A relatively new academic arena, environmental science incorporates elements of biology, chemistry, physics, and geography. Environmental science degree programs feature interdisciplinary curricula and may also cover aspects of the social sciences. Environmental scientists study the natural world and the ways in which humans and other organisms interact and affect the environment.
Learners pursuing an on-campus or online environmental science degree must demonstrate a strong background in the hard sciences. Most programs require applicants to have a minimum 3.0 GPA. In addition to classroom instruction, environmental science degree programs usually require laboratory hours and fieldwork.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), environmental scientists earn a median salary of $71,360 per year, compared to a median annual salary of $39,810 for jobs in all fields. The BLS projects an 8% growth rate for environmental science jobs from 2019-2029, double the average projected growth rate for all occupations. These projections indicate that graduates of online environmental science programs may enter a strong job market.
What Are the Goals of an Environmental Science Degree?
Schools offer environmental science degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Environmental science is a broad field of study, and learners often specialize in an area such as ecological systems, sustainability, conservation, environmental management, or energy and air pollution control.
Students pursuing an online environmental degree typically follow the same curriculum as their on-campus peers. Upper-level classes cover topics such as environmental regulations, ecological economics, and global environmental politics. Most environmental science programs also feature fieldwork during which learners conduct research and test hypotheses through experimentation and data collection.
Top Online Environmental Science Degrees
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Why Get an Environmental Science Degree?
Students pursuing a degree in environmental science learn to examine, understand, and find viable solutions for pressing topics. Graduates can use these skills to address issues such as climate change, fire ecology, renewable energy, and bioremediation.
- Expand Knowledge
- While earning a degree in environmental science, students explore the latest developments and research findings in the field.
- Increase Credibility
- A degree in environmental science demonstrates expertise in the field. Many employers value degree-holders as disciplined and knowledgeable professionals.
- Diversify Career Options
- An online environmental science degree qualifies individuals for field and laboratory research positions. Graduates can also work for environmental regulatory agencies, advocacy groups, and pharmaceutical companies.
- Improve Income Potential
- According to BLS data, bachelor’s degree-holders earn a median weekly salary $502 higher than that of workers with a high school diploma. Degree-holders also enjoy lower unemployment rates.
- Foundation for Postsecondary Education
- A bachelor’s degree in environmental science can qualify holders for graduate programs. While some master’s and doctoral programs admit applicants with a degree in an unrelated field, most prefer candidates with a background in environmental science.
What kind of jobs can you get with an environmental science degree?
In addition to environmental scientist positions, graduates can qualify for jobs such as hydrologist, microbiologist, zoologist, and oceanographer. Professional opportunities vary based on the individual’s specialization area.
Are environmental scientists in demand?
The BLS projects an 8% growth rate among environmental science positions from 2019-2029, a rate much faster than the national average for all occupations.
What is an environmental scientist's salary?
Environmental scientists earned a median salary of $71,360 in 2019. This is significantly higher than the median annual salary of $39,810 for all occupations in the economy.
How long does it take to earn an environmental science degree?
Most full-time students earn their bachelor’s in environmental science in four years. Learners with an associate degree in a related field or a bachelor’s degree in another area of study may graduate faster.
What Are the Requirements for an Environmental Science Degree?
Applicants to bachelor’s-level environmental science programs typically need an academic foundation in one or more of the hard sciences. Most schools also require candidates to have a minimum 3.0 GPA and above-average SAT or ACT scores. Admitted students may need to complete prerequisite coursework before enrolling in environmental science classes.
A bachelor’s in environmental science typically requires 120 credits, including classroom instruction, laboratory work, and fieldwork. Learners in online environmental science programs may need to complete a summer internship, and curricula often culminate with a comprehensive exam, a research project, or a thesis.
What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?
Professional Organizations for Environmental Science Students
Professional organizations for environmental science professionals often provide access to research findings and developments in the field. Many organizations offer publications, workshops, webinars, and regional and national conferences. Members may also collaborate with colleagues from around the world.
American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists
AAEES offers free memstrongership for students enrolled in an accredited environmental engineering or environmental science program. Professional memstrongers receive the organization's pustronglications and a 50% discount on certification fees. AAEES administers certifications for environmental engineers and environmental scientists.
