With a growing consciousness around the world regarding the impact that we have on our environment, we are seeing more and more people looking to make a difference in the world.
If you have felt inspired by Greta Thunberg, want to learn more about the natural world and the relationship between man and nature, and want to pursue a career that’s increasingly in demand… an Environmental Science degree could be good for you.
What does an environmental degree involve?
Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary subject – in that it combines aspects of biology, physics, geography, ecology and chemistry to study the environment. It can also combine aspects of marine biology and oceanography to study the worlds sea environments.
Not only that, it also studies the relationship between man and nature and the impact humans are having on the environment. Students will study issues such as climate change, air and water pollution, sustainability, and conservation through a combination of laboratory and field-based work. You’ll learn to understand complex data in order to develop pioneering solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.
So, that’s what you’ll do during your degree. But what about your career after you’ve graduated? Well, a degree in Environmental Science gives you the skills to pursue several career paths depending on what interests you and what you feel that you’re good at. With this in mind here are seven jobs that you can do with an environmental science degree:
Water quality scientist
What does a water quality scientist do?
A Water Quality Scientist works to ensure that water is clean and safe to drink. You could also process dirty water to make it clean again, as well as deal with sewage solutions such as septic or underwater tanks.
Here are just some of the tasks you’ll undertake as part of your role:
Taking and testing water samples for quality and signs of contamination
Visiting sites of contaminations or pollution concern, investigating sources of contaminations in line with regulatory bodies
Giving advice on water treatment and contamination prevention to businesses and homes
A Water Quality Scientist typically works 9am-5pm, however some employers have 24-hour emergency incident coverage, so extra hours may be a regular occurrence.
Your job will involve quite a bit of travelling – to and from sites to do inspections and collect samples – and a lot of your work will be based outdoors.
Why it’s perfect for you
It is an important job for the health and wellbeing of local communities and helps the environment too. So if you care about these things, this job could give you lots of satisfaction.
Expected s alary
Entry level/graduate salaries range between £18,000 and £25,000. With more experience, you could earn up to £45,000 - £50,000, with £29,640 being the overall average wage.
You’ll find most Water Quality Scientist jobs with water companies and regulatory bodies such as the Drinking Water Inspectorate or the Environment Agency.
You can find jobs in this field on sites such as
New Scientist Jobs, alongside more general job search sites.
What does an environmental engineer do?
Environmental Engineers use innovation and their skills to help to create a healthy environment for the planet.
They produce technical solutions to environmental issues, such as helping to reduce flood risk, managing harmful pollutants, looking at water supply, and looking at the environmental impact of urban development projects.
You might think that you’d need an engineering degree to pursue this career, and you’d be right – most jobs do require that. However, you can get into this career with a relevant degree such as Environmental Science, through a graduate scheme or a
An environmental engineer job will use the skills and knowledge from your degree to:
Gather, analyse, and review data samples and report it to the relevant authorities
Assess and report on the environmental impact of construction or commercial projects
Develop site-specific environmental protocols
Liaise with residents, local authorities and other professionals such as planners, construction companies, and landowners regarding the environmental impact of projects
Create plans to protect the environment in specific areas
Environmental engineers typically work 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, however due to the nature of the work and the possibilities for emergency situations, extra hours may be required.
Much of your work will be field/site based and there will be a fair amount of travelling involved in this job. You may even be needed to relocate for periods of time when working on a project.
Why it’s perfect for you
If you believe that it’s important to ensure the environmental impact of what we do now and in the future is minimal and enjoy problem-solving, then this job will be for you.
Expected s alary
Entry level salaries start at around £17,000, depending on what area of the country you are working in. Mid-level salaries could be anywhere between £27,000 and £40,000. Senior engineers, with many years of experience could earn up to circa £60,000.
Typical employers include companies who deal in large scale building works, such as construction companies, utility companies, and local authorities. Larger corporations may offer graduate training schemes.
