Careers: Environmental Science

Careers: Environmental Science
Learn about the many opportunities available with an associate degree in environmental science and some of the community colleges offering course studies in this field.

Environmental science is a rapidly growing field, particularly in light of challenges to our environment like global warming, exponential population growth, and potentially dangerous carbon emissions. Environmental scientists work to find ways to meet and overcome those challenges, in order to maintain a livable environment for generations to come. Training needs of this field can often be found at a local community college, where a two-year degree in environmental science can prepare you for a rewarding career or the next step in your education process.

What is Environmental Science?

Environmental science is the study of how various factors like industry, production, and humans impact the natural environment. Through those studies, an environmental scientist looks for ways to limit damage to wildlife, humans and natural habitat, through processes like conservation and green living ideas. The field of environmental science is a truly innovative one, as professionals in the industry look for new energy sources that are friendlier to the world in which we live.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that an environmental scientist may begin his work by identifying the problems leading up to environmental damage. The scientist will then look for solutions to those problems, by observing and analyzing components of air, food, water, and soil. The job is highly specialized and might involve working with other companies or government agencies to educate, develop policies and measure the results of those policies on the environment.

This TED talk Dr. Milton Muldrow discusses the evolution of environmental science from his vantage point as a researcher and professor.

What does an Environmental Scientist Do?

The job of an environmental scientist is diverse, possibly involving work with many other professionals or in a wide range of settings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists some of the tasks handled by these professionals:

  • Designing and monitoring waste disposal facilities
  • Finding ways to preserve water supplies
  • Reclaiming contaminated land and water
  • Writing policies to preserve natural resources
  • Consulting with companies to help them become more environmentally responsible
  • Working with government entities to develop regulations and ensure they are followed

Scientists in this field often have backgrounds similar to those that work in physical or life science, but their focus is on environmental issues. Most that come into this field have a strong math and science background, and a minimum of a two-year degree in environmental science to get into an entry-level position. Fortunately, many community colleges are recognizing the need for training in this field, and they have developed comprehensive environmental science degree programs to put students on the right path to a rewarding career.

LaGuardia Community College Introduces New Degree Program

LaGuardia Community College recently established its new environmental science degree program in hopes of preparing students for future jobs in the field. According to a press release at the City University of New York website, this program aims to combine studies in environmental science with specific natural science courses like chemistry, ecology, and biology. The program will also involve both classroom work and required internships, ensuring students receive both the training and the practical work experience they need to be successful in the field.

“Environmental science is a rapidly growing field, but there are only a limited number of programs in New York City to meet our needs for smart, skilled talent,” Dr. Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College, stated in the press release. “LaGuardia’s program will prepare our students for one of the hottest and most diverse scientific fields by training them to be geospatial technologists, resource managers, urban planners, conservation biologists, and food and water safety technicians.”

Unique Features at LaGuardia

The LaGuardia program offers some unique features. First, it includes a required course called Geographic Information Systems, which provides students with an overview of computer technology that can capture, analyze and map geospatial information. Dr. Holly Morgan, director of the LaGuardia program, states in the press release, “Many colleges offer it as an elective; however, LaGuardia realizes how important hands-on GIS experience is to our students when they enter the job market.”

The program also provides an innovative approach to teaching that gets students out of the classroom and into a live environment. Every core course in the program includes time for students to conduct primary research in the community.

“Queens will be our laboratory,” Dr. Morgan states. “We are not just going to sit in a lab and do canned exercises on insects. We are going out into the borough to collect actual data that will be publishable, and that will contribute to what we know about the community.”

Other Schools Offering Environmental Science Programs

LaGuardia Community College is not the only school to offer a comprehensive environmental science program today. Colleges across the country are preparing students for work in this growing field.

At the Community College of Vermont, students in the environmental science program are able to specialize in one of three areas: conservation/preservation of natural resources, energy efficiency or environmental literacy. According to the school’s website, the program is designed to prepare students for employment in the field or transfer to a four-year institution.

This video outlines the Community College of Vermont's environmental science program.

Truckee Meadows Community College has a partnership program with the University of Nevada, Reno, which allows graduates of the school’s environmental science program to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the university, according to the community college's website. This provides students with the chance to qualify for scholarship programs and summer work opportunities when they move to the university.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field of environmental science to grow at a much faster than average pace over the next few years. Now is the time to explore your options in environmental science at your local community college and discover what employment opportunities might be knocking for you.

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