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Choosing a Major

Earth & Life Sciences (ELS)

Careers in the Earth, Life Sciences

A very wide range of professional careers is associated with the natural sciences and environmental issues, and the list of possible career directions is long. Recent environmental legislation requiring compulsory environmental and cultural assessment, and concern about development issues in policy planning, has opened up further exciting new fields:

  • Agricultural scientist
  • Archaeologist
  • Aquatic scientist
  • Atmospheric Scientist
  • Botanist
  • Climatologist
  • Conservation biologist
  • Ecologist
  • Educator, teacher
  • Environmental & cultural resource manager
  • Environmental policy advisor
  • Fisheries scientist
  • Forestry scientist
  • Geochemist
  • Geographer
  • Marine Biologist
  • Marine Geologist
  • Meteorologist
  • Oceanographer
  • Palaeoanthropologist
  • Palaeontologist
  • Plant ecologist
  • Rural and urban development advisor
  • Zoologist

All of these fields may be pursued as professional careers in National Laboratories and Research Institutes (eg Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Council for Geoscience, SA Weather Bureau, National Botanical Institute, SOEKOR), Government departments (eg. Water Affairs and Forestry, Energy, Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marine and Coastal Management), Parks Board, Museums and Universities and Technikons.

Scientists in these institutes make inputs to national and local environmental and development planning. Geologists, geochemists, marine geologists and palaeontologists are employed in both the onshore and offshore mining and oil exploration industries. Soil and plant scientists are employed in agriculture and agribusiness (crops, development, forestry). Fisheries employ marine biologists and oceanographers, and the growing mariculture industries are driven by aquatic scientists. Environmental scientists of all kinds can become cultural and environmental conservators and impact assessors, who may be employed in Government, NGO's, parastatals, Consulting Engineering companies or self-employed. Teachers are essential for educating the next generation about our unique South African environment, in schools and in the many emerging education centres.

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