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Environmental Scientist / Environmental Project Officer

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2019: 10,001 to 25,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $1301 to $1700 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2014
Brief Salinity is the biggest environmental problem that we are facing today. Undertaking research that might help to solve this problem is both challenging and exciting.

There are approximately 800 Environmental Scientists working in South Australia. Employment is largely full-time and most work in the Property and Business industry. Most persons in this occupation are males with the majority of workers aged between 25 – 34 years.

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An environmental scientist is interested in finding the answers to important scientific questions so that we may better understand and protect the environment. To manage our environment, we need to understand the ways in which we are changing it and the effect these changes have on our health and well being.

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Education Requirements

To become an environmental research scientist you will need to complete a relevant degree. Of those already employed in the occupation there are 75% who have Bachelor Degrees or higher qualifications, 6% who have Advanced Diplomas or Diplomas, 7% have either Certificate III or Certificate IV and 8% have no post school qualification.

TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Diploma of Conservation and Land Management. Pathways include Certificate II, III and IV in Conservation and Land Management.

SA Apprenticeships are available in this occupation for further information go to the Traineeship & Apprenticeship Services Website at or phone the Freecall number 1800 673 097.

Flinders University offers the following degrees: Bachelor of Environmental Management, Bachelor of Science (Biodiversity and Conservation), Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science).

The University of Adelaide offers the following courses: Bachelor of Science (EcoChemistry), Bachelor of Science (Ecology and Environmental Biology), Bachelor of Science (Sustainable Environments).

The University of South Australia offers the following courses: Bachelor of Science (Environmental Studies) and Bachelor of Biodiversity, Environmental and Park Management.

Career Path

Currently, prospects for environmental research scientists are best described as very good. A relatively high number of graduates, employment opportunities are therefore limited. Many environmental science graduates undertake their studies out of interest and to gain critical scientific research skills which can be applied to a broader range of careers. The level of government and industry funding that is available for research largely determines prospects for employment in this area. It is strongly recommended to take education to an honours or masters level.

For further information, contact:

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (SA)
Phone: (08) 8204 1910

Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand
Phone: (03) 8803 6150


Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing


To be updated.

Nature of the Job

As an environmental scientist, you might study global warming, endangered species or the effects of pollution on a particular ecosystem or species. What are the causes of salinity in the Wheatbelt? How do ecosystems work? and how do they react to human activities?' are all questions of keen interest at the moment.

Having posed an important question, an environmental scientist will develop a project or experiment that hopefully answers the question, or at least sheds some new light on the subject. They will then usually undertake a review of all available literature on their subject, before deciding how they will set up their experiment. The next step often involves going into the field to collect data so that the analysis and hopefully greater learning can occur.

A former Senior Research Scientist for the CSIRO Environmental Projects Office describes fieldwork as often involving collecting samples on a cold and rainy night or painstakingly picking small animals out of a mass of mud. So what keeps him at it? Its the thrill of discovering new things, like new species or new insights into how the world works and the chance to improve the way we interact with the environment. And it is challenging work!

Typical Physical Working Environment

Developing a research project requires specialist knowledge in the relevant area of scientific study. It also involves having a good understanding of experimental design. Added to that, you will need excellent research skills and lots of patience. You also need a logical approach to problem solving as well as technical aptitude in running instruments, calculating results and setting up equipment.

Typical Occupational Example

There are a number of fields within environmental research that you may explore. An environmental research scientist in the area of hydrology might look into the effects of pumping groundwater from the Coastal Plain, the main source of water for people in the metropolitan area. Plant physiology studies might focus on dieback, a problem in our native forests. Plant nutrition studies might look into the effect of nutrients in our waterways to prevent disasters such as the recent blue-green algal blooms in the Torrens River. Forest ecology investigates the impact of harvesting and logging and the impact of prescription burning. Environmental research scientists are most likely to be employed by organisations such as CALM, CSIRO or Agriculture SA.

Earning Potential

Salaries for new graduates in this area usually start at around $40,000 to $45,000. With more experience, an environmental research scientist can earn up to around $55,000. There are opportunities for career advancement to managerial positions, with salaries of around $60,000 and higher.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online