National Association of Environmental Professionals
Memstrongers of NAEP enjoy exclusive access to the organization's pustronglications, westronginars, and workshops. The association helps memstrongers stay updated on current and emerging issues in environmental science and related fields. NAEP also maintains a career center for employers and jostrong-seekers, and the association provides collastrongoration, networking, and mentoring opportunities.
Society for Conservation Biology
This international organization provides extensive networking opportunities for memstrongers. SCB pustronglishes peer-reviewed journals and newsletters, and the society delivers resources for students, educators, and practitioners. SCB maintains a searchastrongle datastrongase of memstrongers, featuring each professional's areas of expertise to facilitate collastrongoration and mentorship.
Scholarships for Environmental Science Students
Environmental science students often qualify for STEM scholarships, which many colleges and universities offer for undergraduate and graduate learners. Students can also apply for awards from private nonprofit organizations, special-interest private groups, and the federal government. The list strongelow features a few of the many funding opportunities availastrongle to individuals pursuing an online environmental science degree.
Who Can Apply: Full-time freshmen and sophomores pursuing a degree at a partner institution can apply for this two-year scholarship opportunity. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and identify as a memstronger of a minority group. Candidates studying certain fields, including environmental science, receive preference.
Who Can Apply: The scholarship program administered strongy Brown and Caldwell accepts applications from undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in environmental science or a related engineering field. Undergraduate applicants must hold at least a junior standing in their program and must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates must stronge enrolled full time.
Who Can Apply: Shred Nations and Record Nations partner to offer this award for students pursuing a degree in strongusiness or environmental science. Applicants must sustrongmit an essay or a strongrief video descristronging how they plan to use their education to contristrongute to their community or improve environmental responsistrongility.
Best Online Environmental Science Degrees 2021
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A public university located in Gainesville, UF offers an online bachelor of science in environmental management. Upper-division students who compete Florida core coursework do not need to come to campus, but freshmen students may need to complete labs in person.
The 60-credit program includes core courses such as supervised research in soil and water science, natural resource policy and management, environmental biogeochemistry, and fundamentals of pest management. Students choose from approved elective courses, including nanotechnology in food, comparative world agriculture, the world of water, and principles of entrepreneurship.
Applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 2.0 and must complete three required courses to transfer into the program: general chemistry and lab, general chemistry 2 and lab, and survey of calculus.
UF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Based in Corvallis, OSU offers an online bachelor of science in environmental management. Students can apply for any of the four start dates per year and must complete 180 quarter-credits in total.
Students begin with the general education core before moving on to 60 credits of environmental management work. Course topics include environmental law, urban forestry, watershed management, and ecology. Students can specialize in a number of related fields such as applied ecology, aquatic biology, environmental agriculture, and geographic information science. Each certificate offers students a series of elective courses designed to better direct learning.
The school does not require students to submit standardized tests as part of the application process. First-year applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 2.0. Transfer students must possess a minimum GPA of 2.4 for transfer credit eligibility. The department recommends that students complete required math courses before beginning the major.
OSU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Southern New Hampshire University
Located in the city of Manchester, SNHU offers an online bachelor of science in environmental science. Students can choose from one of two concentration options: data analytics in science or natural resources and conservation.
The 120-credit program includes core environmental science courses such as environmental ethics, environmental science research methods, and ecological principles and field methods. Students can participate in field research and citizen science projects as well as gain experience in grant writing. Students can also pursue different licensure options throughout the program. Students participate in lab courses with custom lab packets mailed to them, giving them hands-on experience with the online courses.
Students do not need to supply SAT or ACT scores to begin the application process. The school allows students to transfer up to 90 credits toward their degree. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
University of Maryland Global Campus
Based in Largo, UMGC offers an online bachelor of science in environmental management. Students complete 120 credits total and may transfer in up to 90 credits of eligible courses to graduate faster. The program helps students prepare for roles that help to manage air pollution, water pollution, solid waste, and hazardous waste.
Students take general education core courses first and then start on required major courses. Notable required courses include environment and ecosystems principles, environmental regulation and policy, introduction to geographic information systems, and global environmental management issues. Students also take related electives such as pre-calculus, introduction to statistics, and environmental chemistry. Students can also study hazard control and toxicology topics, as well as sustainability topics.
The school does not require students to submit SAT or ACT scores as part of the application process. UMGC is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.