Ancient caverns, whitewater rapids, lush forests, and truly spectacular views courtesy of the New River Gorge are just a few of the natural features that make West Virginia's environment unmatched. But live in West Virginia and you've likely learned of this state's not-so-desirable past, when overzealous logging stripped the land and produced a vulnerable landscape prone to wildfires…when pig iron was smelted by iron furnaces that spewed toxic smoke into the air… and when acid drainage from unreclaimed strip mines poisoned the land.
But the last 50 years have brought about significant change to the Mountain State, returning much of its waterways, forests, and farmland to their previous glory. New laws at both the national and state level cleaned up abandoned mine waste, reduced toxic waste, protected endangered species, and improved land use. In 2018 alone, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection announced a $50 million plan to improve the state's water quality.
This state's efforts toward sustainability are greater than ever, but there's still more work to be done. Earn a degree in environmental science in West Virginia and you'll be part of this state's continued history in the making.
What Can I Do with an Environmental Science Degree in West Virginia
Environmental problems are never one-dimensional; therefore, environmental efforts toward sustainability are multi-faceted and require unique partnerships between state agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses.
In the public sector, environmental programs and initiatives are led by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, whose work covers issues related to air quality, mining and reclamation, water and waste, and oil and gas.
Nonprofit organizations committed to environmentalism and sustainability are abundant throughout the state. Big names include the West Virginia Environmental Council, which focuses its work on facilitating the growth and partnership of environmental organizations and supporting/overseeing legislative efforts, and the West Virginia Conservation Agency, which oversees a host of exciting environmental programs like the Agricultural Enhancement Program, the WV Chesapeake Program, and the OM & R Program, which administers the operations, maintenance, and repair of the state's 170 watershed dams and 22 channels.
The BLS, which provides current salary information for conservation scientist careers in West Virginia, revealed that the average, annual salary for environmental scientists and specialists was $56,380 in 2018. Geoscientists earned an even higher salary here, at $77,530.
Master's in Environmental Science in West Virginia
A master's degree in environmental science is the next step for environmental scientists with aspirations of leadership positions in some of West Virginia's largest agencies, environmental consulting firms, and nonprofit organizations.
The biggest name in post-secondary education in West Virginia, West Virginia University, offers an excellent selection of environmental science-related master's programs through the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design, including:
- Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
- Energy Environments
- Plant and Soil Sciences
- Resource Economics and Management
- Wildlife and Fisheries Resources
Bachelor's in Environmental Science in West Virginia
West Virginia University's bachelor's degrees in environmental science are diverse and include options like:
- Environmental Geoscience
- Environmental and Community Planning
- Environmental and Energy Resources Management
- Environmental and Natural Resource Economics
- Environmental, Soil and Water Sciences
- Forest Resources Management
- Wildlife and Fisheries Resources
Choose an undergraduate degree here and you'll enjoy opportunities to develop real-world skills in the university's research centers, clinics, and laboratories, such as the Animal Science Farm, the Core Arboretum, the University Forest, the Evansdale Greenhouse, the WVU Outdoor Education Center, and the West Virginia State GIS Technical Center.
Davis & Elkins College's BS in Environmental Science is another top program that features outstanding internship opportunities at places like the WV Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Other notable programs include West Virginia Wesleyan College's BA in Environmental Studies or BS in Biology with a concentration in Environmental Science and Ecology and Alderson Broaddus' BS in Environmental Science.