Environmental Science not only considers the practical elements of preservation and conservation, but it unearths the very questions of existence.
Why is our planet the way it is? What clues about the past will you find when you start digging? And how can we continue to protect it?
If these kinds of questions are important to you, then a bachelor’s degree in environmental science is the ideal next step.
What kind of Bachelor’s in Environmental Science degree should you get?
Even though environmental science is founded on the relationship between natural and social sciences, not all environmental science degrees are the same. For instance, while some universities emphasize policy and legal change, others stress the importance of research and field experience.
Are you passionate about climate change? Then you should check out Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Columbia.
Are you interested in the ethics of environmental science policy? Then UC Irvine, the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, or Cal State might be good options for you.
Have you considered earning your degree online? Distance education is a fantastic (that is, affordable and flexible) way to advance your education and career. Be sure to check out College Choice’s Best Online Colleges and Universities.
How much money do people make with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science degree?
The need for people like you—people who want to save the planet at all costs—is on the constant rise. For example, the demand for environmental scientists is projected to grow another 11 percent in just the next few years. That’s another 90,000 jobs!
Not only is the field stable, it’s lucrative too. Environmental Scientists make nearly $69,000 a year. And that number jumps up dramatically depending on job title. Environmental engineers, for example, make over $84,000 a year.
What can you do with Bachelor’s in Environmental Science degree?
Options are endless for someone holding a degree in environmental science. Specialize in oceanography and you can become a marine biologist. Or, concentrate in policy and community advocacy and become a nonprofit conservation consultant. The opportunities are limitless, extending from hydrology researcher to wildlife preserver.
This degree will also prepare you for advanced education. So if you want to earn a master’s or doctorate in environmental science, you will have the foundation, knowledge, and research experience to succeed in a competitive academic environment.
What are the requirements for a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science degree?
These are, hands down, some of the best schools in the nation. Competition is fierce. And once you’re in, well, it doesn’t get much easier.
However, you will be rewarded with one of the best academic experiences of your life. These programs will provide you with a sturdy foundation in the natural and social sciences. You’ll therefore spend the first two years take introductory science classes such as biology, chemistry, and earth sciences.
In your last two years you will get to dive in environmental science fundamentals, taking classes on ecology, climate change, wildlife conservation, and more. You will even get to specialize in a focus area, get your hands dirty with research and lab opportunities, and participate in internships and field work.
What are the best Bachelor’s in Environmental Science degrees?
These are the nation’s 35 best Bachelor’s in Environmental Science degrees. How did we compile such a list? First, we considered the quality of each program. Then we looked at affordability and the return on investment. And, last but not least, we factored in student happiness.
Our methodology draws from our own data experts, the excellent resources at US News & World Report, and the number-crunching wizards at Payscale.com. A rewarding career in environmental science awaits!
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $16,695
No surprise, Stanford University tops our list of the Best Bachelor’s in Environmental Science. Located in the northern Santa Clara Valley of California, Stanford University is one of the most reputable private research universities in the world. Its alumni have won hundreds of accolades, including 171 members of the National Academy of Sciences.
Stanford takes a fresh approach in its offering of a B.S. in Environmental Systems Engineering. This curriculum narrows your focus on coastal environments, freshwater environments or urban environments. Depending on your area of focus, you’ll take engaging coursework in some of the following areas:
- Wastewater Treatment: From Disposal to Resource Recovery
- California Coast: Science, Policy, and Law
- Adaptation to Sea Level Rise and Extreme Weather Events
- Sustainable Urban Systems
At the end of your bachelor’s degree, you’ll complete a capstone course specific to your focus area. These vary widely in content—everything from drafting an urban sustainability policy to working with regional companies to develop a disaster resilience plan to collaborating with global partners in international sustainability projects.
College Choice Score: 98.48
Average Net Price: $16,205
Arguably the best university in the world, Harvard University looms large as the pinnacle of higher education. Founded in 1636, it is the oldest university in the nation. Beyond Harvard University’s overall reputation, it ranks 8th in the country for its Earth Sciences program, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 ranking.
