According to the Strong Interest Inventory® and its associated assessment, Environmental Economists are considered part of the Enterprising careers category. Since its initial release in the early 20th century, this system has served as a compass for job seekers, helping them leverage their personal preferences and proclivities, and then aides them in navigating the job market to find a fulfilling career. It does this by categorizing careers based on the interests and satisfaction levels of professionals who hold those careers. For example, Environmental Economists tend to enjoy working in challenging, fast-paced environments. They also have a keen attention to detail and tend to be assertive and willful. Collectively, these features characterize Enterprising careers.

Environmental Economists, sometimes called Natural Resource Economists, conduct economic analyses relating to the environment, including environmental protection as well as how natural resources are used. These analyses can help policy makers, businesspeople, and conservation groups quantify the costs and benefits of initiatives that may have an environmental impact. For example, their research may include topics like alternative fuel use, soil conservation, endangered species protection, and more. Prior to conducting research, Environmental Economists must develop project plans, including budget proposals, a timeline, deliverables, and resource requirements, demonstrating to funders and key stakeholders that their project is both feasible and valuable.

Once their project is approved, they collect and analyze data relating to their proposed topics. This analysis may involve complex mathematical systems modeling, since the objective of such work is generally to understand how a particular action will affect an ecological, environmental, or other system. Then, they prepare and deliver presentations, technical documents, or academic articles to communicate the results of their studies and to help raise awareness of the issues they are studying. Environmental Economists may make policy recommendations themselves, but more often they write formal legal or economic impact statements or work in conjunction with other professionals to develop programs or policy recommendations to minimize environmental impact in cost-effective ways. Some Environmental Economists also work with the general public, for instance to promote the economic benefits of sound environmental regulations, or to garner support for a particular undertaking.

Environmental Economists

Read about a career in Environmental Economy including information such as a Environmental Economist’s salary, daily tasks and other career information.

While Environmental Economists’ tools tend to be limited to standard office equipment (e.g., computers, scanners, copiers, etc.), the software they use can be more sophisticated, as it must be capable of complex statistical analyses. Software may include analytical or scientific software (e.g., Econometric Software LIMDEP; General algebraic modeling system GAMS; Global Insight AREMOS, MATLAB), database user interface and query software (e.g., SQL, Microsoft Access), development software (e.g., C, Visual Basic, etc.), and map creation software (e.g., ESRI ArcGIS). In addition, they also use standard office software, including Microsoft Office Suite, e-mail, and web browser interfaces.

In order to be successful, Environmental Economists need to be experts in economics, statistics, and mathematics. Ideally, they would also have a foundation in relevant laws and, if they are involved with education, a basic understanding of educational principles and best practices. Of course, strong written and verbal communication skills are necessary, as is the ability to synthesize a large amount of technical information quickly. Those who work with computer-based statistical programs should also know basic computer programing and statistical modeling. Environmental Economists develop these skills through extensive education—nearly 60% hold a doctoral degree, and nearly 30% hold a master’s degree. The remaining 10% hold Bachelor’s degrees, and almost none have a high school degree as their highest level of education.

Environmental Economists earn well over the national average income in the United States. The median Environmental Economist Salary is $104,340 nationwide, with Virginia in the lead at $122,000. Ohio and California follow closely behind. That said, the range is quite wide—the median in Idaho is just $57,000, while in Puerto Rico it is nearly $35,000. Nonetheless, the employment rates of Environmental Economists is expected to rise steadily across the country; a 7-10% growth rate is projected in the next decade. Washington DC alone is projected to add 700 job openings annually, while Washington state’s growth rate is estimated to be over 20%.

Below are some employment trends for Environmental Economists:

  • Environmental Economist Salary: $50.16/hour; $104,340 annually
  • Employment: 21,000 employees • Projected growth (2018-2028): Faster than average (7-10%)
  • Projected job openings (2018-2028): 1,800
[Information retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2018-2028 employment projections]

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  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2018-2028 employment projections