Pros and Cons to Becoming an Environmental Analyst
Environmental analysts, a type of environmental scientist, help clean and protect the Earth by conducting environmental site inspections, generating statistics, and reporting their findings. You can read some of the upsides and downsides to being an environmental analyst below.
|PROS to Becoming an Environmental Analyst|
|Environmental analysts help make a difference in protecting the environment*|
|Higher than average salary (about $72,050 yearly)*|
|Job openings are expected due to retirement and career advancement*|
|Multiple industries to work in: government, consulting, research, etc.*|
|Opportunities for advancement to management, independent research, or teaching positions*|
|CONS to Becoming an Environmental Analyst|
|Working outdoors may involve risk from environmental hazards*|
|Fieldwork is often physically challenging*|
|When working in the field, irregular and long hours can be required*|
|Postsecondary education may be necessary to advance (requiring possibly 2-8 additional years of training)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description and Duties
Working in this career gives you the chance to combine a love for science, math, and nature. You could seek employment within government agencies, businesses, environmental organizations, consulting firms, or basic research funds.
The aim of your work might be to provide statistics on cleaner fuel alternatives to environmental organizations or to help companies act in accordance with national regulations involving the environment. You might strive to identify pollutants from a stretch of land, water, or air and to make plans to remove them. Alternatively, you might devote your efforts to calculating the risks of environmental hazards, like flooding or landslides. Overall, you would aspire to make the environment a safer and cleaner place by studying environmental trends and reporting statistics.
These positions are based largely in research, meaning that you would study and interpret historical data, current facts and trends, and the impacts of the actions that companies and people in general have on the environment. You might be responsible for designing research projects and methodology, carrying out environmental tests, collecting samples, analyzing samples and data, and crafting plans of action. After completing your investigations, you often create charts, tables, and reports. You also often confer with clients and discuss your recommendations, and you might even provide expert testimony to public organizations or the government.
There are several areas that you can choose to concentrate on. If you focus on environmental health, you would work to analyze health risks in certain environmental conditions and alert the general public of these dangers. Other specializations include environmental protection and environmental chemistry. Environmental protection analysts focus on studying the impact human activity creates in the environment. Chemistry specialists help figure out how various chemicals affect the environment.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of environmental scientists and specialists was expected to increase at an average rate of 15% between 2012 and 2022. This equates to about 13,200 new jobs in the field. Job growth was attributed to public interest in environmental issues and the passing of stricter environmental laws.
In May 2014, the BLS reported that environmental scientists and specialists earned an average annual income of about $72,050, which equates to about $34.64 hourly (www.bls.gov). The top ten percent made roughly $114,990 or more per year. The District of Columbia, Virginia, California, Illinois, Colorado were the top five highest paying locations for environmental scientists and specialists in the United States.
Requirements to Become an Environmental Analyst
To work as an environmental analyst, you most often need a bachelor's degree. Some of the majors you can choose from include environmental science, environmental engineering, biology, and chemistry. In fact, some schools even offer programs specifically in environmental analysis. Your coursework will likely cover natural resources, ecology, waste management, geology, hydrology, environmental modeling, and environmental regulation. While in school, laboratories and internships can provide vital practical experience.
If you're looking to advance to higher-level positions, such as program manager, a master's degree is recommended. For independent research and college teaching positions, a doctoral degree is typically required.
Skills and Qualifications
Some specific techniques and skills that you might use as an analyst are biological monitoring, mass spectrometry, gas chromatography, inductively coupled plasma emission spectroscopy, statistical analysis, cost-benefit analysis, and policy analysis.
According to the BLS, analytical and problem-solving skills are highly coveted. Good interpersonal skills are preferred in environmental analysts (you are likely to work as part of a team). Since you'd be writing numerous technical reports and defending your research findings to other scientists and officials, employers favor strong writing and speaking abilities.
What Do Employers Want?
Teamwork, communication, and fieldwork skills are valued. Environmental analyst positions typically involve travel to various sites, sometimes including ones that are out of state. A driver's license and personal transportation may be needed. Take a look below at some job postings that were taken directly from employers in April 2012.
- A Maryland business consulting company has an opening for an environmental analyst. The position involves inspecting construction sites to verify that proper practices regarding storm water and erosion control are being undertaken. It requires someone with a minimum of an associate's degree in soils, hydrology, environmental science, or erosion control.
- In Colorado, a consulting firm needs an environmental analyst with skills in technical writing and project management. The job duties include analyzing the relationship between the environment, physical buildings, and human culture; working with developers and businesses; and writing and managing NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) documents.
- A New York firm wants an environmental analyst to investigate sites to make sure they're fit for real estate and construction purposes. A bachelor's-level education is required, and a geologist license is preferred.
- An environmental health analyst position in North Dakota calls for applicants with knowledge of gas pipelines. Candidates should be prepared to audit pipeline sites, inspect pipeline construction, investigate accidents, and communicate health prevention techniques and health risk.
How to Stand Out
You can shine among the crowd by taking coursework or completing internships that develop your skills in geographic information systems (GIS), data analysis, and computer modeling. The BLS reports that these skills are valuable in the job market. In addition, a school offering an environmental analysis program reported that collaborating with professors on laboratory analysis projects provides you with important experience. Another school noted that fieldwork, particularly in foreign places of the world, can help students develop their understanding of global environmental issues and the work involved in environmental analysis.
Other Career Options
If you like working in the field but you'd rather focus your studies on understanding the physical parts of the Earth, then look into being a geoscientist. You would conduct field studies to learn about the future, present, and past of the Earth's processes, composition, and structure. Beware of possible adverse conditions in the field, though! A bachelor's degree is the minimum education requirement, though a graduate degree might be necessary to advance. Some states also require licensure.
The nature of your research might be used to locate minerals or oil and create maps for excavation purposes. Or, you might focus on geochemistry, studying the chemical components of sediments, rocks, or well water. Alternatively, you might study fossils to uncover secrets of Earth's history as a paleontologist.
Geoscientists on average in a year made about $98,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS. Also, faster than average growth (21%) was expected for the 2010-2020 decade, so the higher salary and employment growth predictions are two benefits to think about.
If you like the science and math skills and the attention to detail involved in being an environmental analyst but you want to apply your skills towards more hands-on and developmental work, you could consider becoming a chemist. As a chemist, you would study the nature of materials, develop new products, and manipulate existing substances. You might work with plastics, drugs, or superconductor metals. In your laboratory procedures, you would examine substances for physical and chemical properties, like composition and structure. More similar to environmental analysis, you might even be responsible for evaluating the environmental health situation of chemical plants. You need a bachelor's degree to get started in the field, though a graduate degree is typically required for research positions.
The BLS reported in May 2011 that chemists made roughly $75,000 on average annually, which is about $6,000 more than environmental scientists made. Unfortunately, employment in the field was predicted to grow slower than average, at 4%, between 2010 and 2020.