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Choosing an Environmental Science Degree

The number of environmental science degrees is growing in number. Students can now earn an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and even a doctoral degree in this field.

If you’re interested in preservation, sustainable development, energy use, and air quality control, a degree in environmental science will prepare you to tackle new and evolving environmental challenges. And the time is now to tackle these challenges. Your degree will prepare you to work in a number of settings from research to clinical laboratories.

Degree Types and What They Mean

There are four degree types, each of which has specific requirements:

  • Associate’s Degree: If you’re not sure about a four-year degree program, an associate’s degree is a great first step towards starting your career in pursuing your educational goals. An associate’s degree often takes two years to complete, and provides the basic knowledge and training to secure entry-level employment in the field. You’ll need a high school diploma or GED to apply in addition to other admissions requirements specified by the school.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree often takes four years to complete and also requires a high school diploma or equivalent to apply. Additional admissions requirements often include letters of recommendation and SAT or ACT scores. A bachelor’s degree also requires students to complete general education courses in addition to subject-specific classes such as biology, chemistry, ecology, environmental ethics, and toxicology.
  • Master’s Degree: A master’s degree in environmental science is an academically rigorous program designed to prepare students for advanced study and research in the field. Many programs offer students the option to specialize in one particular area of environmental science such as climatology, occupational and environmental health, biodiversity, as well as many other concentrations. A master’s degree often takes two or three years to complete and may require a thesis or research project in order to graduate. Admissions requirements vary by school.
  • Doctoral Degree: For the academically inclined, a PhD is the highest level of educational attainment. PhD programs can take anywhere from five to ten years to complete and require students to complete a dissertation. A PhD is designed for students preparing for research, scholarship, or teaching. However, some PhD holders go on to secure high-level positions at government agencies or top scientific organizations that promote environmental education and awareness.

What degree you choose depends on your professional and academic goals. Each program offers its own goals and curricula. Make sure you discuss your options with an admission adviser before enrolling in a program.

Coursework and Other Requirements

What program you choose will determine the courses you need to take. But here are just a few of the many subjects you’ll likely encounter throughout your academic career:

  • Principles of Environmental Science
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Climate Change
  • Public Health
  • Plant Evolution
  • Conservation Biology
  • Physics
  • Earth Science
  • Urban Ecology

The above list is just a sampling; other courses will also be offered, depending on the program. And if you specialize in one particular area of environmental science, say urban ecology, you’ll likely take more classes in this discipline.

Online programs in this field are very similar to traditional programs, if not the same when it comes to coursework and training. The one difference of course is the learning environment. You’ll complete your classes online and earn your degree from the comfort of your home. If you’re considering an online program, check out our list of schools below to help start your search.

Featured Online Programs

Ashford University — The Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies at Ashford University explores cultural, social, and environmental issues at the local and global level. The Environmental Management MBA program features a greater emphasis on business management of environmental organizations. Ashford University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), 985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, CA 94501, 510-748-9001,
Johns Hopkins University — Johns Hopkins University offers numerous degrees in the environmental science field. The school's MS in Environmental Sciences and Policy degree features an interdisciplinary curriculum in the basic sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Courses review the ozone layer, greenhouse gases, nuclear waste, and acid rain.
Liberty University — The Bachelor of Science in Green & Sustainable Management from Liberty University features a curriculum that reviews federal EPA and state environmental rules and regulations, explores environmental principles, and examines environmental protections. Courses study industrial waste, solid waste and hazardous waste management along with solutions for minimizing air, soil and water pollution.
Purdue University — The Purdue University Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy and Management degree program provides for an interdisciplinary approach to environmental science. Courses study environmental issues and policies and examine relationships between public and private sectors. The MS in Environmental Policy dives deeper into the field, by questioning current trends in the industry.
Rochester Institute of Technology — The MS in Environmental Science from Rochester Institute of Technology is a great degree for those venturing out into the green industry. Upon graduation, students will be able to utilize project management skills to achieve performance objectives, demonstrate a working knowledge and leadership of an array of renewable energy sources, and prepare sample bids and sample project development plans.
Southern New Hampshire University — The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science degree from the Southern New Hampshire University helps students prepare for a teaching career in secondary schools, colleges, and universities. Courses include Principles of Biology, Introductory Chemistry, Principles of Environmental Science, Physical Geology, and Conservation Biology.
Colorado Technical University — "CTU’s Doctor of Management - Environmental and Social Sustainability degree program is designed for professionals passionate about making a positive difference in the world. As more organizations recognize the need to conserve energy and other resources, this doctorate degree can help you acquire the credentials to guide organizational policy and action in a direction that shows concern for profits, people and the planet."
Stockton University — "The PSM is built around a solid core of required technical and non-technical courses that provide common baseline knowledge. This core is supplemented by a broad selection of electives tailored to an individual’s specialty area. In combination, the core and associated electives form a curriculum that can easily adapt to the needs of individual students."

Click here to see more online environmental science degrees

search for a degree is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.