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STEM Graduates and Environmental Science Careers

STEM – we know what the subjects are and we know how important they are to driving technology and the economy.

Graduates with a STEM degree work in almost any relevant field and many are now choosing environmental science as a career option as we look to develop the technologies of the future. Environment as an industry is a growth area and is expected to grow in the future. How do the traditional STEM subjects relate to environmental careers, and what options are there for STEM graduates wishing to enter the field?

Science: Science is a broad subject and the three traditional “hard” sciences of physics, biology and chemistry are fundamental to environmental science. STEM graduates may choose lab work, studying atmospheric gas levels for example and the effects these have on global temperatures (as well as separating data between natural and human forcings). This is relevant to experts in physics and chemistry – especially where paleodata is concerned. Biologists may study how the changing climate impacts plant and animal life, and what effects this could have on topography.

Technology: As human civilization advances, technology pushes forward. Sometimes this is market driven but sometimes it is driven out of necessity, to improve quality of life rather than convenience. In turn, population increases and this can present new issues for society to address through technology. Today, humanity needs to address the development of clean, green, renewable technology to cater to our energy demands of the future and look to move away from fossil fuels. Whether developing recyclable plastics, advancing renewable technology such as solar or improving the efficiency of wind turbines, technology remains at the core of environmental science.

Engineering: Environmental engineering is one of the growth areas of the last few decades and graduates with engineering degrees have a wide array of career options. With the global economy in recovery and construction work expanding all over the continent and beyond, we need to balance the needs of the economy with our construction needs against our duty to reduce carbon emissions. Environmental engineers work closely with civil engineers but with the remit to build sustainably and to protect delicate ecosystems while supplying facilities for water delivery and waste management.

Mathematics:  Math graduates are essential to a number of environment fields. Many of the predictions made by the IPPC and other environment bodies, for example, rely on calculations based on GHG outputs and the resulting effects they have on the climate. This is also true of the teams who study ocean temperatures, extrapolating the various elements that contribute to each forcing. Sea ice fluctuation, the effects of solar activity - these climate elements have many variables; atmospheric models are complex and require advanced mathematical processes to build and interpret.

There are many opportunities for STEM graduates to enter into the environmental sciences at present, and as we look to revolutionize technology, the opportunities are only expected to grow.