Examining the relationship between humans and the natural world, environmental science addresses a host of crucial contemporary issues, from global warming to modern agricultural practices. This complex field offers graduates a variety of job opportunities, and a bachelor's degree typically serves as the minimum educational requirement to begin a career in environmental science.
Review this guide to learn more about bachelor's in environmental science degrees, admission requirements, typical coursework, and career options for graduates.
What Are the Best Environmental Science Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top Five:
- University of Florida - Online - Gainesville, FL
- Southern New Hampshire University - Manchester, NH
- Oregon State University - Corvallis, OR
- University of Maryland Global Campus - Adelphi, MD
- Prescott College - Prescott, AZ
Earning a bachelor's in environmental science builds the foundational skills necessary for success in the field, and it prepares graduates for engaging jobs with the potential for career advancement. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for environmental scientists and specialists will grow by 8% from 2018-2028, which is faster than the national average for all occupations.
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2020 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Environmental Science Programs
University of Florida - Online
|Gainesville, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
A top public school based in Gainesville, UF hosts one of the country's top bachelor's in environmental science programs. This fully online degree focuses on environmental sustainability and innovation, exploring topics such as soil science, water resources, hydrology, pest management, and agricultural ecology.
This 120-credit interdisciplinary program combines math, sciences, economics, agriculture, and environmental studies. Candidates can also select from a variety of relevant elective courses, such as nanotechnology in food and agriculture, consequences of biological invasions, and soil and water conservation.
Graduates are prepared for a variety of careers, such as those related to agricultural production, consulting, and sustainability. UF reports that 58% of recent job-seeking graduates are either employed or have received a job offer upon graduation.
Program Name: Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management
Format: Hybrid (online/on-campus)
GPA: 2.0 minimum
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
One of the country's largest distance education providers, SNHU offers a fully online bachelor's in environmental science. This degree builds a foundation in the physical and natural sciences, and students can select from two optional concentrations in natural resources/conservation and geospatial technologies.
The 121-credit degree includes 40 credits in the environmental science major. A 28-credit program core covers topics like biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and environmental science. Students also complete 12 credits of concentration courses or general environmental science electives.
Undergraduates may be able to transfer up to 90 credits toward their bachelor's degree. Additionally, students with significant experience may be able to earn credit for work or life experience through the university's credit for prior learning program.
Program Name: Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science
Format: 100% online
Oregon State University
|Corvallis, OR||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
A public school based in Corvallis — about 80 miles southwest of Portland — OSU hosts one of the top bachelor's in environmental science programs in the Pacific Northwest. Students can also earn a geographic information science certificate as part of the program's general curriculum.
The 180-quarter-credit degree includes 27-34 core environmental science credits and at least 27 specialization credits. OSU offers seven distinct concentration options, including environmental policy and economics, aquatic biology, environmental water resources, earth systems, and applied ecology.
OSU offers several relevant online majors for environmental science students, including agricultural business management, botany, fisheries and wildlife sciences, and marine conservation and management. Online learners gain access to an assortment of academic resources, including student success coaching, tutoring, library services, and career counseling.
Program Name: Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences
Format: 100% online
GPA: 3.0 minimum
University of Maryland Global Campus
|Adelphi, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 15%||
Serving students around the world, UMGC offers a fully online bachelor of science in environmental management degree. This interdisciplinary program prepares graduates to implement environmental management models and mitigate a variety of environmental issues, such as air pollution and hazardous waste.
All candidates complete 33 credits of major coursework, focusing on topics such as environmental and ecosystem principles, geographic information systems, environmental technology, and global environmental management. UMGC offers two concentration options: sustainability and toxicology and hazard control. Participants can also design their own focus based on their professional interests.
Online courses are delivered in eight-week blocks, allowing students to concentrate on fewer courses at a time. All UMGC courses use a fully asynchronous format with no set log-in times or live class meetings.
Program Name: Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management
Format: 100% online
|Prescott, AZ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
A private liberal arts college based in Arizona, Prescott College offers an online bachelor's in environmental science that explores human dependence and influence on Earth's natural systems. Building a broad knowledge of natural sciences and environmental policy, the program frames scientific study in the context of natural history, ethics, and ecology.
The 120-credit curriculum addresses four major competency areas: earth and physical science, life science, social systems, and personal values. Signature courses include conservation biology, energy and the environment, and natural history and ecology of the Southwest.
The program prepares graduates for a variety of career paths, including jobs related to education, environmental law, conservation, and marine biology. Prescott College reports that 79% of recent graduates are currently employed or enrolled in graduate school.
