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Jobs Outlook: Environmental Scientists and Geoscientists




Overall employment of environmental scientists and geoscientists is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2012. Driving job growth will be public policy, which will force companies and organizations to comply with environmental laws and regulations, particularly those regarding ground-water contamination, clean air, and flood control.

Projected employment growth varies by occupational specialty. Environmental scientists and hydrologists are expected to grow faster than average. A general heightened awareness regarding the need to monitor the quality of the environment, to interpret the impact of human actions on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and to develop strategies for ecosystem restoration are all increasingly important issues that will drive demand for environmental scientists. Issues related to water conservation, deteriorating coastal environments, and rising sea levels also will stimulate employment growth of these workers. As the population increases and moves to more environmentally sensitive locations, environmental scientists and hydrologists will be needed to assess building sites for potential geologic hazards, to mitigate the effects of natural hazards such as floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes, and to address issues related to pollution control and waste disposal. Hydrologists and environmental scientists also will be needed to conduct research on hazardous-waste sites in order to determine the impact of hazardous pollutants on soil and ground water so that engineers can design remediation systems. Demand is growing for environmental scientists who understand both the science and engineering aspects of waste remediation.

In contrast to employment of environmental scientists and hydrologists, that of geoscientists is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations. In the past, employment of geologists and some other geoscientists has been cyclical and largely affected by the price of oil and gas. When prices were low, oil and gas producers curtailed exploration activities and laid off geologists. When prices were higher, companies had the funds and incentive to renew exploration efforts and hire geoscientists in large numbers. In recent years, a growing worldwide demand for oil and gas and for new exploration and recovery techniques—particularly in deep water and previously inaccessible sites—has returned a modicum of stability to the petroleum industry. Growth in this area, though, will be limited due to increasing efficiencies in finding oil and gas. Geoscientists who speak a foreign language and who are willing to work abroad should enjoy the best opportunities. An expected increase in highway building and other infrastructure projects will be a source of jobs for engineering geologists. The need to replace geoscientists who retire also will result in job openings over the next decade.