30 Environmental Science Careers: How To Be an Earth Scientist
This list of 30 Earth Science careers has everything you need to know to carve your own career path as an Earth scientist.
In a nutshell, it’s your Earth Science career kick-start
Whether you’re new to the industry or a seasoned pro, we break down the top Earth Science careers that employers are searching for.
By focusing on expanding Earth Science careers, this can take some of the struggle out of your search.
1 Environmental scientists
Environmental scientists understand how the natural world interacts with its surroundings. Often, they consult on how construction projects will impact the natural environment.
Among all Earth Science careers, environmental scientists are the all-encompassing job title. It’s not specific exactly what you will work on as an environmental scientist.
If you look at all Earth Science careers, about 41% of jobs in North America are environmental scientists. Overall, their salaries average 69,400$ and is seeing significant job growth.
Environmental scientists often require a Bachelor Degree or higher. Typically, they work in an office, outdoor or laboratory type of setting.
Biologist work with wildlife, marine life and vegetation. They analyze how living things, flora and fauna are composed including their structure and composition.
Biologists represent about 13.7% of all Earth Science careers and is seeing steady job growth.
They often get lumped in with ecologists who have similar roles of collecting aquatic, wildlife or vegetation samples. Biologists work in a variety of settings including in the field, laboratory or office.
Geologists study bedrock and surface rocks. More specifically, they best understand how Earth’s land forms and rock change over time.
In a geology career, it relates rocks with the physical/chemical structure and the processes that act on it.
Geologists account for about 12.6% of Earth Science careers. Often categorized as geoscientists, this field is experiencing rapid job growth.
Generally, these positions require a Bachelor’s Degree and they can work indoor and outdoor setting.
4 Geotechnical engineers
Geotechnical Engineers understand the behavior of earth materials. For example, they interpret rock and soil samples to investigate subsurface conditions.
In construction design, they contribute to understanding slope stability and types of foundations.
Based on all Earth Science jobs in North America, approximately 9.1% are in geotechnical engineer careers.
This field of study has seen a rapid expansion over the years. Geotechnical engineers often work in engineering and construction where they can earn upwards of 84,000$.
5 Soil scientists
Soil scientists or pedologists study how soils relate as a natural resource. This includes soil formation factors, classification, physical, chemical and fertility properties.
Pedology and edaphology are the two main branches of soil science. Soil scientist careers represent about 6.2% of Earth Science careers. Its job growth rate is steady with an average salary of about 62,910$.
Soil scientists spend a lot of time in the field and office. They work in areas such as crop productivity and even pipeline planning.
Foresters specialize in the way we manage, plant, conserve and harvest forests. The key focus is on tree identification, timber harvesting and silviculture.
Foresters account for about 4% of Earth Science jobs in North America. On average, they make an about 60,970$ annual salary with steady outlook.
Foresters can spend a significant amount of time in remote areas and forested areas. Most forestry careers require a Bachelor’s Degree or greater.
Agronomists focus on crop production and applying new technologies. Agronomist study plant science to improve efficiency in crop production.
In contrast, some agronomists specialize in improving safety and agricultural products. Agronomist careers represent a total of about 2.2% of environmental science jobs.
Their average annual salary is approximately 62,910$ and require a Bachelor’s Degree. Job growth is normal and agronomists tend to work in a laboratory, office or outdoors.
Meteorologists and atmospheric scientists partake in weather prediction and issue warnings for severe weather. They understand atmospheric chemistry and physics and how they relate to weather and climate patterns.
In addition, folks in meteorologist careers analyze how weather influences and affect human activity.
Meteorologists account for less than 2% of Earth Science jobs. Salary growth is higher than average with median salary at about $79,400. Meteorologists are often grouped with climatologists and atmospheric scientists.
They work at weather stations, in the field, office or laboratory. Meteorologists are often subject to longer work hours for weather emergencies.
Hydrogeologists or groundwater specialists specialize in how soil and rock relate to groundwater. For example, this includes the distribution and transportation of water into the surface.
They often undergo environmental investigations and remediation by collecting groundwater samples. Hydrogeologist careers add up to about 1.5% of environmental science careers.
Their average salary is about $74,100 and job growth is faster than average. They tend to work in an office or outdoor setting. For example, they may work in the field assessing water quality, contamination, well or borehole sites.