Harvard University’s Environmental Science & Public Policy degree takes a multi-disciplinary approach. You’ll tackle current environmental issues from a variety of perspectives. The curriculum is divided into introductory courses, foundational courses, junior seminars, and advanced courses. A sampling of what you might take includes:
- The Climate-Energy Challenge (Introductory)
- Environmental Politics (Foundational)
- World Food Systems and the Environment (Junior Seminar)
- Pollution Control in Aquatic Environments (Advanced)
The bachelor’s program at Harvard University looks at environmental issues nationally and globally. You’ll have the chance to travel extensively. Some past trips have included a climate issue course in Beijing, an oceanographic sailing trip to Key West, and a ecology study at the Sevilleta Field Station in New Mexico.
College Choice Score: 97.92
Average Net Price: $18,319
An intellectual giant, Yale University is one of the top private Ivy League schools in the nation. It is located in wooded New Haven, Connecticut. The School of Forestry & Environmental Studies was founded in 1900 and boasts one of the oldest graduate forestry programs in the country.
Yale University gives you the option of getting a B.S. or a B.A. in Environmental Studies. The B.A. is for students interested in environmental issues from a interdisciplinary aspect; the B.S. is for students who want to focus in the science aspect of the major. Your classes at Yale University will stand out for their specificity and depth. Some highlight courses include:
- The New England Forest
- Sustainable Development in Haiti
- Global Climate Governance
- Temperate Woody Plant Taxonomy and Dendrology
Regardless of the type of degree you earn (B.S. or B.A.), you’ll get the chance to settle into a focus area. Some past concentrations have included climate change, environmental policy, environmental history, urban environments, food and agriculture, biodiversity, and more.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 95.31
Average Net Price: $21,576
An academic hub for science and engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the top-ranked schools in the United States. MIT is also known as one of the most selective undergraduate universities, only welcoming 8 percent of its applicants. Because of its status, MIT enjoys numerous collaborations with research institutes and nearby universities.
MIT’s program gives you room to explore in its Bachelor of Science in Earth, Atmospheric, & Planetary Sciences. This degree incorporates classroom learning with hands-on labs, field experience, and research projects. During your second year of the program, you’ll narrow your focus to one of four areas:
- Atmosphere, Oceans, and Climate
- Environmental Systems
- Planetary Science and Astronomy
Field trips are a highlight for many students in the MIT undergraduate program. You’ll experience everything from observational astronomy nights to trekking the Himalayas to studying geology in the Mojave Desert. MIT believes strongly in taking the classroom outdoors.
College Choice Score: 93.63
Average Net Price: $19,950
Duke University—located in Durham, North Carolina—is a private research institution that is known and respected all over the world for its research and innovation. The Nicholas School of the Environment is home to numerous research institutes, like the Duke River Center, the Landscape Ecology Lab, and 7,000-acre Duke Forest.
The B.S. in Environmental Sciences at Duke University gets you up to speed with all the science fundamentals. After refresher courses in Chemistry, Calculus, Biology, Statistics, and Physics, you’ll dive into the core of environmental studies. Out of wide selection of courses, some stand-out topics include:
- Environmental Toxicology
- Sound in the Sea: Intro to Bioacoustics
- Global Fisheries Conflicts
- Terrestrial Field Ecology
Once you’ve completed your undergraduate coursework, you will undertake the Capstone Experience. This could be a project-based course that incorporates another discipline, a semester of independent research, or a field experience abroad. The Capstone Experience tends to be a perfect segue into a professional setting.
College Choice Score: 92.20
Average Net Price: $21,177
An elite Ivy League institution in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College is situated on a beautiful 270-acre campus. Among other accolades, it has been referred to as a leader in undergraduate teaching and research, according to U.S. News & World Report. It is highly selective, with only around 4,300 undergraduates.
In addition to the Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies degree, Dartmouth College offers three related minors: Environmental Studies, Environmental Science, and Sustainability. This program goes beyond the basics; it incorporates issues in environmental racism, journalism, law, and more. You’ll take classes like:
- Spatial Ecology and Conservation
- Native Peoples in a Changing Global Environment
- Getting to a Low Carbon Society
- Arctic Environmental Change
Similar to other programs, Dartmouth College values hands-on experience in this degree. Unique to this program, however, is the African Foreign Study Program. You’ll travel to South Africa, Lesotho, and Namibia to study environmental dynamics in a new culture.
