Environmental educators differ from K-12 teachers in that their focus tends to be strictly on ecological concerns, and factors that affect and are affected by the environment. Depending on a student's level of interest in either the scientific aspect of the field or the educational one, there are a variety of possible applications for a masters degree in environmental education.
Those who share an equal passion for the environment and teaching will be happy to know that a graduate degree in environmental education may be a great way to get a head start on a desired career. This field blends scientific investigation, knowledge of ecology, the environment and its various ecosystems, and teaching.
The unique blend of scientific specialization and educational focus of the environmental education field means that students who pursue a degree will be exposed to a mixture of courses in terms of content and objective. The focus on environmental science means that a background in life sciences such as biology and chemistry may be an asset, though may not necessarily be required. With education being an integral part of the degree, students can also expect a humanities-focused approach, including courses on topics such as curriculum development.
Environmental education's dual focus means that students should prepare for courses that differ in type as well as content. Environmental sciences may result in more hands-on and lab-focused classes, while courses covering the education aspect are likely to be more classroom focused. Students may even need to complete a placement or practicum as part of their teaching certification.
This is a field that covers a wide range of academic applications. As such, graduates of an environmental education program may have many options available to them when it comes time to enter the professional world.
Those students who have a greater interest in the educational applications of the field may want to consider entering the world of K-12 education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school teachers had a 2012 median annual salary of $55,050, with jobs expected to grow by 6 percent through 20221. If you're interested in education but wish to stay more connected to the world of academia, it's possible to pursue a career in postsecondary teaching. The BLS reported that these educators received a 2012 median annual salary of $68,970, with a projected 19 percent growth rate for jobs through 20222.
Graduates who are drawn more to the environmental and ecological component of the field can find careers rooted in more practical applications. For example, naturalists and environmental scientists had a BLS-reported 2012 median annual salary of $63,570. Jobs in this field are expected to grow by 15 percent through 20223. Anyone who's been to a zoo knows the importance of having trained zoologists on staff - the BLS reported these professionals made a 2012 median annual salary of $57,710, with a projected 5 percent job growth through 20224.
Environmental concerns have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. Things like rising oil prices may put a premium on large-scale ecological planning for the future. This means that we'll need professionals equipped to teach the up-and-coming generations about the importance of conservation.