What is Environmental Physical Science?
Environmental Physical Science deals with the identification, study, and treatment of a variety of environmental problems including ground and surface water quality and management, waste treatment, land-use planning, soil testing, contaminant chemistry and monitoring, hazardous waste disposal, land reclamation, and energy management and production. The Science Department at Black Hills State University is a small, personable department committed to quality undergraduate programs in science, with a special emphasis on involving students in research and internship experiences.
Although the Environmental Physical Science major is rigorous, the rewards are great. This is a broad and varied science, requiring a background in a number of different science areas. In addition to a variety of geology classes, students will complete additional course work in chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Students with a strong background in these physical sciences are thus able to successfully compete for internship, graduate school, and employment opportunities. More advanced study at the graduate level opens up even more opportunities, including advanced research in national laboratories, environmental law, and teaching/research at the college or university level.
This major also takes advantage of Black Hills State University's geographical location in an area of active renewable and nonrenewable resource production. The environmental concern surrounding this type of activity creates a wide variety of opportunities for internships and undergraduate research projects.
Is there a demand for graduates with this major?
One of our goals at Black Hills State University is to provide students with high-quality employment opportunities after graduation. Despite the current economic worries, many sources suggest students graduating from the environmental physical science major are well positioned for the job market on completion of their degree. The U.S. News and World Report recently published their “50 Best Careers of 2011” and included in the 10 Technology jobs were Hydrologist, Environmental Science Technician and Environmental Engineering Technician. Employment as a Geoscientist or Hydrologist is expected to grow faster than the average employment rate, with an increase in growth from 2008-2018 of 18% according to the Bureau of Labor’s 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook: employment as an Environmental Scientist is expected to grow must faster than average with an increase of 28% (2008-2018). Furthermore, an article in CNN Money (July 2011) notes that the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs over the last ten years have been hiring at a rate three times that for non-STEM jobs and this is only expected to continue. The “Status of the Geoscience Workforce 2011” (published by the American Geological Institute) note that there is a lack of graduates in the geosciences to fill the current and project geoscience positions (including environmental geoscience) and that the majority of the geoscience workforce is within 15 years of retirement.
Environmental positions for Bachelor’s degree graduates exist in the private sector through consulting, chemical, petroleum and other manufacturing corporations. Positions also exist with state and federal government agencies such as the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey Water Resource Division, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Forest Service.
There is an occupational demand for environmentally trained personnel in non-science areas as well. For example, environmental law is an increasing area of interest, as is environmental business. Students deciding to continue to graduate school for a Master’s degree in a related discipline will find ever more opportunities open to them on graduating.
Bureau of Labor: Environmental Scientists
Bureau of Labor: Geoscientists/Hydrologists
Status of the Geoscience Workforce 2011 - pdf (abridged)