College Choice Score: 92.10
Average Net Price: $19,055
Originally an all-male school, and one of the oldest in the state, Amherst College is a coeducational liberal arts school that remains one of Massachusetts landmark institutions. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked it the #2 liberal arts colleges in the nation.
The Environmental Studies bachelor degree at Amherst College takes the form of ten primary classes. First, you’ll complete six core courses. Then, you’ll choose four electives from two environmental studies categories: Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. Some of the core classes include:
- The Resilient Earth: An Introduction to Environmental Studies
- Global Environmental History of the Twentieth Century
- Economics with Environmental Applications
This program leaves you lots of room to specialize. For example, you can choose from a number of focused seminar classes. For example, seminars on Invasive Species, Fisheries, Sustainable Agriculture, and more. Finally, you’ll top off your degree with a senior thesis project.
University of Pennsylvania
College Choice Score: 91.29
Average Net Price: $22,944
A historical emblem of our nation’s early beginnings, the University of Pennsylvania was one of the fourteen founding schools in the Association of American Universities. In fact, it was founded by Benjamin Franklin! It has retained its reputation for over 250 years. It ranks #8 among national universities.
You’re given two options for a major at the University of Pennsylvania: Earth Science or Environmental Studies. Earth Science sends you on the hard sciences track (with concentrations in paleobiology and geology) and Environmental Studies broadens your scope to overlapping issues in our global environment. You’ll narrow your study with focus areas like:
- Environmental Policy & Application
- Global Environmental Systems
- Environmental History & Regional Studies
- Sustainability and Environmental Management
The University of Pennsylvania emphasizes research as a core feature of the undergraduate experience. Between independent studies, study abroad trips, internships, and your Senior Thesis, you’ll get ample amount of time doing hands-on research with distinguished faculty.
University of Chicago
College Choice Score: 91.23
Average Net Price: $31,068
Located in the heart of the “Windy City,” the University of Chicago is top-ranked research university. Undergraduates can choose from 51 different majors. The University of Chicago’s Common Core curriculum is known as one of the most academically rigorous in the country.
The B.S. in Environmental Science at the University of Chicago is designed for students who love biology, chemistry, and earth sciences. This program packs more of a punch in the hard sciences. Beyond the core classes can focus your study on climatology, conservation, or biogeochemistry. Some highlight courses include:
- Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry
- Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast
- Mammalian Ecology
The Marine Biological Laboratory Semester is a highlight for Environmental Studies students at the University of Chicago. Students travel to Woods Hole, Massachusetts to study Marine Biology. You’ll take six courses in total this semester that range in subject from microbial ecology to aquatic ecosystems.
College Choice Score: 89.22
Average Net Price: $22,973
One of the oldest academic institutions in the state, Columbia University is one of New York City’s gems. It is overflowing with notable alumni, including five Founding Fathers, ten U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and three past presidents (Barack Obama among them). It also ranks 5th in the nation for its Earth Sciences program.
At Columbia University you’ll choose between an Environmental Science major or an Earth Science major. This degree is decidedly earth-based in its focus; you’ll study geological and tectonic processes, global climate change, and hydrologic processes, just to name a few things. Some stand-out classes you can anticipate taking include:
- Design and Maintenance of a Habitable Planet
- Chemical Geology
- Plant Ecophysiology
- Environmental Risks and Disasters
The pinnacle of your undergraduate degree comes in the form of a Senior Research Thesis. In collaboration with a faculty member, you’ll design and implement a research project. Past students have studied impact of sea level rise, surface morphology of lava flow, and more.
College Choice Score: 88.29
Average Net Price: $25,264
Brown University is a highly selective Ivy League university that is located in Providence, Rhode Island. Brown University has forged a number of academic relationships with other research institutions. Some of these include the Marine Biology Laboratory, The Watson Institute for International and Public affairs, and more.
Brown University puts interdisciplinary study at the forefront of their Environmental Studies degree (you can earn an A.B. or a Sc.B.). Beginning with a core set of classes from four tracks—air/climate/energy, conservation science & policy, land/water/food security, and sustainability in development—you’ll pull in other diverse coursework like:
- Power, Justice, and Climate Change
- Conservation Biology
- Anthropology and Global Social Problems
- Engaged Climate Policy at the UN Climate Change Talks
For students who are looking for an extra challenge and engagement with their studies, you might consider the Engaged Scholars Program or Honors Program at Brown University. Or if you’re especially interested in climate change, the Climate & Development Lab is a student-based think-tank group.
