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Environmental Science too broad?

  1. Sep 24, 2009 #1
    For a long time, I have only wanted to work in a science field. I know I don't have to explain the reasoning because most of you probably share the same passion. My problem is settling on a major. After working as a lab tech at a soil lab for the past year and a half, I am fairly sure that I want to work in the environmental science field, but at school I feel limited to the majors of either environmental science or environmental chemistry. Initially, I thought environmental science would be a better choice because I could have a large list of options to choose from for work before graduate school, but after looking at common jobs in the field I became less sure. Environmental chemistry sounds appealing, but I am worried that it would close future doors for me. I have decent grades (3.8 gpa with 4.0s in all my math and science classes). The classes toward a major in environmental science merely touch on the surface of the related areas, but I feel the specialization of environmental chemistry would prepare me more.

    If more information in needed for advice, a long term goal of mine has been to work somewhere I could research the effects of waste - radioactive, if possible - in the soil.

    Any input is appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 24, 2009 #2


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    Have you considered civil engineering, with an emphasis (or even second degree) in environmental science? If job opportunities are a big consideration, you can't go wrong with CE.
  4. Sep 24, 2009 #3
    I agree that any sort of engineering would be a help as a double major. If chemical engineering is an option you could do that and add a few environmental science classes on the side and you should be in a good position to compete for environmental science jobs. You could do the same with a straight chem major.

    Get involved in any related clubs or talk to professors about professional organizations in the area. If you show interest and especially if you can get an internship the major won't matter as much. It seems that you already have some experience in the field which is great.

    Oh, and i highly doubt environmental chem would close doors compared to environmental science. Either will limit you some outside of the field though, but with environmental chem you could probably compete for the same jobs as other chem majors too.

    While it may or may not apply to your school, I know the engineering professors at mine didn't think environmental science should be a major - at least not how it was set up. It had too many intro courses and no depth or rigor.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2009
  5. Sep 24, 2009 #4
    And the required BLS data, which may or may not be relevant to your question:

    "According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, beginning salary offers in July 2007 for graduates with bachelor’s degrees in an environmental science averaged $38,336 a year."

    "According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, beginning salary offers in July 2007 for graduates with bachelor’s degrees in chemistry averaged $41,506 a year."

    The average starting environmental engineer's salary is $47,960. Civil engineers start at $48,509. Chemical engineers start at $59,361.
  6. Sep 24, 2009 #5
    The engineering degrees offered at my school are EE and ME. ChemE is mostly offered (drawback of branch campus). As much as I would love to double major, I keep completion time a high priority because I am putting myself through school and I want to feel comfortably self-supporting.

    Kote, what your engineering professors think is what I feared. The classes for the Environmental Science major all seem general.
  7. Sep 24, 2009 #6
    Oh, and it's a pretty specific field you're interested in, so get with career services asap. Get in touch with specific companies. Ask what they'd look for. Apply for internships. They'll love you for it and you'll be getting information straight from the source.
  8. Sep 24, 2009 #7
    In that case, if it's not too late, I'd recommend ChemE. The market values it at over 150% of the worth of an environmental sciences degree. Environmental science employers will know that and should want you if you can also show you know what you're getting into (clubs, a couple envs courses, etc). If you can't do ChemE and you keep your GPA up you should still be more than fine, but ChemE will make it easiest for you on the market out of those options.
  9. Sep 24, 2009 #8
    My plan of study for the next year is geared toward Chemistry at the moment (only a single bio course instead of a full year), and I assume ChemE requires a full year of bio.

    Is there a considerable difference in the value of a general Chem degree compared to ChemE? Because it would be nearly a year faster for me to get a BS in Chem compared to Env Chem.
  10. Sep 24, 2009 #9
    It's about an $18,000/yr difference in starting salary, but that assumes you take an average job for the major. If you'll take the same job with either major then the salary will probably be the same. If I were you I'd start down the ChemE path and maybe decide after an internship or a job application to cut it short and get out early.
  11. Sep 24, 2009 #10
    The time problem comes from having to finish the full year of bio and postponing physics until the following year with the ChemE plan, or being able to take physics next quarter since a single bio class is all that is required for a general chem degree. Working through school always manages to get in the way.
  12. Sep 24, 2009 #11
    If you're not just assuming it takes a full year of bio, could you take the second semester of bio some other time? I doubt it's a necessary prerequisite for anything if it is required.
  13. Sep 24, 2009 #12
    Excellent point. I'll try to track down the required class list. Thanks for your time and advice.
  14. Sep 24, 2009 #13
    Good luck! :smile:
  15. Sep 25, 2009 #14
    What separates the Chem and ChemE curriculum at my school (UMass) are the Junior Year courses. ChemE majors take two semesters of Statistical Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics (not the ME/CE version), Reactor Kinetics, Separations, Heat & Mass Transfer, and Mathematical Modeling. On top of this, they also take two semesters of Physical Chemistry and a technical elective in the same year.

    The first two years are almost identical with the Chem curriculum, but in the third year the ChemE's curriculum "goes nuts". Difficulty of the senior year between the two looks comparable. A good friend of mine is in his junior year right now, and he normally stays at school from 10AM-10PM M-F.
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