Majors related to the environment with good job prospects?

My son is a junior in high school and is interested in the environment and conservation. He was exposed to some of the material in his earth science course and will be taking AP environmental science as a senior.

What majors deal with the environment AND have a good career potential? We don’t want to invest the $100k in a 4 year degree just to have him end up with a low paying job. He doesn’t need to be wealthy, just to be able to pay the bills :smile:

Environmental Engineering sounds good, but it might be a challenge for him to handle the rigorous math in the engineering program.

I have heard of environmental science and environmental studies but I don’t know much about those majors/career paths. Thoughts on these 2 majors?

What are other good majors that deal with the environment?

What does he like about the environment and conservation?

Does he want to be outdoors or is he fine working in an office environment?

Plenty of options but the majority of the jobs will not be high paying without several years of experience and most likely a graduate school degree.

Some major options:
GIS (Geographic Information Systems)- software mapping for Environmental Management *** (Hot area for jobs)
Environmental Science (Resource Management)- more emphasis on Science related issues with the Environment
Environmental Studies- more emphasis on the political, social and economic aspects of the Environment
Environmental Toxicology/Chemistry
Environmental Engineering/Design

As a parent of an Environmental Science major, I understand your concern about paying for a college degree and having them work at low paying jobs.

Older son’s passion was fisheries and outdoor field work, unfortunately the entry level jobs were low paying for the first few years especially if they are state or federal agencies. He gained some great experience but decided to leave the fisheries behind and work for a private consulting firm as an Environmental Biologist. He still does a minimum of field work, but he now is in the office issuing permits and doing environmental impact reports. It pays the bills for now and again he is gaining good experience in the policy area of his field along with working with many more other animal species other than his beloved fish. His career path will be slow and steady as he gains more experience but he loves what he does so that is important.

The college degree to me is a long term investment and as long as he is happy, we figure the money was well spent.


As somebody who has worked in the field, I will second everything that @Gumbymom wrote. I would also add Forestry and Natural Resources Management.

Careers that include outdoors work may not pay all that well (especially non-profit work), but the ones that pay lower wages also tend to work out of low cost of living areas - more remote and rural. The jobs with the consulting companies often pay more, but are often in higher CoL areas (the last one at which I worked was based in Pasadena).

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In addition to the environment, he has an interest in plants and also fish. He maintains a impressive aquarium called an aquascape, which is essentially a planted fish tank that requires C02 and fertilizers. He seems to be interested in the science aspect of the plants and fish. So regarding his specific interest in the environment, I guess he would be interested in the science that could be used to reduce our impact on the environment. I don’t think he would like to work 100% outdoors, but would enjoy it if was a part of a job.

It’s hard to separate out the anecdotal stories about careers from the typical. A friend of mine, his daughter graduated with a bachelors in Geology/Earth Science. Couldn’t find a job, and employers told her “we typically hire Civil Engineers for the type of work you are looking for”. She asked the Geology students (in graduate school) from her college and they didn’t have any encouraging words about the job prospects. She ended up going back to school to get a civil engineering degree and now has a job.

So I know there are no sure bets, but just trying to guide my son towards a Major that suits his interests and also has a decent career potential. If we know the end result career typically doesn’t pay well, then we might be more inclined to have him go the community college route for 2 years, then university for 2 ( this would allow him to graduate debt free)

Thanks for above suggestions GumbyMom and Mwolf, I’ll pass those along to my Son.

Urban Planning, Transportation Planning, Construction Management have some significant “green” and sustainability career paths with excellent pay prospects.

D2’s BF has a degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. This is a hybrid major that includes public health, public policy and environmental science.

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Does this BF have a job within the scope of environmental science?

He’s had several. Green management of the waste stream for a zoo in a major western city, an environmental science teacher (grades 6-12), and team leader and full time employee at OutwardBound.

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My first thought was engineering, but also biology or land management. I know there are jobs for engineers and scientists at many different agencies. They may not pay much to start but they have growth potential, especially if he is interested in graduate school.

One thing you can do is go to the jobs pages some of the big environmental companies, agencies, and labs to see what they are looking for and what salaries they are offering.