You can also find work for regulators such as Environment Agencies or for private consultancy firms, who work on behalf of smaller building companies, who don’t have in-house engineers.
You can search for jobs on general job sites or through industry specific sites such as
T he Society of Environmental Engineers.
What does a recycling officer do?
A recycling officer is responsible for developing environmental policies and creating and managing local recycling and waste management schemes. A big part of your role is also to help to educate the local community, encouraging them to get involved in recycling schemes.
Your degree will help you to:
Develop, manage and evaluate local recycling schemes and contracts
Manage budgets and write proposals for funding bids for schemes related to recycling
Keep up to date and ensure complicity with government waste regulations
Liaise with local businesses regarding recycling and waste disposal regulations
Develop education and marketing schemes to encourage local communities to recycle more
In this role, you’ll typically work normal office hours (9-5, Mon-Fri) however if you are running any special promotional events, or during busy periods, extra hours may be required.
A recycling officer’s job is predominantly office-based, writing reports and proposals, however it does involve getting out and about in the community and some site visits.
Why it’s for you
This job is ideal for someone who is a great communicator, is passionate about improving people’s attitudes to protecting their local environment and prefers to work in an office environment as opposed to out in the field.
Expected s alary
Salaries start at £19,000, going up to £30,000 to £40,000 with more experience. Senior government-level policy makers could potentially earn up to £60,000.
The biggest employers of Recycling Officers are local councils; however, jobs can also be found with regulators such as the Environment Agency or with charities.
You can find roles through general job sites and or through the
Chartered Institution of Wastes Management jobs section.
Environmental education officer
What does an environmental education officer do?
An Environmental Education Officer teaches people about environmental issues – whether that’s in schools, local community groups, or as a guide at a conservation area.
You will use your knowledge to communicate environmental issues to the wider public. Doing this will involve:
Developing marketing strategies and materials for promoting environmental issues and solutions through social media, websites and events
Develop, promote and implement educational programmes for children and adults alike
Visit schools or community groups to give talks on environmental issues
Organise events to raise awareness in local communities, managing volunteers
Analyse environmental data and write reports
Manage budgets and projects related to environmental education
Working hours are normally 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. This job is predominantly office based, though there will be regular visits to schools as part of your work.
Why it’s for you
If you are passionate about spreading the word and educating people about environmental issues, changing attitudes and inspiring people, then this job is for you.
Expected s alary
Entry level salaries range from £17,000 to £20,000. With more experience, you could earn up to £30,000. Senior officers with many years (15+) of experience could potentially earn up to £50,000.
Environmental Education Officers are employed by nature-based organisations such as zoos, gardens, forests, and nature reserves, or charities such as The National Trust, Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, or local and national government agencies.
You can find jobs on the websites of those organisations listed above, or on general job search sites.
What does a marine biologist do?
Marine Biologists study all aspects of marine life and environment. You can opt to go down several paths including academic research, consulting, and policy making. You can specialise in areas such as marine pollution; fishing management or reef restoration.
Depending on what path you take, some of your responsibilities could include:
Organising and carrying out specific field-based research projects
Monitoring numbers of sea life in specific underwater environments
Collecting and analysing samples, recording data and writing reports
Designing and carrying out specific scientific experiments
Communicating marine science news
Managing marine-life projects
Responding to emergency situations such as oil spills
Liaising with policy makers, fellow academics, marine based companies and local communities to inform and educate on marine environment issues
Working hours vary on the position you take, and whether you are out on a project in the field or working in the lab. Lab workers may work normal office hours, but when out in the field, longer hours may be a regular thing.
Long-distance travel is a regular part of this role, with opportunities to take part in research expeditions across the globe.
Why it’s for you
Marine life gives us a good understanding of the state of the planet, and if it is your passion, helping to make it healthy and understand its state is a great way to contribute to the world. While there are some dangers involved in this job role, the overall risks are low and the experiences you gain are second to none.
