The major task of environmental chemists is to collect samples from the field and area of testing and perform different analysis on various environmental aspects. They have to spend most of the their time in the field and laboratory for diagnosis and resolving issues. These professionals can specialize in various areas of environment; this may include pesticides and insects, lakes, rivers, land, soil and water. Specific environmental chemist responsibilities may change for various organizations, but most revolve around using chemistry to understand, correct and make changes in order to improve the areas of environment. For example, a chemist who specializes in water would test bio-solids, water waste, landfill leachate, river water, industrial wastes, storm water and investigate it thoroughly.
Some of the environmental chemists have to preform special job responsibilities such as developing assurance test of quality or creating mechanism of laboratory tracking. These tasks are usually additional duties and need expertise.
Work Conditions and Description
Environmental chemists often perform most of their tasks in indoor laboratories. However, while examining chemicals in the environment, a stream or river bed may become the lab. Some companies prefer to collect the data miles away from their own outdoor production sites, while others have sophisticated indoor eco-systems where they perform the test. The work of these professionals involve collecting and examining samples, improving remediation programs, providing advice on emergency response and safety and making some modifications in the production process to earn more environment friendly products. They may also have to deal with the government compliance issues and regulations.
What are the Major Responsibilities of an Environmental Chemist?
There are certain tasks and roles of environmental chemists which may vary slightly as per the company. Their major tasks may involve:
What is the Required Qualification?
Any science graduate can think of entering into the field of environmental chemistry. Candidates from various backgrounds and paths may enter this field. However, some universities and colleges may have a Chemistry program with an alternative of environmental chemistry approved by ACS. This can work as an additional benefit and a good initiating point. Candidates with advanced degree and experience can prove more advantageous in the competitive profession. However, as there is vast growth in this field, a number of opportunities are available for candidates with an associate's degree. Students are also encouraged to join some traditional chemistry curriculum as an additional course; this may involve engineering and advanced math courses.
Most of the companies usually hire graduates who have undergone well-established learning programs from schools. Employers also search for individuals who demonstrate their potential to widen their expertise and think in an interdisciplinary way. Work experience and course work in subjects like hydrology, geology, toxicology or biology would indicate such abilities.
Basically, the field of environmental chemistry is interdisciplinary and hence individuals requires excellent communication and interpersonal skills along with the potential to demonstrate various ideas effectively to a nonscientific audience as well. These professionals have to deal with the sales and marketing staff by considering regulations of the company, and this is the right time when their skills are appreciated. Chemists with knowledge of additional languages have greater scope of success, as environmental management is globally expanded.
Scope of Employment
Environmental chemists are employed in chemical industry to a huge extent. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Defense, etc., are the few government agencies which require chemists for performing environmental work. Even some consulting firms and waste management companies employ chemist remediation tasks as well as consulting. Many universities and colleges require chemists in order to establish and cater to many programs in environmental chemistry. Environmental chemists can also get opportunities to move into various job fields of specialization other than the traditional job pattern in the lab. For those who are studying public policy, business, and law, lot of opportunities are available in the health and safety as well as the regulatory field.