The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that environmental science jobs will grow by 8% between 2018 and 2028, which the bureau states is faster than the average for all occupations.
The reasons being: “Heightened public interest in the hazards facing the environment, as well as increasing demands placed on the environment by population growth, are expected to spur demand for environmental scientists and specialists,” according to the BLS website.
The median salary for an environmental science job in 2019 was $71,360 per year or $34.31 per hour, according to the BLS. Of course, all of these figures were published before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the labor market.
Starting this fall at Weber State University, students can more concretely tap into that growing labor field. The university is launching a new environmental science bachelor’s degree within the College of Science.
It’s an interdisciplinary degree, meaning each department in the College of Science contributes courses and faculty knowledge.
Rick Ford, the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department chair, said in an email that the idea for an environmental science degree has been on the department’s mind for about a decade or more.
It wasn’t until the arrival of Andrea Easter-Pilcher as the Dean of the College of Science prior to the 2018-19 academic year that things really started moving fast, according to Ford.
“Faculty from across the College came together in September 2019 to form the Environmental Science Task Force. I chaired this group and we studied existing undergraduate environmental science programs from across the country. We decided to use existing courses already being offered by the various departments in the College to build our curriculum, with the option to develop new courses going forward,” Ford wrote in an email to the Standard-Examiner.
According to Alicia Miller, public relations and outreach coordinator for the WSU College of Science, the program will allow students to emphasize in one of four areas: ecology, sustainability and natural resources; environmental health and planning; earth systems and water science; and laboratory, data analysis and workforce skills.
For about the last 3-4 months with their “fingers crossed,” the university has been highlighting the degree in hopes of attracting students into the program, Miller said.
“One of the highlights of this program is it’s location. Weber State is located in the best area to capture the research necessary for these students to move on and be successful in their career,” Miller said, noting the university’s proximity to the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains.
Around 30 students inquired into the program and nine students have declared environmental science as their major for the upcoming school year, “a pretty significant number” for a new program, Miller said.
The first student to declare as an environmental science major was Allison Stanley, a rising junior who was previously in the criminal justice program before switching her discipline.
Stanley was thinking about transferring schools until Ford told her that the program was most likely going to come online this fall. Ford was the one who told Stanley she was the first officially declared environmental science major.
“I just think it’s an important topic and important for everyone to kind of know about. The new program is really nice in that way,” Stanley said.
“I’m always hiking, camping, backpacking and for a couple years now, I’ve wanted to do something about climate change,” she said.
Stanley wasn’t sure how to go about doing something about climate change, then she changed her major.
She’s from the Salt Lake Valley and noted the area’s struggles with air quality, which is a field she wants pursue in this program along with sustainability.