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masters in environmental science in usa

Last Updated on June 9, 2021 by

Want to save our planet and get paid doing it? Start by earning one of the best Bachelor’s in Environmental Science degrees.

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.

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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 A rewarding career in environmental science awaits!


See our rankings methodology page.Collapse All Expand All

  1. Stanford UniversityLOCATIONStanford, CATUITION$$$$$OverviewNo surprise, Stanford University tops our list of the Best Bachelor’s in Environmental Science. Located in the northern Santa Clara Valley of California, Stanford University is one of the most reputable private research universities in the world. Its alumni have won hundreds of accolades, including 171 members of the National Academy of Sciences.Program FeaturesStanford takes a fresh approach in its offering of a B.S. in Environmental Systems Engineering. This curriculum narrows your focus on coastal environments, freshwater environments or urban environments. Depending on your area of focus, you’ll take engaging coursework in some of the following areas:
    • Wastewater Treatment: From Disposal to Resource Recovery
    • California Coast: Science, Policy, and Law
    • Adaptation to Sea Level Rise and Extreme Weather Events
    • Sustainable Urban Systems
    NotablesAt the end of your bachelor’s degree, you’ll complete a capstone course specific to your focus area. These vary widely in content—everything from drafting an urban sustainability policy to working with regional companies to develop a disaster resilience plan to collaborating with global partners in international sustainability projects.
  2. Harvard UniversityLOCATIONCambridge, MATUITION$$$$$OverviewArguably the best university in the world, Harvard University looms large as the pinnacle of higher education. Founded in 1636, it is the oldest university in the nation. Beyond Harvard University’s overall reputation, it ranks 8th in the country for its Earth Sciences program, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 ranking.Program FeaturesHarvard University’s Environmental Science & Public Policy degree takes a multi-disciplinary approach. You’ll tackle current environmental issues from a variety of perspectives. The curriculum is divided into introductory courses, foundational courses, junior seminars, and advanced courses. A sampling of what you might take includes:
    • The Climate-Energy Challenge (Introductory)
    • Environmental Politics (Foundational)
    • World Food Systems and the Environment (Junior Seminar)
    • Pollution Control in Aquatic Environments (Advanced)
    NotablesThe bachelor’s program at Harvard University looks at environmental issues nationally and globally. You’ll have the chance to travel extensively. Some past trips have included a climate issue course in Beijing, an oceanographic sailing trip to Key West, and a ecology study at the Sevilleta Field Station in New Mexico.
  3. Yale UniversityLOCATIONNew Haven, CTTUITION$$$$$OverviewAn intellectual giant, Yale University is one of the top private Ivy League schools in the nation. It is located in wooded New Haven, Connecticut. The School of Forestry & Environmental Studies was founded in 1900 and boasts one of the oldest graduate forestry programs in the country.Program FeaturesYale University gives you the option of getting a B.S. or a B.A. in Environmental Studies. The B.A. is for students interested in environmental issues from a interdisciplinary aspect; the B.S. is for students who want to focus in the science aspect of the major. Your classes at Yale University will stand out for their specificity and depth. Some highlight courses include:
    • The New England Forest
    • Sustainable Development in Haiti
    • Global Climate Governance
    • Temperate Woody Plant Taxonomy and Dendrology
    NotablesRegardless of the type of degree you earn (B.S. or B.A.), you’ll get the chance to settle into a focus area. Some past concentrations have included climate change, environmental policy, environmental history, urban environments, food and agriculture, biodiversity, and more.
  4. Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyLOCATIONCambridge, MATUITION$$$$$OverviewAn academic hub for science and engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the top-ranked schools in the United States. MIT is also known as one of the most selective undergraduate universities, only welcoming 8 percent of its applicants. Because of its status, MIT enjoys numerous collaborations with research institutes and nearby universities.Program FeaturesMIT’s program gives you room to explore in its Bachelor of Science in Earth, Atmospheric, & Planetary Sciences. This degree incorporates classroom learning with hands-on labs, field experience, and research projects. During your second year of the program, you’ll narrow your focus to one of four areas:
    • Atmosphere, Oceans, and Climate
    • Environmental Systems
    • Geoscience
    • Planetary Science and Astronomy
    NotablesField trips are a highlight for many students in the MIT undergraduate program. You’ll experience everything from observational astronomy nights to trekking the Himalayas to studying geology in the Mojave Desert. MIT believes strongly in taking the classroom outdoors.
  5. Duke UniversityLOCATIONDurham, NCTUITION$$$$$OverviewDuke University—located in Durham, North Carolina—is a private research institution that is known and respected all over the world for its research and innovation. The Nicholas School of the Environment is home to numerous research institutes, like the Duke River Center, the Landscape Ecology Lab, and 7,000-acre Duke Forest.Program FeaturesThe B.S. in Environmental Sciences at Duke University gets you up to speed with all the science fundamentals. After refresher courses in Chemistry, Calculus, Biology, Statistics, and Physics, you’ll dive into the core of environmental studies. Out of wide selection of courses, some stand-out topics include:
