Salary of a Scientist That Studies the Environment

by Karen Farnen

Environmental scientists help safeguard the natural world and human health by identifying problems, developing solutions and providing information to the public. For example, they might find sources of water contamination and develop plans for restoration. The minimum job requirement is a bachelor's degree in natural science, but you need a master's degree for advancement and a doctorate for research or college teaching. Your salary also depends on the industry and job location.

Average and Range of Salaries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that environmental scientists and specialists averaged $68,810 per year as of 2011. Annual salaries ranged from $38,090 or less for the lowest-earning 10 percent to $110,560 or more for the top 10 percent. The median salary was $62,920 per year.

Government Jobs

A large number of environmental scientists work for government at various levels. State governments were the largest employers as of 2011, paying 18,740 environmental scientists an average of $57,600 per year, according to the BLS. Local governments accounted for 11,500 jobs in 2011 and paid an average of $62,170 annually. The federal executive branch had only 5,860 jobs but had the highest pay among major employers, at $96,310 per year on average.

Other Large Employers

Management, scientific and technical consulting businesses were the second-largest employer of environmental scientists in 2011, after state governments. They had 18,290 jobs and paid an average of $71,710, according to the BLS. Architecture and engineering services had 11,640 jobs and paid an average annual salary of $68,670.

States with High Employment

Three states had more than 6,000 jobs each for environmental scientists as of 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. California had the most positions, paying its 12,440 scientists an average of $77,540 per year. Texas, the runner-up with 7,760 jobs, paid an average of $70,160 annually, while Florida, with 6,190 jobs, paid an average of $55,710 per year.

High-Paying District and States

The highest-paying state or district in 2011 was the District of Columbia by a large margin, according to the BLS. The average pay for environmental scientists there came to $111,160 per year. In Virginia, pay averaged $85,520 annually, and in Massachusetts, it averaged $81,470.

Job Outlook

Ongoing concern about the environment will fuel steady job growth for environmental scientists in coming years. The BLS predicts that jobs will increase by 19 percent between 2010 and 2020, compared to 14 percent on average for all jobs. A large portion of the new jobs will arise in consulting firms that help businesses minimize their impact on the natural environment and comply with laws. The retirement and promotion of current scientists will also contribute to favorable job opportunities for environmental scientists.

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