By Rosemary Gong
It’s no shocker that the global population has dramatically increased over the past few centuries. With industrialization came better technology, healthcare and overall living conditions, and as a result, people lived longer, had more children, and our streets grew busier. In fact, according to a research team led by Dr. Max Roser, the founder and director of Our World in Data, the global population has “increased from 1 billion in 1800 to 7.7 billion today,” continuing to grow at a rate of 1.05% per year. It’s more than likely you’ve heard that these circumstances have taken a toll on the environment; a report from Our World Data found that since roughly 1965, gasoline and meat production have increased by over 300%, energy usage by over 250%, and CO2 emissions by over 200%.
Without people working in the environmental sector to manage these effects, many places we live in would likely be uninhabitable, with overall living conditions no longer able to accompany our population. And, as long as we continue to inhabit the Earth, this sector will continue to grow in importance — and in size. With that, the demand for conscientious and knowledgeable individuals will only continue to grow with it.
If you’ve ever considered pursuing a STEM career in the environment but are unsure of your options, then this article is a great start. We’ve compiled some major positions for each STEM pillar: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, to give you a better picture of what a career in this sector might look like. So if that interests you, then read on!
- Atmospheric Scientist
A career in this field encompasses a range of duties, such as finding the cause and effects of weather patterns, studying air quality, and predicting long-term drought patterns. These skills are highly applicable to other areas in the environmental sector; for instance, an atmospheric scientist might work with a hydrologist and government organizations to find the effects of climate change on water supplies.
- Agricultural Scientist
Agricultural scientists conduct research on living organisms and their relationships to each other and the environment in laboratories and/or in the field. They apply their research to develop ways to increase crop and animal yields, programs for testing foods and drugs (eg: insecticides), and improve the environment in agricultural areas.
- Conservation Scientist
Conservation scientists monitor forestry and conservation activities, such as field tests, and analyze the data retrieved to draw conclusions on factors such as forest and soil quality, fire and logging-induced damage. They use these results to improve forest conditions, minimize environmental damage from logging, and much more.
- Environmental Scientist
Environmental scientists use their expertise to support environmental projects by conducting scientific studies, preparing reports, and developing plans to ensure the success of these projects. For instance, someone in this field might visit a factory to assess the surrounding air quality; if significant pollution is found, they would work with the company to mitigate this.
Hydrologists research the distribution, movement, contamination and physical properties of Earth’s underground and surface waters. Using their data, they create and present maps and figures, such as contour maps of groundwater elevations and geologic structure.
- Agricultural engineer
Agricultural engineers plan, design and supervise sustainable technologies and equipment for agricultural practices. This includes the building of irrigation systems, livestock structures, greenhouses, and equipment for harvesting goods.
- Civil engineers
Generally, a civil engineer’s job is to plan, design and supervise any large construction project, such as the building of a road or a bridge. However, depending on who they work for, they might concentrate specifically on the environmental side of engineering, including designing systems that process clean water, energy innovations, and green building technologies.
- Environmental engineering
Environmental engineers synthesize biology, chemistry, physics and engineering knowledge to design methods of accompanying a growing population while minimizing environmental damage. Monitoring air pollution, ensuring clean drinking water, and overall ensuring sustainable development all fall under an environmental engineer’s duties.
- Waste management engineer
While other engineers in the environmental sector do touch on handling waste, a waste management engineer’s job is specifically so. Their duties include using recycling to limit environmental harm, designing methods of waste disposal, and addressing pollution and contamination.
Math and Technology
These two subjects sit a bit differently compared to science and engineering when it comes to environmental science.
In contrast to science and engineering, the pillars of math and technology are not explicitly dedicated to an environmental topic. What this means is when searching for jobs, you wouldn’t see titles such as “atmospheric scientist” or “waste management engineer” that detail their specification to an environmental subject. Instead, you would get a degree and work in a math or technology-based job, such as a data analyst or computer programmer, and choose to work in an environmentally-focused organization, such as at a non-profit or for a government-run department. This way, your job is tech/math-focused, but revolves specifically around environmental subjects. For instance, a software engineer might choose to work at a solar panel company so that their work would be going towards this particular cause. Alternatively, it is also important to consider that many and most science/engineering jobs involve the use of math and technology already. Thus, you might choose to pursue one of those careers, or even join a research team, but lean more towards the technology or math side of things.
The jobs highlighted in this article are only just a few of the ones out there, but if any of them sparked your interest, we encourage you to look at them in more detail and even do your own search for related careers 一 you could even use the sources from my works cited to get a start.
Overall, the environmental sector is a highly promising and rewarding field to work in with a variety of STEM careers to pursue. We hope that this article gives you a better idea of what lies ahead, and maybe even inspires you to consider a job in the environment if you hadn’t been already.
Rosemary is a senior in high school in West Vancouver, BC. She has interests all throughout science, including astronomy, solar energy, and biological evolution. Outside of STEM, she loves to get involved in community initiatives, such as planning fundraisers and working with seniors. Aside from that, you’ll probably find her painting!
“Agricultural Scientists.” Vault, www.vault.com/industries-professions/professions/a/agricultural-scientists.
“Agriculture Engineer.” ECO Canada, eco.ca/career-profiles/agriculture-engineer/.
“Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists: Salary, Career Path, Job Outlook, Education and More.” RaiseMe, www.raise.me/careers/life-physical-and-social-science/atmospheric-scientists-including-meteorologists.
“Environmental Scientist.” ECO Canada, eco.ca/career-profiles/environmental-scientist/.
Gingeleski, Ashley. “How Does Environmental Science Relate to Computer Programming?” Ashley Gingeleski, 20 Feb. 2018, ashleygingeleski.com/2018/02/20/how-does-environmental-science-relate-to-computer-programming/.
McKay, Dawn Rosenberg. “What Does a Hydrologist Do?” The Balance Careers, 25 June 2019, www.thebalancecareers.com/hydrologist-525671.
Our World in Data. 2020, https://ourworldindata.org/. Accessed July 17. 2021.
Roser, Max, et al. “World Population Growth.” Our World in Data, 2013, https://ourworldindata.org/world-population-growth
“What Do Civil and Environmental Engineers Do?” Georgia Tech, ce.gatech.edu/prospective/what-we-do
“What Does a Conservation Scientist Do?” CareerExplorer, www.careerexplorer.com/careers/conservation-scientist/
“What Does a Waste Management Engineer Do?” ZipRecruiter, www.ziprecruiter.com/e/What-Does-a-Waste-Management-Engineer-Do
“What Is an Atmospheric Scientist?” EnvironmentalScience.org, www.environmentalscience.org/career/atmospheric-scientist