Officers is around 30 working for publicly traded companies in the United States. Some of the household names are Verizon, Dow, DuPont, AT&T, Alcoa, Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Kellogg. Surveys indicate that only ten percent of U.S. public companies have a department devoted to environmental issues.

It is tough to determine an average salary for a CSO. His/her earnings will vary as they do with CEOs who have bonuses, stock options, and other lucrative incentives. The employment site, OwlGuru, reports the average income at $194,350. Many factors influence executive salaries, such as revenue, size of the company, stock appreciation, and more. If all these variables are favorable, the wage package for a CSO would probably be the highest in the field of environmental science.

Environmental Lawyer

Before entering law school, you require a bachelor’s degree. By selecting environmental science, sustainability, ecology, or environmental engineering degree, this would be an area to specialize. Combine your law degree with one of the former majors, and you can enter the field of environmental law. You should consider choosing a branch of law that examines the policies, government regulations, and contractual agreements as they affect the habitat.

These lawyers deal with a range of topics concerning that can adversely affect the health of a state, city, or community. Some of the issues are air and water quality, contamination by toxic chemicals, cleanup, waste management, and the use of pesticides and other harmful products. A background in the sciences is beneficial for the lawyer to understand research and technical papers.

The BLS reports the median wage for lawyers at $119,250. As with the CSO, several factors can affect this number. For example, litigation attorneys who are partners in a large firm typically make well more than the figure above. The site, Environmental Science, has an average income close to that of the BLS. Their median wage is $113, 530 with the highest earnings in the state of Delaware at $186,510.

Environmental Engineer

The role of an environmental engineer is similar to the scientist. Both analyze climatic data, test air, and water samples, and address ecological matters. Where the professions differ after the analysis and data gathering is completed. The engineer takes responsibility for employing the solutions to remedy problems. By using principles learned in the study of disciplines, such as civil engineering, hydrology, and mechanics, they offer the means to improve a condition. For example, in wastewater treatment or hazardous chemical spill. They focus on projects connected to the environment.

The BLS reports the median wage for Environmental Engineers at $86,800 as of May 2017. The projected growth is 8% through 2026, which is a change in 4,500 jobs.

Other Specialties

Individuals interested in specializing in solar or wind energy should consider a degree in engineering. In the latter, most of the jobs are in the engineering of wind energy systems. A team of engineers may research, draft, design, and manufacture wind turbines. Knowledge of physics and mechanics is more important than environmental science.

There are more than 260,000 employed in the field of solar energy. Comparable to wind energy, the emphasis is on an engineering degree. The entry-level jobs exist predominantly in the assembly and installation of solar panels. From there, you can progress to engineering technician and systems design. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median pay for wind turbine technicians at $52,880 or $25.91 per hour (May 2017). You can learn the skills for this work at a technical school or community college.

Additional Resources

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