Louisiana is a state literally built by a river. Over the eons, the rich alluvial mud deposited by the mighty Mississippi as it drains off the freshwater of nearly half of the country mashes up with the salty swampland the Gulf has deposited to create the land that we live our lives on.
For many of us, the river also built our livelihoods. It's the same process that created the massive salt domes below the state, the same domes that trapped the ancient deposits of oil and natural gas that account for much of the wealth-and many of the environmental challenges-here today.
Deepwater Horizon was just the tip of the iceberg. The less dramatic, slower-moving disasters closer to shore don't get major Hollywood movies made about them, but they do require serious environmental response.
And where the Mississippi once breathed life into the Delta, today it carries toxins down from every upstream state, making Louisiana waters some of the most polluted in the nation.
Together with the threat of more and more powerful hurricanes that will make Katrina look like a gentle summer zephyr, and the ever-rising sea level swamping our delta and coastal regions, they offer more reasons than ever to earn a degree in environmental science here.
What Can I Do with an Environmental Science Degree in Louisiana
With all that going on, you better believe there are a ton of environmental science jobs up for grabs throughout the state.
The state itself, for starters, is a major employer of environmental impact specialists, managers, and scientists engaged in monitoring and mitigating environmental impacts. They work with their counterparts at major commercial entities like Georgia-Pacific, or the myriad specialist environmental engineering firms that major oil companies and manufacturing businesses contract out to.
All that oil money really pays off in certain fields. Geoscientists, for example, average around $110,000 annually here according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Soil and plant scientists, and zoologists, each can expect about $68,000 a year, and foresters make nearly $70,000.
Master's in Environmental Science in Louisiana
LSU may be the gold standard for Louisiana environmental science graduate degree programs. With a holistic, integrative approach that emphasizes interdisciplinary research and education, the school offers an MS in Environmental Sciences that takes full advantage of the on-the-ground experimental and research possibilities throughout the state. It also offers an MS in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences in both thesis and professional tracks.
Of course, you can find competition just down the road in Lafayette at the University of Louisiana. The master's in environmental resource science focuses on water and soil, the two major ecological platforms under threat here today. With strong ties to both the state agriculture industry and oil and gas, you get every perspective on the problems… as well as a chance to get hands-on in fixing them.
And for a more unusual degree, another Baton Rouge fixture, Southern University and A&M College, has a master of science in urban forestry and natural resources. It's a leader in a niche field and one of the most comprehensive urban forestry programs in the country today.
Bachelor's in Environmental Science in Louisiana
To get to a master's, of course, you have to go through a credible and competent bachelor's program. And there may be no better place for that than Louisiana, and in Louisiana, no better place than the revered campus of Tulane in New Orleans.
There, you can earn a BS in environmental earth science or geology, each of them packed to the gills with up-to-date data and extensive field trips and research opportunities, all delivered by highly competent instructors with real-world experience in the field.
But don't write off the public options here, either. Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, for instance, has a bachelor of science in biological science that will prepare you to go on to any elite master's program in the country. Five different concentrations allow you to focus your degree plan in exactly the area you hope to pursue a career in.