Expected s alary
Salaries for academic research positions can be as low as £12,000. However, depending on which path you take – academic, research or consultancy – you could earn as much as £120,000.
Universities, marine environmental research and consulting companies, wildlife charities, government and non-government environment organisations, energy companies, and fishing companies all have jobs for marine biologists.
You can search for jobs on industry-based search sites such as
Nature Careers and Environment Jobs.
Nature conservation officer
What does a nature conservation officer do?
Nature Conservation Officers manage, protect and improve natural environments such as woodlands, forests, mountain areas, rivers and coastal regions.
Some officers may focus on the law enforcement side of the role, while others work on physically maintaining those natural environments.
Your degree skills and knowledge will help you to:
Educate the local community about nature conservation through visits to local schools, universities and community or site-specific events and initiatives
Develop and implement local nature conservation plans
Monitor, evaluate and report on the local natural habitats you manage
Liaise with landowners, planners, developers and policy makers regarding conservation projects and issues
Manage funding applications
Liaise with the media regarding nature conservation
There will be some office-based work involved, but there will also be plenty of time spent working outdoors in the natural environment you are managing.
You’ll typically work 40 hours per week in this role. This might include weekends and public holidays.
Why it’s for you
This role allows you to use your knowledge and enthusiasm for nature conservation to improve your local environment and help preserve it for future generations.
Salaries start at £18,000, going up to circa £30,000 for managerial positions.
Employer include national or country parks and nature reserves (e.g. The National Trust), private estates with large amounts of land, and agencies such as the Environment Agency (EA), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Natural Resources Wales. Jobs may also be found with local councils and charities.
What does a sustainability consultant do?
As green practices are becoming integral to business strategies, more and more people are pushing to see green initiatives from the brands they love. As a consultant, you’ll be a point of authority and thus are able to help business leaders improve their environmental practices.
This job role is now wanted more than ever as climate change is becoming the forefront of everyday issues, so there’ll be many opportunities available.
Carrying out investigations in to how a business currently works, measuring their impact on the local (noise and air pollution) and global (carbon footprint) environment
Presenting findings to management staff
Developing solutions and working practices to present to companies for implementation
Ensuring companies are up to date with relevant regulations in their industry
Researching new technologies for improving sustainability within a business
This role is predominantly office based, although there will be site visits to the businesses you are consulting. Working hours are typically Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Why it’s for you
If you are passionate about making the world a greener, cleaner place and want to persuade businesses to get on board and change their practices, this job is perfect.
Entry level salaries start at around £18,000. As you progress in your career and move up into senior positions you could be looking at a salary of around £60,000+.
There are lots of specialist Sustainability consultancy firms opening across the world, but you can also find positions with general business management consultancy firms too. Large businesses may also hire their own in-house consultants.
You could, once you have experience and a list of contacts, be able to set up your own consultancy business.
You can search for jobs on generic job sites or use an industry specific site like
Key skills for environmental science careers
In addition to the core skills and knowledge gained during your degree, these are additional skills that will help you succeed in any of the careers mentioned today.
Excellent written and verbal communications skills, with ability to build good working relationships
Ability to analyse large amounts of data
Willingness and ability to travel for work
Good problem-solving abilities
Good organisation and project management skills
Attention to detail
For marine biology jobs, swimming and diving ability
Knowledge of first aid
Further education and qualifications
For some roles, training is mostly done on the job, or through specific graduate schemes. However to boost your knowledge and career progression, you could apply to do a postgraduate course. Courses are offered in subjects like Environmental Engineering, Environmental Conservation and Environmental Assessment, amongst other things
To boost your career prospects, you could apply to become chartered through the
Society for the Environment.
Where can you find environmental science degrees?
Over 60 universities currently offer over 200 Environmental Science related undergraduate degree courses in the UK. Many are joint honours courses, allowing you to mix Environmental Science with subjects like Biology, Zoology and Geography. You can search for three year courses, or courses with placement years.
Search environmental science degrees
Read more career advice