Environmental Scientist Career Information
What an Environmental Scientist does
Concern about the world we live in has increased manifold. Concerns about everything - global warming, rising of sea level, suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the air, level of nitrogen dioxide in the air, lead pollution from paints used for various things, sulphur dioxide pollution from industries, polluted river water, pollution in the sea, sound pollution, the list just goes on.
As an Environment Scientist it's your core job to identify pollutants, factors that affect acceptable level of pollutants in the air, identify what causes the pollution, and then develop systems and procedures to arrest pollution. Your job is to see that industrial effluents and bi-products are harmless to the nature, the level of SPM in the air is within acceptable limit, river water is pollutant free and the harmful gases in the air are treated to make them harmless.
Environmental Scientists are mainly concerned with research on environmental pollution and developing ways to control it. You will be concerned with research and development in the areas of solid waste management, management of toxic waste and biological waste, chemical waste and various other types of waste.
As an Environment Scientist you will work on everything - air pollution control, green house gases, ozone depletion, side effects of pollution on human being, animals, and plants. Water quality management, land conservation, soil conservation, etc. are also your areas of work.
In fact, the job is very much specialised in several fields:
Environmental Planning: The job of environmental planners are concerned with planning, designing and developing systems and procedures to counteract the pollution. You could be involved at a macro level where you plan and design the environment control systems and procedures for a whole township/city/region.
Environmental Engineering: You'll be responsible for designing, constructing and maintaining waste management systems and other systems to control pollution. You'll work at the micro level i.e. for an industry/plant. Waste treatment of industries, municipalities, refineries, distilleries, mines, fertilizers, food processing and textiles industries are a major concern today for environment engineers.
Other areas: As an environmental specialist you could work in media houses like newspapers, magazines and journals as journalists to write and report exclusively on environmental issues.
Environmental scientists are also involved in the area of imparting education in colleges, universities, schools and community clubs.
You could serve as social workers or environmentalists in various NGOs to address various environmental issues and problems.
You could also try your hand at environmental related tourism or eco-tourism.
• Manufacturing and process industries mainly employ engineers. Some environmental managers also have good scope here
• Various environmental research laboratories under the Central and State Governments - It is mainly for the environmental scientists with MSc, PhD or higher qualifications
• Various departments and agencies of the Central and State Government Environment Ministry - here mainly Environmental scientists and engineer get jobs
• NGOs - Mainly environmental managers and scientists easily find employment.
• Various environmental control authorities like Pollution Control Boards, etc. - Here it is a milieu. There are environmental scientist, engineers and even managers.
• University and college departments as faculty members - mainly the scientists, engineers and planners get jobs as per the nature of the institution (i.e., whether it is an engineering college, university department, an institution offering planning courses.)
• Various urban and regional development authorities like BMC, DDA, New Delhi, CMDA, Calcutta and other related organisations involved in urban and regional planning and development - here, mainly the environmental engineers and planners get jobs. Career Prospects:
Environmental awareness is definitely on the rise. There are some states in India like West Bengal, where study of environment is compulsory for all graduate courses irrespective of the stream/subject you are in.
These days, to set up any industry, whether small or big scale, one needs a clearance certificate from the State Pollution Control Board. Unless all the norms laid down by the Board is met, no industry can be started.
Even the number of NGOs working to raise awareness about the environment is increasing and the media is doing its duty by publishing/broadcasting news and features on environmental issues.
Government is also doing its bit by actively formulating policies and implementing those through various departments, directorates and departments. Almost all the universities in India have set or are in the process of setting up Environmental Science departments.
This translates to opportunities for jobs for anybody who is planning a career in this field.
Abilities & Traits Required
• Love for nature and your desire to do your bit for it
• Strong liking for science subjects, specially Chemistry and Biological Science
• Sensitive and proactive
• Strong reasoning abilities
• Take initiatives
And of course each of the specialised areas described above need different attributes.
To become an environmental journalist, you need:
• Ability to write
• Proficiency in languages
• Creativity and clarity of thought
To be an engineer or a planner, you should be:
• Good in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry
• Above average analytical and logical reasoning skills
• Liking for mechanical activities, structures and forms
• A good spatial skill - an excellent ability to understand and comprehend objects in space
To become an Environmental Planner, you need:
• Bachelor of Planning or a Master of Planning degree with specialisation in Environmental Planning
• You can do your Masters of Planning, even after your BE in Civil Engineering/Environmental Engineering
• Master of Architecture degree with specialisation in Environmental Planning
To become an Environmental Engineer you need:
• BE in Environmental Engineering/Civil Engineering/Mechanical Engineering/Electrical Engineering/Chemical Engineering
• You can also do a ME in Environmental Engineering/Civil Engineering with specialisation in Environmental Engineering
To become an Environmental Scientist, you need at least:
• MSc in Environment Science/PhD in Environment Science
In the manufacturing and process industry, you could start with a salary of Rs 18000 - 25000 a month. The growth prospects here are immense. A senior engineer in a large-scale company earns about Rs 45000 per month.
In various environmental research laboratories under the Central and State Governments, you will be paid Rs 25000-35000 per month as a Research Fellow. Rs 15000-25000 is the norm for Research Assistants after MSc With a PhD it could be Rs 25000-45000 per month. You can reach a maximum salary of Rs 45000- 65000.
