There has been a lot of buzz around the expansion of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education programs in the United States. As investments aimed at growing the STEM workforce continue to make headlines, so do encouraging outlooks on job opportunities in these areas. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment projections show that occupations in the STEM field are expected to grow a whopping 8.0 percent by 2029, compared with 3.7 percent for all occupations. 

For anyone pursuing hard science degrees, such as biology or chemistry, this should be exciting news. Unfortunately, experts are projecting growth for STEM overall by focusing on one area in particular that’s driving high demand – computer occupations. Where, then, is the opportunity for those pursuing careers in other scientific fields? The answer may just come in the form of environmental roles. 

STEM Starts with Science

While excitement for STEM career paths is a positive development, “hard science” majors may need to be creative with their job search. Unfortunately, a STEM degree does not always translate into a STEM job. In fact, recent data from the Census Bureau indicates that while about half of workers who majored in engineering or computer science found employment in STEM roles, the number drops to 28 percent for physical science majors and a staggering 16 percent for those with majors in biology, environmental and agricultural science. Many college-educated workers with majors in these areas report pursuing careers in law, education and accounting among other non-scientific settings.

However, this may not be the most fulfilling path for individuals passionate about a career in the scientific space. At the same time, many graduates may cringe at the thought of being stuck in a traditional lab setting for their working lives. Instead, a growing number of new recruits are ditching the indoors to make an impact on the environment. 

Environment Roles Are Opening Doors

After all, climate change is one of the top issues facing the next generation of workplace leaders. Polling from Pew Research indicates that 67 percent of Gen Zers believe that climate should be top priority to ensure a sustainable planet for future generations. Scientific degrees can open the door to jobs making an impact on the frontlines of climate change. 

For example, Field Chemists work in a variety of settings to sample, test, package and transport hazardous and non-hazardous materials and waste. You may also see these roles are referred to as Lab Packing jobs. Settings for this type of work can include schools, hospitals and construction sites, as well as research laboratories, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and chemical sites.

Professionals in these roles can take on a variety of job activities, including taking part in community collection programs for household items, such as laptop batteries. Field Chemistry and Lab Packing jobs combine skills like communication, needed to educate those from non-STEM backgrounds on proper compliance and safety measures, with direct, physical involvement with the identifying, sorting and transporting of sensitive materials. 

These roles not only open the doors to connect a STEM education to a STEM career, but they can also set individuals on a path for growth in their desired path. Professionals in these environmental roles can expect to be in high demand, with the opportunity to advance into positions such as operational management. 

Making a Scientific Impact in an Environmental Career

As the tools we use every day become more complex and reliant on highly regulated materials, the need for those educated in areas of hard science is only going to become greater. By stepping out of the lab setting and into the community, scientific professionals can make a hands-on difference in a variety of workplace settings. 

Are you interested in putting a science degree to work in an environmental career, such as Field Chemistry or Lab Packing? Contact a Medix Engineering + Construction recruiter to learn more about our job opportunities in this growing field.