Ecologists understand how organisms relate to each other in their physical environment. For example, they assess population dynamics in a built or natural environment.
In an ecologist career, you will work in all aspects of the environment. For instance, they may conduct studies in wetlands, lakes, ponds, flora and fauna. Their observations may include wildlife, birds, mammals, amphibians or reptiles.
Ecologists constitute about 1.4% of Earth Science jobs in North America. They average about 72,600$ for annual salary. Ecologists work in the office or in the field giving advice to policy makers or baseline studies.
Anthropologists study how humans and societies behave in the past, present and future. By conducting archaeological and excavation surveys, they better understand Earth’s cultural resources. With greater knowledge of the past, we can improve historic preservation.
Anthropologists represent about 1% of Earth Science jobs. They work with archaeologists and can have extended periods of time in the field.
Their average salary is $62,300 and job growth is slower than average. In an anthropologist career, you often conduct research for government and consulting.
12 Toxicologists and epidemiologists
Toxicologists and epidemiologists understand how poisonous substances affect living organisms. They assist in reducing people’s exposure to chemicals which pose risks to our health.
For example, this can include our water, air and land. Epidemiologists investigate patterns of disease to prevent spread that affects public health.
This job type accounts for about 0.7% of jobs of Earth Science careers. Their average salary is about 69,700$ with steady job growth.
In an epidemiologist or toxicology career, you often work in government in an office, outdoor or laboratory setting. During epidemic outbreaks, they work for extensive periods of time with risk of contact with disease. Epidemiologists often require a Master’s Degree or higher.
Geophysicists study the physical processes that relate to Earth and its surrounding space. They work in seismic, marine and gravity investigations. For example, they may investigate subsurface material detection.
Geophysicists compose about 0.7% of the Earth Science workforce. There is average growth in the field of geophysics.
In a geophysicist career, you often require a Bachelor’s Degree and work in the field or office setting.
14 Marine biologists
Marine biologists specialize in how life in the oceans behave in their natural habitats. They often work at sea collecting biological samples and recording fish distributions.
Marine biologists represent about 0.6% of Earth Science careers and are seeing average job growth. Marine biologists work in a variety of settings including at sea, in a laboratory or in the office.
They often collect aquatic samples or observations for marine conservation. For example, they study the effects of eutrophication on marine species and habitat.
Hydrologists analyze how water travels in relation to land and how it impacts people. This may include water availability and risk like drought and flood protection. Hydrologists often work in the field.
For example, they collect water quality samples at lakes, streams and groundwater wells. In the office, they construct hydrologic models to mitigate water resource risk.
Hydrologists make up about 0.5% of the Earth Science careers. For a hydrologist career, your average salary is about $65,100 with faster than average job growth. This position often requires a Bachelor’s Degree or higher with a mix of field and office work.
Arborists specialize in individual trees, shrubs, vines, and other perennial woody plants. They understand how to cultivate and how they respond to cultural practices.
Even though some arborists may climb trees for inspection, others are responsible for habitat restoration and land stewardship. Arborists account for about 0.5% jobs in North America.
They make an average salary of about 48,970$ with an average growth trend. Arborists work in remote areas and urban environments. They generally require a Bachelor’s Degree or extra certification.
There’s been a significant expansion in GIS jobs over the years. Including GIS positions, geographers would be much higher on the list. On occasion, geographers work in the field.
But for the most part, they are in the office. Their average salary is about $65,400 and are experiencing average job growth.
Botanists specialize in how to classify plants and how they grow. For example, they perform various types of studies with plant growth and weed control.
Botanists average about 71,900$ in annual salary and job growth is at a steady rate. They spend a lot of time in the field, laboratory and office.
For example, they conduct scientific experiments to better understand how organisms live and grow.
Geomorphologists assess the creation and evolution of land forms on Earth. For example, they specialize in physical features and geological structures. Before construction, they often consult engineers to better understand the landscape.
Geomorphologists are often categorized in the group of geoscientists which on average earn about $73,800. This area is experiencing fast growth out of Earth Science jobs.
However, they only represent 0.2% of all Earth Science jobs. They spend their time in the office, field and laboratory.
Oceanographers understand how physical and biological properties of oceans interact. This may include anything from marine ecosystems, ocean currents and fluid dynamics.
They often assist in oceanographic observation programs including the instrumentation system and design. Similar to marine biologists, oceanographers work in a variety of settings including at sea, in a laboratory or in the office.
