Iowa is defined by rivers. The Mississippi is our eastern border line, and the Big Sioux and the Missouri form the west. The Des Moines, Cedar, and a whole raft of other rivers named after local critters lace down through the center of the state, irrigating our vast croplands.
But those croplands are slowly killing long and proud rivers, presenting an ecological challenge that stretches far beyond our borders, affecting ecosystems as far away as the Gulf of Mexico. Less than one percent of the original long grass prairies that originally cultivated our rich soil remain. The farmland that has largely replaced them has been salted with fertilizers and pesticides that have caused nitrate levels in local rivers to more than triple since the 1950s.
Like most slow-motion ecological disasters, what took a long time to realize will take even longer to correct. Clean-up and mitigation efforts in Iowa will provide environmental scientists with plenty of work for decades to come.
What Can I Do with an Environmental Science Degree in Iowa
If you guessed that most of what you can do with an environmental degree in Iowa revolves around agriculture, you guessed right. Whether working for the state or for the many private consultancies or ag companies that operate here, there are plenty of positions for soil scientists, hydrogeologists, and environmental engineers throughout Iowa.
But there are other big industrial outfits like Cummins and Arconic in the state who also need environmental scientists for mitigation and compliance work.
We're also a great state for cutting-edge jobs in wind and solar energy, with employers like Avangrid which specializes in planning and building out green energy projects scattered across Iowa cropland.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all those soil and plant scientists are bringing in just shy of $80,000 a year on average, making them one of the better bets in the state. Conservation scientists generally make only around $56,820, but other environmental specialists and geoscientists can expect to make in the mid $70,000 range.
Master's in Environmental Science in Iowa
A master's degree gives you the kind of in-depth preparation and scientific expertise that it takes to reach the top of the field in environmental science. Iowa is blessed with a strong university system that can put you among the top tier of graduates in any state at the master's level.
TheUniversity of Iowa program in geoscience is one of those avenues, and one that is particularly aligned with the needs in the state for soils and aquifer studies.
Iowa State, meanwhile, goes both broader and more specialized, offering master of science degrees in Environmental Science, Sustainable Agriculture, and Wildlife Ecology among others, giving you either the 50,000 foot perspective of the state of ecology nationally and globally, or allowing you to drill down into agri-science or small ecosystem management.
Bachelor's in Environmental Science in Iowa
The state's many fine undergraduate universities have programs that allow you to prepare yourself either for direct entry into the environmental science profession or to lay the groundwork for further studies at the master's level.
In Fayette, Upper Iowa University has an environmental science major that builds on a strong foundation of math, chemistry, physics, and biology to offer the flexibility for students to prepare for a wide range of outcomes.
Buena Vista University, in Storm Lake, has a unique program in environmental science that aims much more directly at careers in conservation work, consulting, and cleanup. The innovative department has undertaken projects such as running a hackathon in conjunction with the computer science department to build an environmentally-themed app. Students also have the opportunity to volunteer on active environmental restoration projects. The combination of innovation and practical application has led to a 100 percent post-graduation employment rate for BV environmental science students.
For a fieldwork-focused degree, Drake has a bachelor's in environmental science that endeavors to put students out in the field as often as possible. And although the fieldwork opportunities in Iowa are vast, Drake doesn't stop there… students have undertaken projects in Rwanda and Belize in the course of their studies as well.