Environmental Chemist

Environmental chemists help promote environmental sustainability, conservation, and protection by researching the environmental impact of chemicals and other substances. They develop methods to remove or clean up hazardous materials and study how chemicals interact with air, water, soil, and living organisms. They design experiments to test the effects of chemicals under different conditions and collect samples of air, water, soil, and waste for analysis.

At a Glance

Imagine that you arrive early at the laboratory, eager to delve into the ongoing projects that contribute to the understanding and preservation of our environment. The morning often kicks off with the calibration of specialized instruments to ensure accurate analyses in subsequent tests.

Once the instruments are calibrated, you transition into sample preparation. This involves meticulous handling and preservation techniques, adhering to established protocols to maintain the integrity of environmental samples.

The core of your day is the analytical testing phase. Using cutting-edge equipment, you conduct various tests to detect and quantify pollutants in air, water, soil, and sediments.

In analytical testing, data analysis becomes a focal point. Interpreting results, identifying patterns, and drawing meaningful conclusions are critical aspects of your role. This phase often involves collaboration with colleagues as you share insights and brainstorm solutions to challenges posed by ongoing projects.

Your communication skills are engaged as you document your research, summarizing experimental procedures, results, and conclusions. The meticulous documentation of findings ensures transparency and accountability in your work.

On certain days, fieldwork beckons, breaking the routine of laboratory analyses. Whether collecting samples, conducting surveys, or monitoring environmental conditions, being in the field brings a tangible connection to the ecosystems we aim to protect.

The multifaceted nature of your work as an environmental chemist ensures that each day is a dynamic mix of laboratory precision, fieldwork adventure, collaborative problem-solving, and a commitment to safeguarding our planet for future generations.

Job Duties

Job duties can vary from one position to the next, but in general, environmental chemists are involved in the following activities:

  • Design and implement environmental monitoring programs to assess the impact of pollutants on ecosystems.
  • Develop strategies for pollution prevention and mitigation.
  • Collect environmental samples, such as air, water, soil, and sediments.
  • Conduct analytical tests and experiments to detect and quantify pollutants or contaminants in the samples.
  • Use specialized laboratory equipment and instrumentation to analyze samples.
  • Maintain and calibrate laboratory equipment to ensure accurate and reliable results.
  • Analyze data obtained from experiments and tests to identify trends, patterns, and concentrations of pollutants.
  • Interpret results in the context of environmental regulations and guidelines.
  • Stay informed about environmental regulations and guidelines related to chemical pollutants.
  • Ensure that testing methods and results comply with regulatory requirements.
  • Prepare reports summarizing experimental procedures, results, and conclusions.
  • Communicate findings to colleagues, clients, and regulatory agencies.
  • Collaborate with regulatory agencies, industry partners, and stakeholders.
  • Provide education and outreach to the public, community groups, or industry on environmental issues and sustainable practices.
  • Engage in research activities to develop new methods for environmental analysis.
  • Stay current with advancements in environmental chemistry and related fields.

Work Environment

Environmental chemists work in a variety of locations, including:

The office:

  • Preparing paperwork and analyzing data for reporting
  • Researching literature and preparing reports and scientific papers
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and other scientists
  • Planning and implementing safety and environmental training programs
  • Keeping up to date on environmental regulations and legislation
  • Creating funding proposals for research projects
  • Researching new technology and advancements in chemistry
  • Consulting with other professionals in scientific fields

The lab:

  • Preparing test solutions and processing samples
  • Testing samples and conducting experiments
  • Designing experimental protocols
  • Calibrating instruments

The field:

  • Collecting samples for analysis
  • Conducting and directing environmental assessments and site clean-up projects
  • Performing on-site analyses for contaminants
  • Supervising fieldwork
  • Monitoring on-site crews

Where to Work

There are several places to find work as an environmental chemist. They include:

  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Colleges, universities, and research institutes
  • Biotechnology firms
  • Waste management firms
  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Agrochemical companies
  • Forensic labs
  • Firms in other industries, for example, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills


If you are a high school student considering a career as an environmental chemist, you should have a background or interest in:

  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Physics

The following postsecondary programs are most applicable for a career in environmental chemistry:

  • Chemistry
  • Environmental Science
  • Chemical Engineering

At a minimum, an undergraduate degree from an accredited post-secondary institution is required to work as an environmental chemist. Furthermore, most environmental chemistry positions are in research and require a graduate degree.

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.


Technical Skills

  • Knowledge of laboratory equipment (calibration, operation, and maintenance)
  • Field surveying techniques
  • Experiment design and execution
  • Systems analysis
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Database management
  • Data analysis
  • Statistical analysis
  • Quality control and assurance

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Oral and written communication
  • Detail-oriented
  • Leadership
  • Logic and critical thinking
  • Observational skills and critical thinking
  • Ability to work independently and with a team
  • Time management

Role Models

Benoît Desroches

Benoît Desroches was always interested in chemical phenomena and always appreciated nature. Today he has the good fortune to be able to combine his interest in chemistry with a mission to protect the environment from toxic and dangerous chemicals. Benoît works in the laboratory at Stablex Canada, where his job is to verify the chemical composition of industrial residues brought into the lab.

When necessary, Benoît puts the residues through a treatment program that neutralizes them. Benoît also determines the appropriate disposal method for the chemical residues, which means he takes responsibility for making sure environmental and safety regulations are followed. Benoît studied for his bachelor of science in chemistry at the Université de Montréal. He got his current permanent position at Stablex after completing a summer work term there. What does he enjoy about his job? "The challenge of working safely in spite of the risks the chemicals present."

Your Impact

Environmental chemists are critical to the welfare of the environment. By conducting research on the environmental impact of chemicals and other substances, they help to promote environmental sustainability, conservation, and protection.

These professionals explore new methods and technologies that contribute to sustainable environmental practices and pollution prevention and mitigation strategies. They also design and implement environmental monitoring programs.

They develop methods to remove or clean up hazardous materials and study how chemicals interact with air, water, soil, and living organisms. Environmental chemists also contribute to the formation of regulations that protect the environment and assess the long-term risks of contaminants in soil and groundwater, both to ecological and human health.

Occupational Classification

Environmental chemists are classified in the following occupational grouping:

NOC Code: 21101 – Chemists

What is an NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

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