Environmental Biology Degrees and Careers

Environmental biologists, who commonly work on preserving and recovering natural habitats, might specialize in naturally occurring primary ecosystems, such as forests, grasslands or wetlands, or in secondary ecosystems created by agriculture, urban development and other human developments. Find out what you can learn in bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs and where you could work. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can I Do with a Degree in Environmental Biology?

As an environmental biologist, your work will be to preserve and restore the environment by identifying problems related to pollution, habitat destruction or other environmental problems and providing solutions. You will interpret data from observations of air, water and soil to determine ways to protect and restore environments. In addition, you will work to limit and reduce environmental hazards that can impact public health or disrupt ecosystems.

Work might include observing waste disposal sites, monitoring the population of an endangered species or identifying a water contamination source. You may be asked to write and interpret an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS); these reports describe and explain likely environmental changes brought on by human development.

How Does this Field Differ from Ecology?

Environmental biologists study how to preserve, protect and restore naturally occurring ecosystems and human-managed environments. These can include natural habitats, urban environments, agricultural regions and scenic landscapes. Focus is on the impact human activity has on existing environments.

Ecologists, on the other hand, do research into the relationships existing within an ecosystem's biotic community and also take into account its abiotic elements. Their primary concern is with the natural dynamics between an ecosystem's various members. As an environmental biologist, you'll frequently apply knowledge from ecology to accomplish your tasks.

What Topics Might I Study?

Topics you typically study in a bachelor's degree program for environmental biology include laboratory sciences such as chemistry or physics; earth sciences such as geology, meteorology or oceanography; or life sciences such as zoology, botany or ecology. Other courses might cover environmental management, environmental law or mapping technology.

If you go on to study in a master's program, you might encounter courses in other topics, such as system dynamics, micro-environments, environmental physiology, aquatic ecology or toxicology. Master's programs typically include a supervised research component and field activity. Doctoral students typically take advanced courses in topics such as ecology and conservation biology, teach undergraduate science courses and conduct independent research on a dissertation topic they choose.

Where Might I Find Work?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 44% of the jobs in environmental science are associated with government (www.bls.gov). This includes federal, state and local jobs with parks and recreation services, wildlife refuges, forest preserves, water reclamation districts, transportation and agricultural departments.

In private industry, environmental biologists frequently work with consulting firms. This means you might work as a consultant and write an EIS report for a small landscape project, for instance. You might also work for a large engineering or construction company.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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