Getting a degree in environmental policy will provide you with the environmental industry knowledge and skills that are vital to obtaining a high paying job in this growing field. Having a solid grasp of environmental policy is extremely useful today in getting work in many environmental-related occupations.
If you are going to earn an environmental policy degree, it is important to understand what the potential salary is. To get an idea of that number, the following four factors should be weighed:
- Whether you earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in environmental policy
- The type of environmental career you choose
- How many years of work experience you have
- The industry that you work in
With this information in hand, you can get a solid idea of your potential salary with an environmental policy degree.
Level of Environmental Policy Degree
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that approximately 10% of full time workers over the age of 25 in the US today have a master’s degree. Generally, workers opt for a master’s degree because it provides additional work opportunities with higher pay. The overall master’s degree holder earns a salary of $68,000, while a bachelor’s degree holder earns a salary of $56,000. This is a $12,000 premium.
But what about earning an advanced degree in environmental policy? Is it worth the time and cost? Current BLS data shows that environmental scientists with a bachelor’s degree earn a median salary of $62,000, and $80,000 with a master’s degree. This is a premium of $18,000.
Payscale.com reports that professionals with a master of science in environmental management see these types of median salaries, by job title:
- Environmental health and safety manager: $84,111
- Environmental scientist: $58,555
- Environmental manager: $84,500
- Environmental health and safety specialist: $65,700
- Environmental health and safety director: $107,000
- Environmental analyst: $57,100
- Environmental specialist: $61,000
Payscale.com also reports that professionals with a bachelor’s degree in environmental policy analysis earn a median salary of $46,400. Salary.com reports that environmental managers with a master’s or MBA earn a salary of $106,300 to $113,800, while those with a bachelor’s degree earn a salary of $105,387 to $112,759.
What Are the Top Environmental Careers Today?
People who study environmental policy or science typically are passionate about conservation, ecology, climate change, alternative energy and sustainability. What are some of the best career paths these days for people with these interests? Below are some of the top jobs to look for once you have your environmental policy degree. It also will help to break into the field if you have an environmental policy internship on your resume:
- Environmental consultant: Companies need to have environmental impact studies conducted when they want to develop land and/or expand operations to new sites. Environmental consultants are experts with analytical tools to assess how a new business project may affect the soil, air, water or wildlife in a region.
- Environmental scientist: These scientists frequently do research and environmental assessments for consulting, nonprofit and governmental organizations. They collect data about environmental impact and then interpret it with advanced statistical tools.
- Environmental educator: Professionals with an environmental policy degree can serve as educators to children, students and adults about various environmental topics. They may be employed by schools, universities, businesses, libraries and more.
- Public relations specialist: Many environmental groups need to change public perceptions to obtain financial and political support for environmental initiatives. PR specialists are experts in the use of communication tools to inform the public about the value of various environmental projects.
- Environmental engineer: Sometimes advanced technical solutions are needed to deal with problems of environmental pollution and contamination. These engineers are used to design and implement such systems.
- Sustainability specialist: Companies, nonprofit organizations and governmental bodies need to develop more environmentally friendly ways of delivering products and services. These experts assess the environmental practices and effects that organizations have on the environment.
Types of Careers
Earning your degree in environmental policy will help you to earn a solid salary, but the career path you select will have a direct effect on how much money you will make. Below are some of the most common career options in the environmental field for those with a bachelor’s or master’s in environmental policy:
Environmental scientist or specialist
Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of environmental policy and the natural sciences to protect human health and the environment. They often help to clean up polluted regions, provide advice and knowledge to government officials, and work with businesses to reduce waste.
Some of the most common types of environmental scientists and specialists are:
- Climate change analyst: They study how the changing climate is affecting ecosystems and our natural resources.
- Environmental health and safety specialist: Study the ways in which environmental factors have an effect on human health. They typically investigate health risks in the environment, such as investigating the issues that unfold from water and soil contamination.
- Environmental restoration planner: Assess sites that have been polluted and determine the activities and money that needs to be spent to clean the area.
- Industrial ecologists: Work with industry stakeholders to enhance the efficiency of their companies and how they affect their environment.
