The Salary of an Environmentalist

The mean annual wage for environmentalists in May 2010 was $67,810.
The mean annual wage for environmentalists in May 2010 was $67,810. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

If you enjoy science and care about the environment, you can turn these passions into a profitable career. Environmentalists, or environmental scientists, solve problems in the natural environment involving air, food, water and soil. And now is an excellent time to seek employment in this field: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of environmental scientists should increase 28 percent between 2008 and 2018 due to increasing environmental awareness, dwindling resources and the worldwide population boom.

Salary Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent salary information for environmental scientists is from May 2010. At that time, the middle 50 percent of workers in this profession earned an average of $61,700 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned around $37,850 and the highest 10 percent earned around $107,990.

Highest Paying Industries

According to the BLS, the highest paying industry in this profession is in general medical and surgical hospitals, where the annual mean wage is $95,760. In order of pay from high to low, the next highest paying industries are the federal executive branch, oil and gas extraction, natural gas distribution and metal ore mining. However, these industries employ few workers from environmental scientists as a whole. The industries that employ the majority of environmentalists are state governments; management, scientific, and technical consulting services and architectural and engineering services.

Similar Jobs and Their Salaries

With the same education and passions as an environmental scientist, you may obtain a variety of other similar jobs. Atmospheric scientists, chemists, engineering technicians, physicists, and science technicians also do similar work at different pay grades. According to the BLS, chemists and physicists earn significantly more -- $5,000 to $40,000 more, respectively -- than environmentalists, although you may need more education to obtain these jobs.

How Education May Affect Pay

In July 2009, says the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the starting salary for environmental scientists with bachelor’s degrees was $39,160 a year. In most cases, you need at least a bachelor’s degree to break into the field, but a master’s degree will put you ahead of other job candidates and possibly translate into higher starting pay. However, there’s no need to get a doctorate degree, unless you want to teach environmental science at a collegiate level.

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