Cool Careers in Science

Protect the Environment Improve Public Health Work Outdoors Learn Skills for Success




Cool Careers in Science


Andrew Morkes

Mason Crest Miami

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Table of Contents

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Chapter 1: Environmental Science and Careers . 11 Chapter 2: Terms of the Trade . . . . . . . 29 Chapter 3: Preparing for the Field and Making a Living . . . . . . . . 41 Chapter 4: Key Skills and Methods of Exploration . . . . . .59

Chapter 5: The Future of Environmental

Science and Careers . . . . . . .81 Photo Credits . . . . . . . . . . . . . .92 Further Reading & Internet Resources . . . . 93 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94 Educational Video Links . . . . . . . . . . 96 Author’s Biography . . . . . . . . . . . . 96



Careers in Science Offer Good Pay, the Opportunity to Help People, and Other Rewards Where would we be without science? Well, we’d be without computers, smart phones, robots, and other cutting-edge technologies. Crimes would take longer to solve without modern forensic analysis techniques. We’d be stuck relying on environmentally unfriendly fossil fuels instead of using renewable energy. And life would be less fun, because we wouldn’t have drones, awe-inspiring and physics-defying roller coasters, or the computer and video games that we play for hours. Jobmarkets are sometimes strong and sometimes weak, but a career in science (which, for the purposes of this series, includes the related fields of technology and engineering) is almost a sure path to a comfortable living. The following paragraphs provide more information on why a career in science is a great choice. Good pay. People in science careers earn some of the highest salaries in the working world. The mean annual salary for those in life, physical, and social science careers in the United States is $79,360, according to the US Department of Labor (DOL). This is much higher than the mean earnings ($56,310) for all occupations. Those in engineering occupations earn $90,300, and computer and mathematics professionals earn $96,770. Science profes sionals who become managers or who launch their own businesses can earn anywhere from $150,000 to $300,000 or more.


Strong employment prospects. There are shortages of science workers in the United States, Canada, and throughout the rest of the world. The DOL predicts that employment of computer and information technology professionals in the United States will grow by 13 percent during the next decade, which is much faster than the average for all careers. Career opportunities for those in life, physical, and social science occupations will grow by 8 percent (as fast as the average), although many specialties will experience growth that is faster than the average. The outlook is also good for engineering professionals. Employ ment is expected to grow by 6 percent during the next decade. The strongest opportunities will be found in the rebuilding of infrastructure, oil and gas extraction, renewable energy, and robotics. By 2030, the DOL predicts that there will be nearly one million new jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Rewarding work environment and many career options. A career in science is fulfilling, because you get to use both your creative and practical sides to develop new technologies (or improve existing ones), solve problems, and make the world a better place. In the case of environmental science, you get to collect and analyze information to protect our natural world and humans. Many careers in environmental science involve fieldwork to collect data and otherwise observe environmental conditions, but you’ll also work in laboratories, research facilities, and even manufacturing plants. Some science professionals launch their own businesses, which can be both fun and very rewarding. Others choose to become teachers or write books and blog posts about environmental science topics. Job opportunities are available throughout the United States and the world. Science professionals play such an important role in our modern world that there are job openings almost anywhere, although many positions are found in large, metropolitan areas.

8 Cool Careers in Science: Environmental Scientists

Is a Career in Science Right for Me? Test your interest. How many of these statements do you agree with?

___ My favorite classes are biology and environmental science. ___ I also enjoy chemistry and mathematics classes. ___ I like to conduct research and gather data. ___ I like to solve problems.

___ I enjoy doing science experiments. ___ I am curious about how things work. ___ I am creative and have a good imagination. ___ I enjoy being outdoors. ___ I care about protecting the environment and want to make the world a better place. If many of the statements above describe you, then you should consider a career in environmental science. But you don’t need to select an occupation right now. Check out this book on a career as an environmental scientist, and other books in the series, to learn more about occupational paths in the sciences and related fields. Good luck with your career exploration!