The median pay for all environmental scientists and specialists was $68,900 as of May 2016. The median wage for these workers was as follows by industry:
- Federal government: $100,700
- Management of technical and scientific consulting services: $68,150
- Local government: $67,500
- Engineering services: $67,200
- State government: $62,100
Environmental Science and Protection Technicians
Environmental science and protection technicians are responsible for monitoring the environment and investigating pollution sources and contamination, especially those that have an effect upon public health. Many of these workers are employed by consulting firms, state or local government agencies and testing labs.
In a consulting company, these technicians assist clients to monitor and manage how the company affects the environment and to comply with regulations. In state and local governments, technicians perform inspections of public places and businesses and look into complaints about water, air and food quality. Testing lab techs collect and keep track of environmental samples, and study how conditions where those samples were taken affect human health.
The median salary for all environmental science and protection technicians was $44,100 in May 2016. The salary range in this field was between $27,300 and $75,980. Salaries broke down in various industries in this way:
- Local government: $47,200
- Engineering services: $45,300
- Management, scientific and consulting organizations: $43,400
- State government: $41,900
- Testing labs: $37,100
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians
Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians collect information and data so that they can analyze many types of work procedures and work environments. Specialists are responsible for conducting workplace inspections to ensure they are sticking to safety, health and environmental regulations. Technicians are responsible for working with specialists to conduct tests and measure various environmental hazards to avoid harm to the environment, workers and the property.
The median salary for occupational health and safety specialists was $70,900 as of May 2016, with a range between $41,300 and $104,400. The median salary for occupational health and safety technicians was $48,800, with a range between $30,800 and $104,400.
Specialists’ salaries by industry were:
- Manufacturing: $71,900
- Hospitals: $70,100
- Construction: $69,400
- Government: $67,600
- Management, technical and scientific consulting: $67,300
Technicians’ salaries by industry were:
- Construction: $54,100
- Government: $48,700
- Manufacturing: $48,000
- Hospitals: $48,300
- Management, technical and scientific consulting: $43,200
Political Scientist/Policy Analyst
Another common type of environmental policy job is that of policy analyst, which is related to the political science field. As a policy analyst in environmental areas, you will work for an organization with a vested interest in environmental policies of various types. You could be employed by a nonprofit organization, lobbying group or environmental group and work to lobby legislators and government stakeholders on environmental policies and regulations that are better for the environment and public health.
Payscale.com reports the average salary for all policy analysts is $54,800 per year, with a range between $39,000 and $80,800.
Whatever industry or degree, your years of work experience will always be a determining factor in your salary level. A review of salary information at Payscale.com for various occupations shows how much experience level can influence salary. Below are some examples.
- Policy analyst: Professionals in this field earn an average salary of $52,000 with five or fewer years of experience; $61,000 with five to 10 years of experience; $67,000 with 10-20 years of experience; and $79,000 with 20 or more years of experience.
- Environmental manager: These environmental professionals earn a salary of $54,000 with five or fewer years of experience; $75,000 with five to 10 years of experience; $94,000 with 10-20 years of experience; and $103,000 with 20 or more years of experience.
- Environmental scientist: These scientists earn a salary of $45,000 with five or fewer years of experience; $57,000 with five to 10 years of experience; $65,000 with 10-20 years of experience; and $82,000 with more than 20 years of experience.
The industry in which you are employed will always have some degree of effect on your salary level. For the occupation of environmental scientist and specialist, the median salary is affected based upon these different industries:
- Federal government: $100,700
- Management, technical and scientific consulting: $68,150
- Local government agencies, not including hospitals and education: $67,500
- Engineering: $67,200
- State government, not including education and hospitals: $62,100
Earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in environmental policy will provide you with many possible, lucrative job opportunities. Research the above factors to ensure that you can land the highest salary for your future career.
- Should I Get a Master’s Degree? (2015). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm
- Top Jobs for Environmental Studies Science Majors. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/top-jobs-for-environmental-studies-science-majors-2059630
- Political Scientist. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/political-scientists.htm#tab-5