Environmental chemists design pollution control and cleanup processes and systems. They also serve as emergency advisors, helping to contain and clean up chemical spills and explosions or runoff of pesticides from farm fields into rivers and lakes.
the fate and effects of chemicals because the technology to measure the damage did not exist. As the technology for measuring leakage from landfills was developed, for example, industry recognized the potential for chemicals to negatively impact the environment—and the attendant social, political, and economic ramifications. As a result of these new data, chemists were able to help design pollution abatement systems that minimize the unwanted elements escaping into the environment. They also applied their knowledge to develop remediation systems to clean up contaminated areas.
A new frontier is pollution prevention, also known as green chemistry. Chemists are working with industry and government to:
- ensure that chemicals are handled, stored and transported properly to keep them from entering the environment
- discover less harmful alternatives to replace commonly used toxic chemicals;
- and invent new environmentally safer industrial chemical processes.
Some environmental chemists spend time wading in streams, sampling air and soils, and analyzing and interpreting data in their labs. But as the field expands, daily activities grow increasingly varied, including development and testing of new products, advising companies on how to comply with regulations, and studying public policies and laws.
The chemical industry is the largest employer of environmental chemists, but many work for government agencies and waste management companies. A bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree will qualify students to enter this field.
Beyond obtaining a solid foundation in chemistry, aspiring environmental chemists do well with an interdisciplinary orientation, with knowledge of biology, ecology, genetics, hydrogeology, and soils. Courses in environmental studies are recommended. For industrial jobs, courses in industrial chemistry and chemical engineering are also suggested. Teamwork skills and the ability to communicate effectively with non-technical audiences are also increasingly important.
Median Salary 2012
Want to know more?
- Environmental Protection Agency-Green Chemistry
- ACS Green Chemistry Institute
- British Ecological Society
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Information retrieved from Career Trend: What Is the Salary & Benefits of an Environmental Chemist? and Cengage: Environmental Chemist.
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