What is Earth and Environmental Science?

Earth & Environmental Sciences Department


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Geology workshop in the woods
Environmental Scientists work on solving some of the most important problems of our day.

What is Earth & Environmental Science?

Environmental Science provides an overview of how science affects our environment. We focus on interactions between the solid Earth, its water, its air and its living organisms, and on dynamic, interdependent relationships between these four components.

Earth and environmental scientists also consider how these relationships produce environmental change at different timescales. To do this, they combine knowledge, models and methods drawn from geology, biology, physics and chemistry.

We also strive to understand past and present environmental processes so that reliable and scientifically based predictions can be made about the future.

What does an Environmental Scientist do?

Environmental scientists conduct research to identify, control, or eliminate sources of pollutants or hazards affecting the environment or public health.

Their research typically involves:

  • Determining data collection methods
  • Collecting and analyzing air, water, and soil samples
  • Analyzing environmental data gathered by others
  • Looking for correlations to human activity
  • Preparing reports and presentations that explain their findings

Some environmental specialists focus on environmental issues while others focus on issues relating to human health. Either way, they work on critical issues, solving some of the most important problems of our day.

Environmental scientists also:

  • Develop plans to prevent, control, or fix environmental problems like air pollution
  • Advise government officials that make policy
  • Help businesses follow regulations or improve their practices
  • Conduct environmental inspections of businesses
  • Assess the potential effects of development projects to prevent the creation of new problems

What does a Geologist do?

Geologists work to understand the history of our planet. By better understanding Earth’s history, they are able to foresee how events and processes of the past might influence the future.

Geologists work in a variety of settings:

  • Natural resource companies
  • Environmental consulting companies
  • Government agencies
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Universities

Many geologists do field work at least part of the time. Others spend time in laboratories, classrooms or offices.

How do I know if Earth & Environmental Science is right for me?

Do you like working outdoors?

Do you have an interest in solving real world problems?

Are you passionate about the environment?  

Would you like to do work that is rewarding yet challenging?

Are you interested in learning more about how the natural world works?

Earth and Environmental Science is ideal for people that want to explore a mix of sciences like biology, chemistry and physics along with history and public policy. It allows you to apply practical solutions to real-world problems, too.

This is also a great field to consider if you're interested in pursuing graduate school with a science background, for example a business or law degree.

Career Opportunities

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Environmental Science is one of the fastest growing professions in the U.S. with an average salary of $60,000.

UMD's most recent graduate follow-up report, shows we have a 100% placement rate for our graduates.

That means - all students completing our program have successfully found work or entered graduate school for further study after completing our program.