Oceanographers may collect water samples or prepare tidal equipment for marine observations. This type of career represents about 0.2% of Earth Science jobs and is seeing average job growth.
Geochemists characterize minerals and elements from environmental samples taken in the field. From samples, they can understand the age and composition of rocks, minerals and soils at a molecular level
Geochemists account for a small percentage of Earth Science jobs. Their annual pay scale is about $76,300 with an average job growth outlook.
In the laboratory and office, they may examine samples taken from the field and generate reports.
Petrologists investigate how igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks form specific to oil and natural gas. They are knowledgeable in rock formations and the geologic era they may have formed.
Their main focus is on petrol extraction as a resource. The number of petrologist jobs often vary significantly based on the price of oil.
It’s a fluctuating career which range from sparse to bountiful job opportunities. An average salary for petrologists is about $78,500. But payscale varies tremendously.
Zoologists study the evolution, classification and distribution of animals in an environment. As humans disturb habitats, animals are at risk at being extinct now more than ever.
By knowing how animals behave, zoologists are a key piece in conservation efforts around the world. Despite the need for increased conservation efforts, zoologists represent less than 0.1% of available Earth Science jobs.
Zoologists are sometimes grouped as biologists. Their average salary is about $65,900 with steady job growth. They often spend a mix of time on the office, field or natural habitat.
Paleontologists understand how organisms evolve and their interactions in their environment. They also investigate the origin of species by tracing life back to their fossils records.
Unfortunately, there are sparse job offerings for paleontologists. We found that less than 0.1% of Earth Science careers are paleontologists.
Jobs in paleontology require significant time in the field by studying fossil records often found in rocks.
Limnologists investigate the biological, chemical and physical properties of lakes and ponds. By collecting water quality samples, they relate these readings to terrestrial surroundings.
They often work in fisheries, marine biology and environmental consulting. Limnologists often write reports, calculate statistics, and program computer models.
They may work near a body of water and do extensive traveling for work. On average, limnologists earn $71,800 and often work in private sector and government.
Seismologists interpret how seismic waves travel through and around the Earth from earthquakes. In addition, they understand plate tectonics and identify rupture mechanisms and fault structure.
Job postings for seismologists are infrequent. They generally work with volcanologists in research, government and safety.
Seismologists perform various types of field work. In the field, they have to set up various types of instruments.
27 Sedimentologists and stratigraphers
Sedimentologists and stratigraphers inspect how strata and rocks are layered through geologic time. In addition, they focus on resource extraction and exploration.
In contrast, stratigraphers measure how sand, silt and clay are deposited. Sedimentologists and stratigraphers are not very common positions in Earth Science.
For example, less than 0.1% of environmental science jobs are in this discipline. Sedimentologists often work in architectural, engineering and government services.
Climatologists examine the variation of weather patterns in the past, present and future. By understanding long-term weather, we can learn how climate change will affect the future.
This could involve analyzing water and air quality samples at a local or global scale. Despite the state of climate change, climatologist careers are infrequent.
They represent less than 1% of Earth Science jobs. However, meteorologists and atmospheric scientists are closely related to climatologists. On average, they earn $74,500 with job growth faster than normal.
Volcanologists study how and where volcanoes and related phenomena (lava, magma) erupt and form (past and present). They may work with seismic data and plate tectonics.
Their primary focus is reducing or mitigating the negative impacts related to a volcano eruption. As volcano safety risk is already quite low, volcanologist careers are uncommon.
They often work with seismologists in research, government and safety. Volcanologist careers often require a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.
Astronomers have their eyes set on the stars and solar system. They study how planet Earth relates to our universe and solar system in space and time.
Astronomers may focus on other types of life exists in the solar system or on other planets. They can also focus on how matter and energy interact including time and origin of space.
Astronomer careers are sparse and amount to less than 0.1 of available Earth Science careers. Growth is faster than average with a median salary of $101,200.
If you want to work as an astronomer, it requires a much higher level of education such as a PhD. Astronomers often have careers in research, government and academia.
Where will you start your earth science career?
You have a chance of a lifetime to start your journey with an exciting career in Earth Science.
Do you want to cement a position in one of the more established areas like geology, biology it forestry?
Or do you want to carve out a career in one of the more specialized niches like seismology, geochemistry or astronomy?
Now, it’s your turn. Where will you start your Earth Science career?