Whether you are a student thinking about entering the environmental field or a career changer hoping to land their dream job, salary is an important factor when you commence your job search.
When I went back to school for biology after having a potential high salary management position, I told myself and others I didn’t care about money. In hindsight, I was afraid to want money (and not get it) let alone say it out loud. Don’t be shamed into thinking having financial goals somehow negates your caring for the environment.
If you’re faring enough to put your financial goals front and center, here are some careers you might want to look into. Note: these aren’t entry-level, you’re going to have to make a plan and stick to it to land in one of these rewarding careers.
Median Annual Salary: $126,930
What They Do: Environmental Lawyers often work for advocacy groups, NGOs, energy companies, waste disposal plants, or the government to ensure that all environmental regulations are met.
Qualifications: To become an environmental lawyer, you must complete 4 years of undergraduate schooling (it is wise, though not necessary, to major in environmental studies or a related major), followed by 3 years of law school to attain a J.D. There is expected to be high competition for this job in the coming years, as there are more graduate students than open law positions; however, this is for law in general, not necessarily environmental positions.
Median Annual Salary: $107,680
What They Do: Chief Sustainability Officers directly work with C-suite executives to push companies in a more sustainable direction, identifying issues that the company should address and proposing solutions. CSOs are largely in a managerial role, overseeing sustainability initiatives and monitoring their success rather than actively working outdoors.
Qualifications: To become a CSO, you will likely need a Masters degree in Sustainability Management, Business Administration, or another field related to sustainability. Beyond that, CSOs often have years of experience which allow them to successfully climb the corporate ladder.
Median Annual Salary: $93,580
What They Do: Geoscientists aim to study the physical earth in order to predict future environmental events, locate natural resources like oil or natural gas, or assess changes that our planet has endured. Geoscientists take on a wide range of responsibilities: taking samples in the field, processing and analyzing data in the lab, and presenting their findings to nonscientists in lab reports or oral presentations.
Qualifications: To become a geoscientist, you will likely need a Bachelor’s degree in geoscience, though an environmental science or environmental engineering degree may be accepted by employers as well. Due to the many duties geoscientists take on, they not only need to be comfortable working outdoors, but also technologically adept and skilled at communicating their results.
Median Average Salary: $92,120
What They Do: Environmental engineers, much like geoscientists, have a large set of responsibilities. They conduct studies in the field, analyze data, lead quality-control checks, and more to improve sustainability initiatives or evaluate global environmental issues. Environmental engineers work at specific outdoor sites, as well as indoors when collaborating with other environmental professionals to develop environmental solutions or brief others on their findings.
Qualifications: A career in environmental engineering requires a degree in civil engineering, chemical engineering, environmental engineering, or a similar field. This career is especially great if you have one specific sector within the environmental field you are particularly passionate about, as environmental engineers can work to address or improve air/water pollution, recycling initiatives, waste disposal practices, agricultural practices, public health concerns, and more.
Median Average Salary: $84,400
What They Do: Environmental microbiologists study how microorganisms interact with the environment and how we can use microbes to aid in agricultural practices, waste disposal, water pollution, and more. Although microbiologists might go on-site to collect samples, most of their work is done in a lab, analyzing samples and drafting reports. Microbiologists may work for large corporations or in academia.
Qualifications: A bachelor’s degree in microbiology or a very similar field is required to work in entry-level positions. However, researchers who work independently or through colleges/universities will need a Ph.D. to conduct research. Independent researchers often have to compete with others for research grants which provide funding.
For other environmental positions, look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for more information.