Some of the most scorching, humid summers in the country happen in the sweltering Alabama heat, a fact that makes concerns over the potential effects of climate change on the state's ecosystem foremost on the minds of the scientific community here.
The diversity of plant and animal life across the range of habitats from the Tennessee Valley to the Appalachian Plateau put the state in the top 5 in the U.S. for number of different plant species.
And although we've only got a tiny sliver of Gulf Coastline, it's a sliver that is packed with development and natural/urban interfaces all around Mobile Bay. State lines don't do much about hurricanes, either, and environmental mitigation is becoming an important consideration for government, businesses, and individuals as storms sweeping in off the Gulf become more frequent and powerful.
It's a setup for a real demand for environmental specialists in Alabama's future, and the right education puts you in the front row for that growth.
What Can I Do with an Environmental Science Degree in Alabama
Water quality and climate change impacts will be significant there, and studies and conservation plans like those conducted at the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program will always be looking for scientifically-adept staff.
Private industry in Alabama is also a major market for graduates with environmental science degrees. BASF is the largest chemical company in the world, and their three Alabama plants are steady and lucrative sources of employment for chemists, biochemists, and environmental compliance specialists. The company's environmental scientists achieved a Virtually Zero Waste Facility certification at the Huntsville plant in 2017.
There is plenty of work to be done in Alabama and solid money to be made while doing it, from a mean annual salary of $42,870 for agricultural inspectors to a cool $73,550 for environmental scientists (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Master's in Environmental Science in Alabama
A master's degree obviously puts you at the top of the game in environmental science, and Alabama has a range of options to get you onto the field.
With a growing season that tops 300 days a year, agriculture is a major focus in Alabama environmental education, and a master's program like the one at Auburn will drop you into cutting-edge advances in crop and soil science.
The famous Tuskegee University offers MS degrees in both environmental sciences and environmental management, going into issues such as soil health and environmental toxicants, but also broadening out into climate change and ecosystem management.
You can also find more specialized programs in Alabama, like the highly-respected interdisciplinary program in Environmental Toxicology at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.
Bachelor's in Environmental Science in Alabama
Of course, before you can get a master's degree, you need to earn your bachelors. That's no problem in Alabama, with top-notch programs like the BS in Environmental Science at the University of Alabama.
Or you can find more specialized environmental science majors, like the Environmental Science Marine Biology degree at the University of West Alabama. Culminating in a 15-week hands-on internship at an industrial or state agency, it's a bachelor's that can offer you almost as much on-the-ground experience as some graduate degrees offer.
And if the big school experience is not for you and you are looking for a more intimate, boutique undergraduate experience, schools like Birmingham Southern College, with an environmental studies degree, or Troy University offer a great education without having to worry about getting lost in the crowd.
Online Environmental Science Degree Options from Schools in Alabama
The great news is that many of Alabama's environmental education programs are geared toward working professionals through online learning options that allow you to time shift classes and coursework around work or family, and don't make you relocate to a physical campus.
Both the Auburn and Tuskegee programs have distance learning options, while UWA puts both their master's in biology and conservation biology into online formats. And Private schools can deliver in environmental studies as well. Samford, a Christian school in Birmingham, has an MS in Environmental Management that is offered 100 percent online.