University of California Los Angeles
College Choice Score: 86.15
Average Net Price: $14,236
The University of California Los Angeles (informally known as UCLA) is public research institution based in the Westwood district of LA. It is a globally-ranked university (10th, according to U.S. News and World Report, and its Earth Sciences program ranks 13th in the nation.
A hands-on program from the start, the B.S. in Environmental Science at UCLA is designed to give you real-world experience. You’ll gain a foundational knowledge of the hard sciences, and later weave in specific topic areas like renewable energy, GMOs, and climate change. Some highlight electives include:
- California’s Ocean
- Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics
- Humid Tropics
- Leadership in Water Management
Your options for a focus area are varied at UCLA. Once you take the core classes, you can specialize in one of these six areas: Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences, Conservation Biology, Environmental Engineering, Environmental Health, Environmental Systems and Society, Geography Studies, and Earth & Environmental Science.
Washington University in St. Louis
College Choice Score: 85.78
Average Net Price: $28,824
Named after our first president, Washington University in St. Louis a leading research university. Over 60 percent of its undergraduates are involved in faculty-guided research. It also ranks among the top 20 national universities according to both U.S. News & World Report and ARWU.
Washington University in St. Louis takes a slight pivot to the norm in offering a B.S. in Sustainability. This program still is grounded in science, but focuses more on the complex dynamics surrounding sustainability. Out of the 30-unit requirement of core courses, you’ll see some of the following:
- Global Sustainability
- Environmental Law: Applications toward Sustainability
- Environmental Ethics
- Nature and the American Literary Imagination
If you find a home in Washington University in St. Louis’s program, you’ll have the option to specialize in one of the following areas: Sustainable Environment and Science, Sustainable Management and Organizations, and Sustainable Communities and Development. You’ll take 15 units of coursework in your area of choice.
College Choice Score: 83.73
Average Net Price: $29,326
Just north of Chicago, in Evanston, Illinois, you’ll find Northwestern University. It is a far-reaching public research university that has branches around the country—and the globe! Northwestern University is one the top 10 universities in the nation for its use of renewable energy sources.
At Northwestern University, you’ll earn a B.S. in Environmental Engineering, which puts a practical application to the degree. This program will lean heavily on mathematics, chemistry, and basic engineering. Some of the focused environmental engineering coursework will include classes like:
- Engineering Aspects of Groundwater Flow
- Aquatic Chemistry
- Fluid Mechanics
- Environmental Microbiology
Northwestern University features the Walter P. Murphy Cooperative Engineering Education Program. This would give you not only a degree from one of the top schools in the nation, but also over a year of hands-on experience in the environmental engineering industry. You’ll be way ahead of the game!
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
College Choice Score: 83.50
Average Net Price: $10,077
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (or UNC Chapel Hill) is one of seventeen universities in the larger UNC system. It is a strong research center in area and incorporates research components in all of its 71 undergraduate majors. Around 18,700 undergraduates attend UNC Chapel Hill each year.
UNC at Chapel Hill delivers both a B.S. and B.A. in Environmental Science. The B.A. program excels in its concentration areas. You’ll have amazing electives to choose from regardless of your concentration. The three focus areas are Ecology and Natural Resources, Environment and Health, or Water and Climate. Some of the electives include:
- Landscape Analysis
- Infectious Disease in the Developing World
- Synoptic Meteorology
- Human Impacts on Estuarine Ecosystems
It’s worth noting that the B.S. in Environmental Science contains its own concentration area: Quantitative Energy. You’ll use analytics, informatics, or business to approach issues of sustainability. This will include study of GIS, Smart Cities, Environmental Systems Modeling, and more.
College Choice Score: 80.78
Average Net Price: $30,014
Based in Ithaca, New York, Cornell University is an Ivy League research institution. It has a land grant classification, and runs a number of land management programs throughout the state. The Cornell Botanic Gardens is a campus highlight, stretching over 4,300 acres adjacent to the campus.