In various departments and agencies of the Central and State Government Environment Ministry, salary is in the range of Rs 25000 - 45000 per month depending on the level of job.
A small scale NGO will pay you Rs 18000-25000 a month while a large scale NGO (like those funded by WWF) will pay you about Rs 12000-25000 per month in the beginning. The maximum you can command is Rs 30000-45000 if you are working for an International NGO.
In various environmental control authorities like Pollution control Boards, etc., the salary is in the range of Rs 25000-35000 per month depending on the level of job.
As a university or college faculty member, you can earn Rs 25000-45000 a month in the beginning. Your maximum salary as an environmentalist as per the present scale can be Rs 45000-65000 when you are senior most. In various urban and regional development authorities, you should expect your starting salary to be about Rs 25000-35000 a month.
Interview with an Environmental Scientist
Bittu Sehgal, Environmentalist
Environmentalist and editor of Sanctuary magazine Bittu Sehgal believes there is an environmentalist is each one of us. In a candid interview he talks about his project 'Save the Tiger' and other issues close to his heart.
Can you tell us a little bit about your educational background?
I am a BCom graduate. I learned about natural history and environmental issues in the process of defending species and habitats over the years.
How and when did you get interested in environmental issues?
I used to take holidays in sanctuaries and national parks, rather than hill stations. When these areas began to be attacked and destroyed, I started to defend them and one thing led to another. Key individuals like Dr Salim Ali, the famous birdman and Mr Kailash Sankhala, the first Director of Project Tiger were great influences in my life.
How was Sanctuary born?
It started as a promise to a man called Fateh Singh Rathore, who as the Director of the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve suggested to me that city people generally come to wild places and then forget about it in the city. When I asked what I could do specifically to help him he replied, "Start a wildlife magazine. So that city people learn to appreciate wildlife and do less damage!" That was December 31, 1980. Sanctuary was born exactly ten months later.
What does an environmentalist do?
Basically an environmentalist defends the environment! But this can take many shapes and forms. Some fight pollution, others fight to save tigers (as I do) and yet others pitch their lives into educating others in the hope that they will act more responsibly once they know better.
What are the various job avenues for an environmentalist? (where can he/she find work)
Actually anyone can be an environmentalist. If you are a journalist you write about the environment. If you are a businessman, you finance environmental projects. If you are a film producer you use your talent to communicate values.... you get the drift. In my view, ‘Professional Environmentalists’ can do less good than ordinary people working out of a sense of commitment.
Environmentalism is associated with crusaders like Medha Patkar and Baba Amte. Can an environmentalist find white collar jobs in the corporate sector?
Yes, but more often than not, such jobs will involve doing Public Relations for such companies, whose bottom lines generally mean more than their sense of responsibility to the public. Of course exceptions do exist.
Today in most companies we have the Chief Information Officer, Chief Executive Officer, etc. Will we ever have the Chief Environmental Officer in every company?
Most corporates overseas do have such a post, but again, these people generally wield very little power. They do what they are told and if they do not they find their careers blocked by the finance people or owners of the enterprises. Sorry to give this gloomy scenario to young people, but this is the truth.
Is the industry finally waking up to the environment?
Some are. But most are still hoping they can bribe their way out of trouble when they are caught polluting. Their reasoning goes like this, "It is cheaper to pay a bribe than clean up your act."
What role does the common man play in the fight to save the environment?
A lot. Ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results if they decide to strengthen public opinion. Just don't let apathy get the better of you. Do something, anything. Join other groups if you feel you cannot work alone.
How important is education if one wants to be come an environmentalist?
Education is a relative word. Some of the most ‘highly educated’ people are the least environmentally educated.
What according to you are the qualities that make a good environmentalist?
You must love the earth. Have respect for life. Believe that you can make a difference. Preach what you practice.
Tell us a little about the projects you are involved in.
I am trying to save the tiger and also trying to prevent awful people living in industrial countries from bribing Indians to help them export toxic chemicals and factories to our country.
We are asked to grow more trees in Mumbai. But where is the place?
There is lots of space. But more than planting trees, I believe we must protect the ones that grow in places like the National Park at Borivli, the mangroves of Navi Mumbai and Vikhroli and even in such localities as the Governors Estate and Dadar Parsi Colony.
Do you think the Narmada issue is more to do with hype than reality?
The Narmada Dams are a cruel exercise in futility. The river has no water and the builders of the dams have no funds. This is why the project will fail, irrespective of whether there is opposition from the people whose homes are being drowned.
How do you think can the problem of plastic bags be curbed in big cities?
You and I must refuse to accept plastic bags. And when Nescafe, Coke and Mc Donalds offer us disposable packaging, we should refuse to buy their products too.
How important are environmental issues for a developing country like India?
A healthy environment is vitally important to a country where millions cannot afford to fall sick because they can't buy medicines, or lose a day's wages. My right to clean air and water is a basic human right, as is my right to live in a world where wild tigers exist. In any event, unless we fight to protect our environment from those who place profit over ethics, we will find ourselves without water, without safety.
- Nivedita Jayaram Pawar