Words To Understand environmental policy: a course of action a government establishes to manage how businesses, other organizations, and people use and interact with the natural world. fracking: a drilling technique used to extract oil or natural gas from deep underground; studies show that fracking can cause air pollution, groundwater contamination, health problems, and surface water pollution. interdisciplinary: drawing from two or more different fields of knowledge. professional association: an organization that is founded by a group of people who have the same career (e.g., engineers or scientists), or who work in the same industry specialty (e.g., waste management or health care). remediation: the process of cleaning up or using other strategies to remove or contain a toxic spill or hazardous materials.


Chapter 1

Environmental Science and Careers What Is Environmental Science? Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field in which scientists, engineers, technicians, and other science professionals conduct research on plants, animals, and entire ecosystems and study environmental problems that have been caused by both the actions of humans and natural processes. People who work in environmental science have educational backgrounds and training in the physical and biological sciences (biology, chemistry, ecology, zoology, oceanography, atmospheric science, soil science, physics, and earth sciences such as geology and hydrology), engineering (especially chemical, environmental, hazardous waste management, and wastewater), and the social sciences (human geography, environmental planning, and environmental economics, and other fields). Environmental scientists try to make the world a better place by conducting research and identifying and solving environmental problems. Their work seeks to reduce the damage caused by global warming and climate change, ozone

Chapter 1: Environmental Science and Careers


depletion, destruction of forests and other natural areas, soil erosion, oil spills, and toxic chemicals released during industrial processes. They study the effects that energy exploration and extraction techniques such as fracking have on the environment, try to protect endangered and threatened animal and plant species (and entire ecosystems), and help companies ensure that they are in compliance with environmental regulations. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to describing the work of environmental scientists.

Learn more about environmental science.

Did You Know? Nearly 36 percent of people surveyed by the World Economic Forum said that human-caused damage to the environment presents a “clear and present” danger to the stability of the world.


Cool Careers in Science: Environmental Scientists

Global warming and melting of the polar ice caps are two major problems environmental scientists study.

Career Paths in Environmental Science

The following paragraphs provide more information about career paths in environmental science. Agricultural scientists conduct research on the biological and chemical processes that allow crops and livestock to grow, as well as develop strategies to improve the quality, quantity, and safety of agricultural products. They specialize in fields such as soil, plant, animal, and food science.

Chapter 1: Environmental Science and Careers HAPTER : i i


Atmospheric scientists study the layer of gases, called the atmosphere , that surrounds the earth, as well as conduct research on the weather and climate to determine how they affect humans, plants and animals, and the overall environment. Specialists include meteorologists, who study the lower parts of the atmosphere (primarily the troposphere) and its effects on our weather; climatologists, who study historical weather patterns to interpret long-term weather patterns or shifts in climate to better understand ongoing global climate change; and climate scientists, who work on the theoretical foundations and the modeling of climate change in order to help environmental policymakers base decisions about strategies to reduce negative climate change, design buildings that are more resilient to adverse weather events, better plan efficient land use and agricultural production, and meet other goals. Biologists study various aspects of animal and plant life, such as their origins, anatomy, relationships, development, and functions. They can specialize in a variety of fields. For example, wildlife biologists study specific ecosystems or animal populations, such as a particular at-risk species, or focus on the conser vation and management of wildlife populations. Microbiologists analyze tiny living things that can only be seen with a microscope, such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, and algae. Chemists study substances at the atomic and molecular levels to determine their makeup and to see how they interact with nonliving and living things. Environ mental chemists are specialized chemists who study the effects that various chemicals have on the air, soil, and water and their cumulative effects on plants, animals, and ecosystems, as well as humans. They specialize in areas such as waste management and the remediation of contaminated soils, air, and water. Biochemists study chemical processes and chemical transformations in living organisms and entire ecosystems.


Cool Careers in Science: Environmental Scientists

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