Environmental science students develop techniques to understand, analyze
and solve the problems in our environment. Because there are so many environmental
issues to consider these days, the programs cover a lot of ground. Students
take geology, geography, biology, chemistry -- or even law, politics, management
"There is often a difference between environmental studies programs and
environmental science programs," explains Frederick Scatena. He is a professor
of earth and environmental science at the University of Pennsylvania. "Environmental
studies typically has a stronger policy focus, while environmental science
has a stronger science focus."
The wide variety of topics that fall under environmental science means
that programs are all a little different from one school to another.
Overall, community colleges offer two-year science technician programs;
universities offer four-year bachelor of science degree and post-graduate
master's degree programs. Some two-year programs allow you to transfer to
a four-year bachelor's degree program.
Since there are so many different options available, students should
do careful research before choosing the direction of their post-secondary
studies. They should consider what kind of environmental career interests
them and select the appropriate educational path.
"Students should look for programs that offer appropriate breadth and depth
in the specialization they wish to pursue," says Jacey Scott. She is the environment,
earth, and resources student advisor at a university.
If you want to become an environmental science technician, for instance,
a two-year associate's degree may be right for you. Look for programs offering
scientific principles and theory combined with practical experience in a lab.
A bachelor's degree can lead to entry-level jobs as an environmental scientist.
You can work for the government, in consulting, on engineering projects, doing
environmental planning, or conducting energy or pollution audits.
A bachelor's degree will prepare you for lower-level jobs like environmental
science technician, too, but you probably won't be able to apply all your
education on the job.
"Ultimately, [students will] need a master's degree to get a good, permanent
position," says Scatena. He adds that many undergrads get an entry-level job,
work for a few years and then return to graduate school.
Teaching at the college level and working in research requires a PhD. Keep
in mind that if you plan to pursue graduate studies, you will need to get
a bachelor's degree first.
Scott mentions that many programs offer co-operative education options
that allow students to gain practical experience. Participating in these
programs can later help grads find jobs.
To prepare students who want to pursue their interest in the natural world
and conservation issues, some high schools offer environmental science courses.
General science classes are also useful.
Scatena recommends getting research experience at a lab. Working in
a summer camp or doing community work like a stream clean-up also offers good
experience. "See how it's applied in the community to see how you'll like
it," he advises.
"Participating in student groups, local Envirothon groups, volunteering
with nonprofit or community-based environmental organizations is a great way
for students to get experience in the field," says Scott.
Textbooks will be an extra expense. You may be asked to pay lab fees. Some
programs have a field component, in which case you'll need to pay travel expenses.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to Environmental Science Degrees,
see: Environmental Scientists and Specialists
For more information related to this career, see:Urban and Regional
Environmental Protection Agency
Check out the careers section
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