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Ecology and Environmental Science Jobs, Salaries, and Requirements

For those interested in spending most of their time outdoors, making observations, and taking
samples while enjoying nature, jobs in environmental science are a perfect career option.
Working for the government or for a private company, ecologists are in an excellent position to
advocate for the health of the local environment while spending the majority of their time getting
their hands dirty. Learn about the types of jobs available and what it takes to become an
ecologist.

Ecology Jobs

Environmental Consultant

The most common ecological work lies within the environmental consultation sphere,
specifically in reviewing business permits. A field ecologist will examine the space on which a
business wishes to build or use natural resources, and determine whether the plans are
compliant with local environmental laws. From there, the work varies greatly depending on the
intent and philosophy of the environmental consulting firm. While some firms focus on helping
companies receive approval for their plans, others turn their attention to how a company can
reduce its environmental impact or even support the local environment while still achieving their
business goals.

Environmental Planner

In a similar vein to environmental consultation, an ecologist may work for a specific company
helping their projects to be environmentally friendly, sustainable, and consistent with local
environmental law. An environmental planner’s work begins with identifying protected wildlife
areas, such as wetlands, and determining how a company’s plans may impact these areas. The
next step is to work with architects and engineers to orchestrate a plan that reduces impact on
the local environment.

Field Scientist

Within the municipal sphere, environmental scientists frequently work in the field, studiously
monitoring changes to flora and fauna populations and health while also observing changes to
soil and water samples. Ecologists may work with a team of experts to enact environmental
restoration and mitigate negative impact.

How to Get Started & What to Expect

Salary: $38,000 to $80,000

The majority of environmental consultants earn a salary between $40,000 and $50,000 per
year, depending on the budget of the consulting company. Environmental planners working
directly for architectural and construction firms generally earn more, ranging from $50,000 to
$60,000. The best paid environmental scientists generally work with numbers rather than
spending the majority of their time in the field collecting samples and observations, and may
also direct a team of environmental scientists.

Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, or PhD

In order to work independently in the field, researchers generally need to earn a Bachelor’s
degree. This program begins with prerequisites in math and chemistry that build a holistic
understanding of life from DNA to the cell to the healthy organism. During the undergraduate
program, ecologists learn everything they need to know to accurately report environmental data
and draw conclusions based on their findings. Entry-level employees at environmental
consulting firms and municipal programs generally have a Bachelor’s degree in ecology or a
related field.


A Master’s degree helps environmental scientists to become team managers, orchestrating
environmental rehabilitation projects and providing respected insights into the inner workings of
an area’s local ecology. Ecologists with a Master’s degree are able to work more independently
as they rely on their extended education to navigate the complexities of the natural world.
To work on the theoretical level, making ecological discoveries and passing on the knowledge
through academic journals and university classes, an ecologist must complete a PhD in their
chosen field of interest. From how an invasive species interacts with its new environment to how
a specific chemical affects the wildlife near a lake, there is new vital information to uncover
every day.

US-Based Universities with Renowned Ecology and Environmental Science Programs

  • Kent State University, OH
  • Rutgers University–New Brunswick, NJ
  • Syracuse University, NY
  • University of Florida, FL
  • University of Houston, TX
  • Ohio State University, OH
  • University of Memphis, TN
  • University of Nebraska–Lincoln, NE
  • University of Nevada–Reno, NV
  • University of Toledo, OH

Who is Hiring Ecologists

New job openings appear frequently, and can be geographically diverse. Below are just a few
currently-available positions - be sure to refer back to the BioOne Career Center for new
ecology job openings:

  • Moffett Field, CA: The Western Ecological Research Center is searching for an
    ecologist to identify San Francisco Bay migratory bird species, demonstrate expertise on
    avian ecology and estuarine systems, collect field data, write comprehensive reports.
  • Amherst, MA: The Massachusetts Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit is
    searching for a research ecologist/wildlife biologist to provide leadership and guidance to
    government and private agencies and university representatives.
  • Lincoln, NE: The Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit is searching for a
    research ecologist/fish biologist to provide leadership and guidance to government and
    private agencies and university representatives.