Becoming an Environmental Protection Specialist: Job & Salary Info

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An environmental protection specialist's median annual salary is about $66,000. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming an environmental protection specialist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Environmental Protection Specialist

Environmental protection specialists conduct tests and analyze environmental data to determine the impact of human activity on the environment. Take a look at the pros and cons listed below to learn more about this occupation.

Pros of an Environmental Protection Specialist Career
Above-average salary (mean annual salary in 2014 was about $72,000)*
Specialists can begin their career with a bachelor's degree*
Opportunities to work both indoors and outdoors*
Job growth expected as a result of population growth and increasing environmental demands*

Cons of an Environmental Protection Specialist Career
Job can be physically demanding*
Long or irregular hours are sometimes necessary *
A master's degree is typically required for advancement*
May have to work outdoors in poor weather*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties and Career Information

The job duties of an environmental protection specialist may vary depending on the employer. For instance, if you work for a private company, you might inspect both indoor and outdoor locations to make sure there are no environmental safety or health hazards. Specialists may take water, soil or air samples for laboratory analysis or perform tests on-site. Specialists also create reports of their findings and recommend ways to reduce or eliminate local pollutants.

If you work for the federal government as an environmental protection specialist, your job would be to review proposals for activities that may impact the environment and ensure that any potential consequences are considered. You might manage environmental compliance programs for specific pollutantssuch as acid rain, or for a specific medium, such as air. You may also develop new policies related to environmental protection programs.

Career Path and Education

Most specialists are able to obtain entry-level jobs after obtaining a bachelor's degree. Environmental protection specialists often earn a degree in environmental science and complete internships to obtain practical experience. Typically, their coursework will include training in geographic information systems (GIS) as well as courses in mathematics, statistics and data analysis. Specialists interested in advancing into management or research scientist positions will typically pursue a master's degree.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

In May of 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that environmental scientists and specialists earned a median annual salary of just over $66,000. The BLS also projected that between 2012 and 2012 this field would see a 15% growth in jobs, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS noted that most jobs would exist in the private sectors and consulting firms would be the most common employers. These firms are hired by both private and public entities to monitor and manage environmental factors and ensure that companies adhere to environmental regulations.

What Is Required?

Most employers are looking for environmental protection specialists with a minimum of a bachelor's degree and a background in a natural science. Many employers also prefer specialists with GIS training and some degree or professional experience. In addition to these technical and educational qualifications, it is helpful for specialists to have very sharp analytical skills. Specialists should also be able to think critically and communicate effectively.

Real Job Listings

When you begin your job search, you will notice that most employers are interested in hiring environmental specialists with strong communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team. Employers will also prefer a candidate with at least two years of college experience in the natural sciences and the ability to classify and catalog hazardous materials. The following available jobs were posted to the Internet in May of 2012:

  • A vehicle parts manufacturing company in Oklahoma City wanted to hire an environmental specialist. The successful candidate would make sure the company was in compliance with environmental regulations and conduct job hazard analysis. The preferred specialist would have a bachelor's degree, excellent communication and analytical skills.
  • A New York environmental services firm wanted to hire an environmental protection specialist with less than a year of professional experience. The company was looking for a specialist with a bachelor's degree in environmental science and a valid driver's license. Additionally, the specialist should have completed first-aid training and have basic computer skills.
  • A Colorado-based consulting firm wanted to hire an environmental compliance specialist to perform health and safety audits. The successful candidate should have a minimum of a bachelor's degree and experience handling hazardous materials. Additionally, the firm preferred someone who was familiar with federal pollution regulations.

How Can I Stand Out in This Field?

In addition to your technical experience, there are a couple of other ways to distinguish yourself from the competition. First, if you continue your education and obtain a master's degree, you may be able to work as a research scientist. Another way to distinguish yourself is to seek state licensing to handle different types of hazardous material. If you are sanctioned to handle certain types of hazardous materials or conduct certain types of tests, you may be a more valuable commodity to an employer.

Alternate Career Options

If you decide that working as an environmental protection specialist is not the best fit for you, there are a few other occupations you may want to look into. These are scientific jobs that have similar skill and educational requirements.

Materials Scientist

If you are interested in conducting scientific tests, but you are not interested in environmental science, you can also work as a materials scientist. Materials scientists conduct various kinds of laboratory tests and study the chemical structures of materials and substances. You can enter this career with only a bachelor's degree in materials science or a related field, such as chemistry. Although job growth for materials scientists was projected to be average - the BLS projects materials scientist jobs to grow by 10% between 2010 and 2020 - the salary is above average. The BLS reported that in May of 2011, these scientists earned a median annual salary of around $85,000.


If you are more interested in studying the earth and how it changes, you should investigate a career as a geoscientist. These scientists use their knowledge of the earth and its geological features to learn about its present condition and how it may develop in the future. A bachelor's degree is required for entry-level employment. The BLS reports that in May of 2011, geoscientists earned a median annual salary of about $84,000. The BLS also expects geoscientist jobs to increase by 21% between 2010 and 2011.

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