The Environmental and Sustainability Sciences major at Cornell University is designed to give you focused study from the get-go. The goal is to help you tackle real-life environmental problems in a systematic way. As early as your first year, you’ll narrow your scope of study to one of four concentration areas:
- Environmental Biology and Applied Ecology
- Environmental Economics
- Environmental Policy and Governance
- Land, Air, and Water Resources
Cornell University students have front row seats to some of the coolest opportunities out there. Your undergraduate research could have you addressing hydrology and climate change issues. A study abroad trip could have you studying biology in New Zealand or aquatic life at the Shoals Marine Laboratory.
College Choice Score: 80.52
Average Net Price: $23,867
A leader in liberal arts education, Colby College is ranked 12th in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. Located in Waterville, Maine it has a front-row seat to the Atlantic Ocean. In 2013, it achieved campus carbon neutrality, and is one of only four academic institutions to do this so far.
Colby College has one of the oldest Environmental Science programs in the country. You’ll choose to major in Environmental Policy, Environmental Science, or Interdisciplinary Computation. With all the majors, Colby College emphases integrated learning. So you’ll get a touch of history and humanities with your science classes. Here’s a sampling:
- GIS and Remote Sensing
- Global Food Policy
- Vertebrate Natural History
- Nuclear Visions, Environmental Realities
Colby College has nurtured an academic relationship with the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. That means, you’ll get the chance to study at Bigelow for a semester and experience the vibrant marine life on coastal Maine. This kind of field experience is forefront to the Colby College experience.
University of Southern California
College Choice Score: 79.05
Average Net Price: $32,932
A private research university located in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California (USC) surpasses its own sunny reputation. It is a state leader in business, engineering, and earth sciences. U.S. News and World Report ranks it 21st in this year’s listing of the best national universities.
You’ll get a unique perspective from USC’s B.S. in Environmental Science and Health. This degree is intended to prepare you for a health profession that incorporates environmental issues. This means both your faculty and your curriculum will be diverse and interdisciplinary. Some courses included in the curriculum include:
- Science, Health, and the Environment
- Politics of Global Environment
- Environmental Health in the Community
- Water and Soil Sustainability
Because of USC’s location, you’ll have access to a wide variety of field study areas. For example, the program features research opportunities in both central LA (an urban setting) and the California Channel Islands (a marine-protected setting).
University of California-Irvine
College Choice Score: 76.29
Average Net Price: $13,780
Known as a “Public Ivy,” University of California-Irvine (or UC Irvine) is consistently praised for both its affordability and prestige. Among other accolades, it is home to a number of top earth science research institutes such as the Center for Complex Biological Systems, the UC Natural Reserve System, and more.
Starting with a solid base of chemistry, biology, and math, students at UC Irvine will complete their B.A. in Environmental Science by meeting the micro with the macro. You’ll find the intersection of microbiology with environmental policy (and much more!) with courses like:
- Economics of the Environment
- Human Ecology
- Data Analysis for Earth Science
- Births, Deaths, and Migration
If you’re ultimately interested in teaching at the high school level, UC Irvine might be the perfect spot for you. This program gives you the chance to earn a concentration in Geosciences Education with Secondary Teaching Certification on top of your B.A. in Environmental Science.
University of Michigan
College Choice Score: 76.20
Average Net Price: $16,107
The state’s oldest higher education institution, the University of Michigan (UM) is a public research university based in Ann Arbor. It is one of the most active research hubs in the nation, excelling especially in the STEM fields. UM’s Earth Sciences program ranks 8th in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The Earth and Environmental Sciences Major at the University of Michigan lets you steer your degree in the direction of Earth Sciences or Environmental Sciences. Each concentration has a field experience requirement, as well as a series of core courses. The shared coursework between the concentrations looks like the following:
- Global and Applied Geophysics
- Earth Surface Processes and Soils
- Climate and Climate Change
This program hosts a number of local and national field trips within the major. For example, students take advantage of Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes for glacial and atmospheric geomorphology research. Other trips have taken students to Chile, Spain, and New Zealand.
Texas A&M University
College Choice Score: 75.65
Average Net Price: $15,455
Texas A&M University is a public research institution located in College Station, Texas. With over 68,800 students, it is one of the largest universities by enrollment in the nation. Between its two primary research locations—Research Valley and Research Park—the university has almost 3 million square feet of space allocated to academic research.
