attending school for environmental studies

Attending School for Environmental Studies: What to Expect

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College-bound students interested in protecting the planet may decide that going to school for environmental studies is their path toward making a positive impact. 

According to the most recent data by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there was a conferral of 6,532 environmental studies bachelor’s degrees during the 2017-2018 school year. 

Thankfully, for the planet’s sake, the number of enrollments for environmental degree programs is on the rise as employment expands into the green-tech sector and more companies develop sustainability initiatives across all industries. 

Whether you’re considering an environmental studies degree, recently declared your major, or are continuing your education, there is much to look forward to from this subject area.

Environmental Studies vs. Environmental Science

Although environmental studies and environmental science may sound interchangeable, they’re actually very different degree programs.

An environmental science curriculum concentrates heavily on applied mathematics, technology, chemistry, and biology. On the other hand, environmental studies are interdisciplinary, integrating natural science with social science and humanities to understand human interactions with the environment.

For example, even with adequate waste management tools, about 80% of global sewage enters rivers and other bodies of water. Environmental studies majors may focus on conserving natural resources, studying wastewater’s impacts on human health, and advocating new policies for improved waste management.

Students can enroll in school for environmental studies to obtain a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate. With each level of education, graduates gain invaluable knowledge and scientific training to solve complex environmental issues from a social and political standpoint.

What Types of Courses are Offered?

Environmental studies curriculums deliver an exciting courseload that may merge history and geography topics with global ecological issues or teach students how to write for environmental research and policy-making. 

In addition to general requirements and introductory natural science topics, students may have an opportunity to enroll in the following courses: 

  • Conservation Management: This course examines biodiversity and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, promoting the conservation of endangered species. Students can expect to learn about the most current conservation management tools in the field.
  • Sustainability: Sustainability studies take a closer look at social and environmental relationships and the consequences of human activity on the planet. Students may read case studies about different global initiatives that address climate change, pollution, and loss of wildlife.
  • Environmental Policy: Effective policies are the key to environmental accountability and protection on the local, regional, national, and international levels. This course allows students to read about laws and regulations for protecting the planet and reducing climate change.
  • Environmental Ethics: Environmental ethics blends philosophical ideas with ecological issues that test students’ moral obligations to protect the environment. Students will better understand their core beliefs regarding environmental stewardship and learn essential reasoning skills for defending their arguments.  

Depending on the school, many environmental studies degrees allow students to concentrate on a specialized subfield, such as environmental economics, natural resource management, water resources, or energy policy. 

Careers in Environmental Studies

Students who go to school for environmental studies prepare themselves for a wide range of fulfilling and purposeful careers. In fact, the job outlook for environmental positions is expected to increase by 8% between 2020 and 2030. 

At the bachelor’s level, graduates may want to pursue the following roles:

  • Environmental consultant
  • Conservation managers
  • Environmental health and safety specialists
  • Sustainability specialist
  • Environmental educator

You might also decide to leverage your environmental-focused writing and communication skills in public relations, grant writing, fundraising, or advocacy roles with a nonprofit organization. 

Of course, the higher the degree level, the more employment opportunities you become eligible for in the field. 

Create Positive Change With an Environmental Studies Degree

There’s never been a greater need for solutions to the environmental crisis than right now. Environmental studies degrees lead to exciting careers in the green sector and equip students with the expertise and scientific training to make a real difference in the world.

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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.