Program Name: Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies
Format: Online with an optional campus orientation
Online Bachelor's in Environmental Science Program Overview
Many bachelor's in environmental science degree plans adopt an interdisciplinary approach to the field, covering natural sciences, math, environmental policy, conservation, and sustainability. Broadly, most programs explore the relationships between humans, other living organisms, and the planet. Coursework discusses environmental issues and measures to improve environmental sustainability.
Given the field's broad focus, many environmental science programs offer students the chance to concentrate on a particular area, such as ecology, environmental policy, environmental education, agriculture, or water resources. Students may also be able to design their own concentration to match their professional interests. A concentration may help graduates distinguish themselves to employers when searching for a job.
While a bachelor's degree opens an assortment of career opportunities in the field, advanced positions — including those focused heavily on the sciences — may require a master's degree. Academic career paths and those focused on research may also require a doctorate.
Common Bachelor's in Environmental Science Degree Courses
- Climate Science
This course explores the physical, chemical, and biological processes that affect the planet's climate, including their interactions with the atmosphere, land, and oceans. Coursework examines the natural and human causes of climate change while employing a variety of observation methods and models.
- Environmental Law and Policy
Examining the environment from political and legal perspectives, this course typically highlights the history of U.S. environmental policy and its growth over time. Students also receive an overview of the legal system and its institutions as they relate to environmental regulation.
- Environmental Ethics
Offering a conceptual approach to environmental studies, environmental ethics courses typically focus on the moral and philosophical issues that arise from humans' relationship with the environment. Courses may explore the moral status of plants and animals, the loss of biodiversity, and the use of the environment by future generations.
- Introduction to Sustainability
Many environmental science programs operate within a general framework of sustainability, and this course introduces fundamental concepts in the creation and maintenance of sustainable ecosystems. Students commonly explore general topics, such as biodiversity, individual and collective impact, and scientific validity.
- Human Ecology
This course examines humankind's impact on the environment, often addressing ecological, political, and sociological perspectives. Typical course topics include the effects of population growth, global warming, habitat destruction, and consequences of pollution. Coursework may also focus on basic concepts of biodiversity and conservation biology.
Online Bachelor's in Environmental Science Admission Requirements
High School Diploma
Like other undergraduate degree tracks, a bachelor's in environmental science program requires applicants to possess a high school diploma. Most online programs also accept a GED certificate, though this may vary between schools.
Environmental science programs also require applicants to submit their academic transcripts from high school and/or other colleges they have attended. Some schools maintain specific GPA requirements, though many programs offer conditional acceptance to applicants with lower GPAs.
Many bachelor's programs may require applicants to submit standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT. However, schools may waive these requirements for applicants who have been out of high school and in the workforce for five years or more.
Letters of Recommendation
Though not universal for undergraduate programs, some colleges require applicants to submit letters of recommendation from teachers, supervisors, and/or other professionals familiar with an applicant's background. Most schools ask for 1-3 letters that speak to an applicant's character and potential to perform college-level work.
Along with standard admission requirements, like transcripts and test scores, colleges require applicants to complete an individual application that details their personal information. Many schools accept the Common Application, which enables applicants to complete one form and submit it to many colleges.
Online Bachelor's in Environmental Science Career Paths
Environmental science majors can pursue career paths related to environmental conservation, environmental policy, and sustainability. Environmental scientists work within government agencies and in the private sector in fields such as consulting or engineering.
While a bachelor's degree forms a strong foundation for employment in the environmental science field, a master's degree or even a doctorate may be required to progress to the highest levels of many career paths.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What can I do with a degree in environmental science?
Environmental science graduates may participate in the field in many different ways, from combating pollution and conserving/increasing biodiversity to advising policymakers on the environment. Graduates may find work in public and private sectors, with common jobs including environmental engineer, hydrologist, and conservation scientist.
- How much can you make with a degree in environmental science?
As with any field, salaries vary based on a worker's position, location, education, and experience. However, the BLS reports relatively high median annual salaries for many positions, such as environmental engineers ($87,620), environmental scientists ($71,130), and hydrologists ($79,370).
- What are the major fields in environmental science?
Given the diversity of Earth's environment and the issues affecting it, environmental science encompasses many fields and career pathways. Common concentration areas for environmental scientists include agriculture, environmental policy, conservation and sustainability, ecology, and water resources.
- How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree in environmental science?
Most bachelor's in environmental science programs take about four years of full-time study to complete. However, some colleges offer increased flexibility to meet student needs, including accelerated enrollment options that enable students to complete credits faster and part-time options for those who must balance school with other obligations.
- Are environmental scientists in demand?
Many environmental science positions boast strong job prospects. For example, the BLS projects above-average job growth from 2018-2028 for several environmental science careers, including environmental scientists and specialists, hydrologists, and environmental science and protection technicians.
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