The Environmental Studies program at Texas A&M University pulls from four departments: Atmospheric Sciences, Oceanography, Geography, and Geology. This blend of fields brings together a diverse and eclectic curriculum that totals 120 credits. You can anticipate taking some of the following classes:
- Planet Earth
- Resources and the Environment
- Pattern and Process in Biogeography
- Environmental Justice
If the core degree wasn’t comprehensive enough already, you can look forward to wide-ranging elective courses at Texas A&M. These “Environmental Theme” classes are based on four categories: Urban Environment, Occupational Health and Safety, Geographic Information Science and Technology, and Global Environment.
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
College Choice Score: 75.61
Average Net Price: $16,242
The oldest and largest campus in the University of Minnesota system, the Twin Cities campus enrolls over 51,000 students per year. Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, it is a leading public research university. The Science Teaching and Student Services building is a LEED-certified building that serves as a model for the rest of the campus’ sustainability goals.
The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities offers a major in Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management. The primary goal of this degree is to put your theory into practice, whether that comes in the form of environmental education, policy, business, or another field. You’ll be able to choose from four core tracks:
- Environmental Education and Communication
- Conservation and Resource Management
- Policy, Planning, Law, and Society
- Environmental Science
This program is known for its robust study abroad program. This degree pairs perfectly with field work internationally. You can choose from over 30 different locations. Some include international development in Thailand, ecology study in Australia, rainforest management in Costa Rica, and more.
Queens College, CUNY
College Choice Score: 74.95
Average Net Price: $8,704
A four-year college in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens College is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Undergraduates are given the option of 78 different majors. The Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment is a research center that focuses on the intersection between the policy and environmental issues.
You’ll choose between a B.S. and a B.A. in Environmental Science at Queens College, CUNY. They overlap quite a bit in content, though the B.S. requires 64 credits while the B.A. requires just 40. Both tracks feature a culminating capstone project and advanced courses such as:
- Principles of Hydrology
- Environmental Risk Management
- Soils in the Environment
The facilities at Queens College CUNY are designed to meet the needs of each student, regardless of their focus. The school maintains laboratories dedicated to sedimentology, geochemistry, GIS, meteorology/hydrology, and more.
California State University Long Beach
College Choice Score: 73.77
Average Net Price: $9,867
One of the largest schools in California, California State University’s premier campus is located in Long Beach and has over 37,000 students. Cal State Long Beach is organized into eight colleges and schools, including the highly regarded College of Natural Sciences, and it offers nearly 150 academic programs.
CSULB offers an interdisciplinary environmental science degree that combines economics and political science with ecology, earth science, and more. The broad, integrative nature of the program gives students an array of career options upon graduation. For example, graduates have gone on to become:
- Environmental Impact Report Writers
- Urban Planners
- Environmental Analysts
CSULB is not only known for its academic excellence, but also its student diversity, its affordability, and its commitment to sustainability. Regarding the latter, the Environmental Science and Policy Club has been an active student organization that has participated in coastal clean-ups, restoration projects, and more.
University of Virginia
College Choice Score: 72.36
Average Net Price: $15,945
One of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious universities, the University of Virginia (UVA) is a flagship campus. Around 22,000 students attend UVA and are enrolled in one of the University’s 200 academic programs. UVA is located in Charlottesville, Virginia.
UVA’s environmental science department is especially strong in the areas of hydrology, atmospheric science, ecology, and geoscience. And you can even concentrate in conservation through the formal specialization track. To do so means taking at least one course in the following:
- Biological Diversity, meaning a class about a group of organisms
- Environmental Diversity, meaning a class focused on a particular habitat
- Techniques in Conversation
- Plus a field experience
Science has recognized UVA as the site of some of the most important and advanced scientific research in the world. For that reason, among others, UVA is ranked among the top 25 best universities in the nation and among the 100 best in the world.
College Choice Score: 72.23
Average Net Price: $22,815
Located in New York City, Barnard College is a private women’s liberal arts college. Closely affiliated with Columbia, Barnard is one of the oldest and most prestigious women’s colleges in the world. Approximately 2,300 students attend.
