Adapted from environmentalscience.org
Environmental toxicologists study the effects of toxic chemicals like pollutants (e.g., pesticides, industrial waste, etc.) and heavy metals on the environment and humans. They minimize these effects by investigating the sources of chemicals and examining how these chemicals move through ecosystems to predict where and how these chemicals may end up in our bodies. If this career interests you, read on!
Environmental toxicologists conduct experiments on human cells and lab animals to investigate the effects of toxic chemicals. They forecast and analyze the impact of toxic chemicals using modeling technology. They also present their findings to stakeholders and administrators and may even consult with policymakers on the safety of chemicals.
Where They Work:
There are a variety of opportunities in academia, private industries and in federal and state regulatory agencies for environmental toxicologists. Those employed by federal , and state regulatory agencies often test new chemicals for safety or help develop regulatory policies.
Toxicologists employed by private companies help with product development and safety testing. They may either work for product developers or research organizations that contract their expertise. Toxicologists are also being increasingly employed by consulting firms that advise public officials, industries and lawyers on toxic chemicals.
Many environmental toxicologists are also employed as faculty or staff researchers at colleges and universities, with doctoral degrees being required for such positions. Some nonprofit organizations also hire toxicologists to conduct research on chemicals or issues of public concern.
Education and Training:
Toxicologists employed as faculty or staff researchers most often require doctoral degrees. Most professionals start with bachelor’s degrees in biology, chemistry, environmental chemistry, or ecology. Further graduate training then provides additional education in molecular and developmental biology, neuroscience and risk assessment.
Pay and Job Outlook:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the predicted job demand is an 8 percent increase between 2020 and 2030. Environmental toxicologists fall under the broader category of environmental scientists and specialists. According to the BLS, this category earned a median salary of $73,230 as of May 2020. The highest paying industry for these professionals is the federal government, which reported a median salary of $103,180 during this time.