Making a Difference: What does an Environmental Scientist do?

A group of students learning on-site in the woods.

In a new series of articles, YSU STEM will take you through some of the most complex jobs out there. We will explore the hows, whys, and wheres of these jobs. For this first article, we will take a look at environmental scientists.

Environmental scientists are crusaders for the environment—charged with protecting our resources and wildlife. Whether they are working in an office, a laboratory, or in the field, each environmental scientist still starts out in the same manner. YSU STEM graduate in biology and current laboratory assistant for ELS Laboratory in New Castle Amanda Ruozzo sat down with us to tell us how she got where she is and what exactly it is that an environmental scientist does.

According to Amanda, it all starts with an education. The most optimal degree for an environmental scientist is a degree in environmental studies, like the program we have here at YSU, but there are other degrees that make great environmental scientists though, like biology, geology, and even engineering. The best way to form a great environmental scientist, however, is to make sure that you have a minor to go along with that degree, like our minor in natural gas and water resources.

“There are so many jobs that you can get with a degree in biology, but getting into the field is difficult,” Amanda says. “Diversifying my education is the best thing I did.”

While Amanda has an associate’s degree in business, she still says that it helps to have a little bit of background somewhere else.

“A diversified background makes it easier for me to tie everything together, especially when it comes to cost savings and timelines,” she says. “A great STEM education meant that even though I studied biology, I still know enough chemistry to be able to use it everyday.”

Environmental scientists wear a variety of hats on a daily basis. While Amanda currently runs tests on water samples at ELS Laboratory, she is also an environmental consultant with Lafarge in Warren. With Lafarge, she classifies the over 200 native plants and wildlife associated with our area, as well as helping with some of Lafarge’s community outreach programs.

“I’m excited to have the Boy Scouts come out next year to help us build some new bird houses,” Amanda says. “The boys always enjoy helping with the environment and the birds definitely could use some new homes.”

Being an environmental scientist is starting to sound like a great career choice, but let’s go a little further. Many people and future employers will encourage you to pursue a graduate degree, but don’t worry, it will pay off. In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that environmental scientists have a median income of over $60,000 a year. Also, since there is a rise in interest in environmental issues, like fracking and global warming, the bureau also predicts a rise of 15 percent in jobs in the next eight years.

If there is a career or job you would like to see covered, don’t hesitate to let us know. We want to know what you want to read about, so shoot us an email, and we will get to work!