The Environmental Science program at Barnard trains future scientists by providing a foundation in the earth and natural sciences. Barnard students also learn how to investigate environmental data and are then taught how to analyze and evaluate that data. This is an interdisciplinary degree program with classes such as:
- Earth’s Environmental Systems: Climate
- Earth’s Environmental Systems: Solid Earth
- Organismal and Evolutionary Biology
- And much more
At Barnard you will have the opportunity to partner closely with Columbia and its many research centers. You will also be able to connect with such institutes as the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities. Students often gain field experience through the SEA Semester at Woods Hole or through the summer programs at the School for Field Studies.
University of Florida
College Choice Score: 71.71
Average Net Price: $14,761
The University of Florida (UF) is not just one of the best schools in the state, but one of the best in the South. It is a leading research university and a land, sea, and space-grant institution. More than 54,000 combined undergraduate and graduate students attend UF.
At UF you can earn either a B.A. or a B.S. in Environmental Science. Whichever route you take you’ll spend at least two years forming a solid foundation in physics, chemistry, and biology. From there you’ll specialize in an area of personal interest and participate in labs, field experiences, and research opportunities. Some of the classes you’ll take at UF include:
- Environmental Science and Humanity Laboratory
- Critical Thinking in Environmental Science
- Environment and Society
- And much more
U.S. News & World Report ranks the environment and ecology departments at UF as being among the top 25 best in the nation. UF is also a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary for resource conservation, environmental and wildlife management, and outreach.
College of William & Mary
College Choice Score: 71.43
Average Net Price: $16,734
The College of William and Mary (W&M) is located in Williamsburg, Virginia. It is one of the nation’s oldest universities, as well as one the best. Around 8,500 students attend W&M and are enrolled in one of the College’s four schools.
At the College of William and Mary you can either earn a BS in Environmental Science or a BA in Environmental Science and Policy. While both give you a broad introduction to earth’s environmental systems and influences, the policy degree trains you specifically on enacting change. For example, some of the classes you’ll take include:
- Global Environmental Challenges
- Issues in Environmental Ethics
- Feminist Women Activists for Developing India
- Climate Change
The College of William and Mary is ranked among the top 10 best public universities in the nation. Similarly, it is nationally and globally ranked by Forbes, Times Higher Education, and U.S. News & World Report.
University of California San Diego
College Choice Score: 70.64
Average Net Price: $14,770
The San Diego campus within the renowned University of California System (UCSD) is known for its strengths in biology, oceanography, the physical and earth sciences, policy, and more. UCSD is the home of ongoing intensive research, and is considered a Public Ivy. More than 35,000 students attend UCSD.
Bringing together the natural and social sciences with public policy, law, and business, the Environmental Systems program at UCSD prepares students for a broad spectrum of career options. This interdisciplinary degree investigates environmental issues at local, national, and international levels. Some of the classes you’ll take as a UCSD student include:
- Environmental Biology
- The Solid and Fluid Earth
- Perspectives on Environmental Issues
- Environmental Challenges: Science and Solutions
UCSD has graduated dozens of Nobel Prize winners, National Medal of Science winners, MacArthur Fellows, Fields recipients, and much more. It is ranked among the top 50 best universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report. UCSD also has a “Gold” sustainability rating.
College Choice Score: 70.45
Average Net Price: $23,812
Nestled on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado College (CC) is a liberal arts school. It is located in Colorado Springs, offers over 40 majors, and has around 2,000 students. Colorado College is considered one of America’s best liberal arts colleges.
Colorado College trains future environmental scientists by emphasizing students’ connection to the environment. At CC you will explore the complex relationship between global ecosystems and human impact. You can even specialize in environmental policy or jump into the environmental chemistry or environmental physics track. Some of the classes you’ll take include:
- Introduction to Global Climate Change
- Sustainable Development
- Environmental Sociology
- Ecology and the Environment
U.S. News & World Report designated Colorado College the top “Most Innovative Liberal Arts School” in the nation. Though many of CC’s programs are world-renowned, its strengths mostly lay in biochemistry, neuroscience, feminist and gender studies, and environmental science.
CUNY Hunter College
College Choice Score: 70.31
Average Net Price: $10,201
Located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Hunter College is part of the CUNY consortium. Beyond its undergraduate programs, CUNY Hunter College also overseas Hunter College Elementary School and High School. Students enjoy the proximity to all of New York City’s culture and academic access.