    • Environmental Toxicology
    • Sound in the Sea: Intro to Bioacoustics
    • Global Fisheries Conflicts
    • Terrestrial Field Ecology
    NotablesOnce you’ve completed your undergraduate coursework, you will undertake the Capstone Experience. This could be a project-based course that incorporates another discipline, a semester of independent research, or a field experience abroad. The Capstone Experience tends to be a perfect segue into a professional setting.
  6. Dartmouth CollegeLOCATIONHanover, NHTUITION$$$$$OverviewAn elite Ivy League institution in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College is situated on a beautiful 270-acre campus. Among other accolades, it has been referred to as a leader in undergraduate teaching and research, according to U.S. News & World Report. It is highly selective, with only around 4,300 undergraduates.Program FeaturesIn addition to the Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies degree, Dartmouth College offers three related minors: Environmental Studies, Environmental Science, and Sustainability. This program goes beyond the basics; it incorporates issues in environmental racism, journalism, law, and more. You’ll take classes like:
    • Spatial Ecology and Conservation
    • Native Peoples in a Changing Global Environment
    • Getting to a Low Carbon Society
    • Arctic Environmental Change
    NotablesSimilar to other programs, Dartmouth College values hands-on experience in this degree. Unique to this program, however, is the African Foreign Study Program. You’ll travel to South Africa, Lesotho, and Namibia to study environmental dynamics in a new culture.
  7. Amherst CollegeLOCATIONAmherst, MATUITION$$$$$OverviewOriginally an all-male school, and one of the oldest in the state, Amherst College is a coeducational liberal arts school that remains one of Massachusetts landmark institutions. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked it the #2 liberal arts colleges in the nation.  Program FeaturesThe Environmental Studies bachelor degree at Amherst College takes the form of ten primary classes. First, you’ll complete six core courses. Then, you’ll choose four electives from two environmental studies categories: Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. Some of the core classes include:
    • The Resilient Earth: An Introduction to Environmental Studies
    • Global Environmental History of the Twentieth Century
    • Economics with Environmental Applications
    • Ecology
    NotablesThis program leaves you lots of room to specialize. For example, you can choose from a number of focused seminar classes. For example, seminars on Invasive Species, Fisheries, Sustainable Agriculture, and more. Finally, you’ll top off your degree with a senior thesis project.
  8. University of PennslyvaniaLOCATIONPhiladelphia, PATUITION$$$$$OverviewA historical emblem of our nation’s early beginnings, the University of Pennsylvania was one of the fourteen founding schools in the Association of American Universities. In fact, it was founded by Benjamin Franklin! It has retained its reputation for over 250 years. It ranks #8 among national universities.Program FeaturesYou’re given two options for a major at the University of Pennsylvania: Earth Science or Environmental Studies. Earth Science sends you on the hard sciences track (with concentrations in paleobiology and geology) and Environmental Studies broadens your scope to overlapping issues in our global environment. You’ll narrow your study with focus areas like:
    • Environmental Policy & Application
    • Global Environmental Systems
    • Environmental History & Regional Studies
    • Sustainability and Environmental Management
    NotablesThe University of Pennsylvania emphasizes research as a core feature of the undergraduate experience. Between independent studies, study abroad trips, internships, and your Senior Thesis, you’ll get ample amount of time doing hands-on research with distinguished faculty.
  9. University of ChicagoLOCATIONChicago, ILTUITION$$$$$OverviewLocated in the heart of the “Windy City,” the University of Chicago is top-ranked research university. Undergraduates can choose from 51 different majors. The University of Chicago’s Common Core curriculum is known as one of the most academically rigorous in the country.Program FeaturesThe B.S. in Environmental Science at the University of Chicago is designed for students who love biology, chemistry, and earth sciences. This program packs more of a punch in the hard sciences. Beyond the core classes can focus your study on climatology, conservation, or biogeochemistry. Some highlight courses include:
    • Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry
    • Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast
    • Mineralogy
    • Mammalian Ecology
    NotablesThe Marine Biological Laboratory Semester is a highlight for Environmental Studies students at the University of Chicago. Students travel to Woods Hole, Massachusetts to study Marine Biology. You’ll take six courses in total this semester that range in subject from microbial ecology to aquatic ecosystems.
  10. Columbia UniversityLOCATIONNew York, NYTUITION$$$$$OverviewOne 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.Program FeaturesAt 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
    NotablesThe 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.

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