Careers That Help the Environment

By Abbey Tiderman 04.24.2016 interact

Do you join your community on Earth Day, scouring the town with trash bag in hand, cleaning up the litter scattered on the side of the road? This small yet significant act of service to the planet is certainly a worthy gesture. Imagine being able to turn your passion for helping the environment into a career. The thing is, you can! In fact, there has never been a future for students so full of “green jobs,” and careers devoted to the earth. The question is, which one is right for you?

Let’s explore some of the options. You may have noticed a few more residential roofs sporting solar panels than usual lately. That’s because there’s an ever-growing trend and market focused on renewable energy to combat effects of fossil fuel use. And you don’t have to blast into space to cultivate a career at NASA these days. Modern technology and science means you can monitor important data such as global temperature and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere with your feet planted firmly on planet Earth. Or maybe you could devote your life to protecting our oceans and forests essential for clean air, or preserving animals vital to ecosystems across the globe. Some jobs at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may even incorporate a bit of all of the above.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) occupational outlook handbook is an excellent resource to help you narrow down your options, giving you details on how much various jobs pay, and what they entail. Here are some of the environment-friendly careers you’ll find.

conservation-scientistConservation Scientist

If you care about nature and the outdoors, you may just have a calling as a conservation scientist. You’ll be working with all sorts of people in your quest to protect the environment though, so solid social skills will help as well!

What you’ll do: Conservation scientists coordinate with landowners and federal, state and local governments to ensure resources and forests are utilized properly. They help fulfill the needs of private owners, businesses and communities while also looking out for the earth’s best interest.

What you’ll earn: At the low end of the salary spectrum, a conservation scientist makes $38,350 per year, while top earners see up to $90,870. This varies depending on the location, education level and the intricacies of the job.

Degree you’ll need: At minimum, to become a conservation scientist you’ll need to earn a forestry-related Bachelor’s degree, perhaps in agricultural or environmental science. If you aim high and go for your master’s degree or Ph.D. you will most likely earn more throughout your career, but it’s by no means necessary to break into the field.

env-scientistEnvironmental Science and Protection Technician

If sitting at a desk eight hours a day isn’t quite your cup of tea, working as an environmental science and protection technician just might be. This job may have you bouncing from an outdoor testing site to a lab and then on to the office, offering plenty of variation. And if being in the field

What you’ll do: Protecting people and the environment would be your primary goal as an environmental science and protection technician. You’ll likely be assigned to potentially problematic locations to identify and test what kinds of chemicals and pollution may be impacting the area.

What you’ll earn: Salaries for environmental science and protection technicians can start pretty low at around $26,330 per year, but certain positions can make up to $68,620. It all depends on the type of job and location.

Degree you’ll need: An associate’s degree should land you a decent job as an environmental science and protection technician, but that Bachelor’s never hurts!

zoologistZoologists and Wildlife Biologist

If you’ve ever been called an animal lover, a career as a zoologist or wildlife biologist is probably up your alley. But there’s more to it than cuddling cute baby koalas. You’ll need a stellar science background to get your foot in the forest and make an impact.

What you’ll do: That depends. The titles “zoologist” and “wildlife biologist” are pretty broad, so if you go this route, you’re going to have a few more career decisions to make along the way. Many in this field specialize in one particular segment, focusing in on mammals, birds or marine life, for example. But no matter which area of the animal kingdom you roam, through data collection and observation, you’ll be dedicated to understanding the role of animals, understanding complex relationships with their habitats, and how humans can best live with—not without—them.

What you’ll earn: Zoologists and wildlife biologists can earn anywhere from $37,100 to $95,430 per year depending on location, position and educational level.

Degree you’ll need: This varies greatly depending on the type of position you’re after. At minimum you’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree and if you want more responsibility—and more money—get your master’s. If you’re looking to climb to the top as a zoologist or wildlife biologist though, or dream of leading groundbreaking research, don’t stop until you reach that Ph.D.

env-engineerEnvironmental Engineer

Has science always been your favorite subject? Explore a career as an environmental engineer. It’ll scratch that scientific itch. But first, make sure you fill up your high school schedule with chemistry, biology, physics, algebra, trigonometry, and calculus classes.

What you’ll do: Environmental Engineers research, analyze data and innovate to find solutions to major problems facing the environment and populations of industrialized nations and beyond, including air pollution, waste disposal and recycling. If you were an environmental engineer today, you just might be an integral part of the teams discovering just what to do about the current drought in California, which ultimately affects people far outside “Golden State” lines. You’d also work with other professions, such as architects and city planners, to develop more sustainable communities.

What you’ll earn: Environmental engineers can earn up to $122,290 per year depending on experience and location, and earn $49,510 on the lower end.

Degree you’ll need: You will need an engineering bachelor’s degree at minimum to change the world as an environmental engineer. As you study too, take advantage of any internship or program opportunities that expose you to the field in a more hands-on way. That’ll give you a leg up upon graduation.

env-lawyerEnvironmental Lawyer

Do you dream of making tangible change when it comes to the environment? It might be a longer education road than you anticipated, but becoming an environmental lawyer is one way you can do that.

What you’ll do: As an environmental lawyer you’ll help organizations, companies, individuals or the government resolve legal issues that involve the environment. This may include holding companies accountable for environmental disasters such as oil spills, protecting land from being depleted of its natural resources or making sure underrepresented people have a voice when it comes to an industry’s impact on their homes and land. 

What you’ll earn: There’s a huge salary range for lawyers, which can start at $54,310 per year, and reach up to $187,200. As with most professions, however, earnings depend on the type of position you have and the location you practice.

Degree you’ll need: You’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree, followed by three years of law school. Yes, that’s seven more years of school, but it’ll be worth it!

Images source: BigStock and the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics


  1. Kayla

    Thanks! This really helped.

  2. Mikeila Starr

    the world needs to be healthy again -Liberty Intermediate

  3. Emily farris

    Yes stop polution

  4. Davvy Crocket

    This things about the wildlife workers are pretty cool. You guys have inspired me to join

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