MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: How do I become an environmental research scientist?

Date: Fri Aug 3 18:57:06 2001
Posted By: Steven Korenstein, Grad student, Environmental/Occupational Health, Cal. State Un. Northridge
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 996686505.En

Dear Social Work Grad.,

It sounds like the type of work you are interested in falls under the 
catigory of environmental epidemiology.  Epidemiology is a branch of 
science that deals with how agents (disease causing entities like toxic 
chemicals or bacteria) affect peoples health.  Environmental epidemiology 
is specific to examining agent/receptor (people) interactions found in the 
environment as opposed to say the causes of genetic diseases.  

Most people who do this kind of research have degrees in one of the 
environmental sciences.  For someone with a BA in social science, my best 
advice is to get a graduate degree in epidemiology.  I have heard of 
programs that specialize in behavioral or developmental epidemiology, 
although I can not site any specific schools.  Most large universities 
have an epidemiology program attached to their school of medicine or 
health science.

I think it is probably unlikely that without an advanced degree in such a 
program you would find much work in this field.  However, with even a 
masters degree your chances are quite good.  Many city health departments 
conduct the type of research you are interested in as do state departments 
of health or of environmental affairs.  Also, university faculty conduct 
this type of research.  I in fact have done work in very similar areas to 
your own interest. With a BA in Environmental Biology and a masters degree 
in Environmental Health I have worked for both city and state 
environmental health agencies in California. 

A typical day is vary hard to describe in this forum but frequently 
involve data collection and interpretation, report writing, communicating 
results with other interested parties, and on and on...

If I were you I would contact the Epidemiology department at a local major 
university.  If you are really interested in this field, it's your best 
bet.  The education you already have may be enough to get you into such a 
program, so your off to a good start.

Good Luck.

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