The B.A. in Environmental Studies at CUNY Hunter College is delivered through the Department of Geography. Therefore, the curriculum leans heavily on geography. You’ll have the option of concentrating your major in one of two areas: Environmental Earth Science or Environmental Management and Policy. Some highlight elective courses include:
- Rural Water Supply in Developing Regions
- Geography of Soils and Vegetation
- Geomorphology: The Study of Beaches and Coasts
- GIS Analysis
The caliber of the undergraduate program at CUNY Hunter College is proven by the work of its alumni. Students have gone on to earn post-graduate degrees from Harvard Law and Stony Brook Marine Science; others now work at NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
CUNY City College
College Choice Score: 68.99
Average Net Price: $8,547
The most affordable program on our list, City College of New York is the public senior college of the CUNY system. It was established as the first free college in the country back in 1847. This historical college maintains the Advanced Science Research Center, which is a leader in environmental studies, structural biology, and neuroscience.
CUNY City College leads you in a couple of directions: a Bachelor of Engineering in Earth System Science and Environmental Engineering, or a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Earth Science. You’ll take a range of classes that cover content from the oceans to the stars. Some stand-out courses include:
- Groundwater Hydrology
- Biological Oceanography
- Satellite Meteorology
- Solid Earth Geochemistry
You’ll have access to engaging research institutes and seminars specifically targeted toward environmental science and engineering at CUNY City College. The Combustion and Catalysis Lab studies carbon-based material, and the Earth Engineering Center works toward innovative solutions to waste management.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
College Choice Score: 68.48
Average Net Price: $20,093
The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) is the flagship campus of the wider state system. It is known as the largest public university in the region, with over 30,000 students. The Amherst campus runs a Combined Heat and Power generation facility, which has been praised for its work in reducing the school’s greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent.
The program at UMass Amherst brings together three core areas: environmental conservation, geoscience, and agriculture. This unique curriculum gives you explore environmental issues from all angles—not just conservation science, but also policy, research, and application. You can look forward to industry-relevant classes such as:
- Global Change Ecology
- Wildlife Habitat Management
- Resource Policy and Planning
- Political Ecology
At UMass Amherst, you’ll find some unique academic opportunities. For instance, you’ll learn the basics of an environmental site assessment (ASTM-EPA procedures). Or you can get certified in hazardous waste operations and emergency response. You can literally take this degree anywhere you want.
College Choice Score: 68.30
Average Net Price: $29,998
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Northeastern University is a private research institution. It is known for its strong liberal arts curriculum, which weaves together experiential learning, study abroad programs, and co-op semesters. Northeastern University has been named one of the top “Green Colleges” in the past decade.
The B.S. in Environmental Science at Northeastern University provides structure and freedom in its curriculum. After completing your core science classes, you’ll specialize in Geoscience, Conservation Science, or Marine Science. If your interest fall outside of those areas, you can create your own way on the Independent Track. Some of your class options include:
- Tropical Terrestrial Ecology
- Igneous Petrology and Volcanology
- Environmental Pollution
- Soil Science
This program has a number of beloved extracurriculars among undergraduates. The Three Seas Program is a year-long field study that sends you to three marine-life settings: Nahant, the San Juan Islands, and Bocas del Toro in Panama. You also have access to the Massachusetts Bay Marine Studies Consortium.
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
College Choice Score: 68.03
Average Net Price: $10,068
A massive institution by enrollment standards, the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle enrolls close to 46,700 students. That makes it one of the largest in the nation. Its dedication to LEED standards and development of a Climate Action Team make UW Seattle a leader in college sustainability efforts.
The University of Washington’s College of the Environments has an impressive spread of seven undergraduate majors. With all of the major options, you have incredible research opportunities with the Pacific Ocean at your doorstep. Also, unlike other programs in which you specialize within a major, at UW, you get the entire major to yourself! Here are a few of your options:
- B.S. in Bioresource Science and Engineering
- B.A. or B.S. in Earth and Space Sciences
- B.A. in Environmental Science and Terrestrial Resource Management
- B.A. or B.S. in Oceanography
On top of it all, you could specialize even further with one of UW’s nine minors. Some student favorites are minors in Climate Science, Marine Biology, Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, and Quantitative Science. Obviously, you can’t go wrong with a program like this one.