Online Master’s Programs in Environmental Science

Graduates with bachelor's degrees in environmental science may find it beneficial to choose a specialization. Learn more about enviromental science.

October 18, 2021

reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Online Master’s Programs in Environmental Science

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Online Master's in Environmental Science Rankings, Salaries and Courses

Graduates with bachelor's degrees in environmental science may find it beneficial to choose a specialization. Some might want higher-level jobs in environmental science or to change their careers. These students can benefit from an environmental science master's program online.

Environmental science covers a broad area of topics, but environmental science master's programs provide opportunities for students to focus on specific areas of interest. Concentrations include climate change, ecology, energy, natural resources, policy, and sustainability. This page introduces master of environmental science programs with the goal of helping learners decide whether to pursue an advanced degree path.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Environmental Science Program?

A master's in environmental science online allows students to focus their studies and provides extensive training in research, data, and analysis. It also opens doors to professional paths identifying and formulating policies and remedial action plans to combat problems like increased carbon emissions, rising sea levels, natural disasters, and resource depletion. Because environmental science degree programs involve fieldwork, field trips, and lab work, students should expect a hybrid of online classes and in-person experiential learning.

What Common Courses Are Offered in a Master's in Environmental Science Program?

Environmental science course content varies depending on the school, program, master's degree type, and concentration area. The list below contains five examples of common courses offered by environmental science master's programs, giving you a general idea of what to expect from a master's in environmental science. These courses cover topics ranging from computer modeling and data analysis to environmental monitoring and policy.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Environmental science master's programs typically require a capstone, thesis, or final project. Some programs allow students to graduate if they log enough fieldwork hours instead. A thesis or final project comprises a student's original research, demonstrating their skills in critical thinking, design, and data analysis. Students work with advisors to produce papers of publishable quality in peer-reviewed, academic, or professional journals.

A capstone often entails applying skills and knowledge gained in the program to a specific environmental problem under the direction of a faculty member.

What Specializations Are Available in a Master's in Environmental Science Program?

Specializations vary significantly by program and degree, such as environmental science, environmental management, environmental safety and health, resource management, and sustainability. The list below offers three examples of specialty areas.

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What Can I Do with a Master's in Environmental Science Degree?

Master's in environmental science graduates can pursue careers as regulators, analysts, specialists, restoration planners, and ecologists. Consulting firms and state government agencies employ nearly half of environmental scientists, followed by local government, engineering firms, and the federal government.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the following five positions to grow by 8% from 2018 through 2028.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Environmental Science?

A wide range of occupations fall under the umbrella of environmental science, and opportunities in all categories should increase in the coming years. The positions below can't guarantee set wages, but the following information provides information regarding salary potential and projected job growth for each profession related to a master's in environmental science.

Career Salary Projection
Career Median Annual Salary Job Growth (2016-2026)
Climate Change Analyst$71,13010%-14%
Environmental Health and Safety Specialist $46,170 10%-14%
Environmental Restoration Planners $71,13010%-14%
Environmental Scientists $71,130 11%
Industrial Ecologists$71,13010%-14%

Online Master's in Environmental Science Program Accreditation

Top environmental health and protection master's programs receive accreditation from the National Environmental Health Science & Protection Accreditation Council, whose criteria include a strong academic natural science curriculum and hands-on fieldwork opportunities for students.

Otherwise, no accrediting organizations exist specifically for environmental science programs. Because environmental science master's programs tend to anchor in research, students should look for schools with regional accreditation from agencies approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Regionally accredited schools undergo rigorous review to validate their academic quality.

How to Pay for a Master's in Environmental Science Degree

Funding sources for master's in environmental science degrees typically include loans, scholarships, and fellowships. Other ways to pay for your degree include working while studying online and campus research assistantship positions or tuition waivers. While online students qualify for financial aid, other funding sources may require some individual research.

Techniques for Financing a Master's in Environmental Science

Master's in environmental science online programs typically charge lower tuition rates than traditional on-campus programs. Students in these programs can also keep their jobs while earning their degrees. While more common in doctoral programs, some master's programs in environmental science may offer research assistantships and/or may waive tuition costs. Prospective students should check with their schools of interest to see if those options exist. Online environmental science master's students can apply for direct unsubsidized loans of up to $20,500 per year from the federal government. To apply, complete the FAFSA online.
Scholarships for Master's in Environmental Science Students
Scholarship Amount Who Can Apply

Eckenfelder Scholarship

$5,000 This scholarship helps full-time graduate students in environmental science pay for their education. Applicants must submit a resume, a 250-word essay, recommendations, and an official transcript evidencing a 3.0 GPA.

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration

$8,000 This fellowship supports graduate students at accredited institutions who study and conduct research in restoration conservation and ecology. Applicants submit research proposals and budgets, along with a resume, a cover letter, and recommendations.

National Environmental Health Association and American Academy of Sanitarians Scholarship

$2,500 This scholarship assists graduate students in environmental health sciences at accredited colleges and universities with their tuition and fees. Applicants submit online applications, transcripts, and recommendations, one of which must come from a NEHA member.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program

Up to $42,000 Full-time master's students in resource management of coastal or ocean areas who maintain a 3.3 GPA can apply for up to two years of funding. Recipients must submit annual reports on their academic activities.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program

$46,000 This program supports students early in their graduate education who conduct research in science, math, technology, or education. Prospective students must submit their applications online and include statements on their research plans and career goals.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Current and aspiring environmental science students can find additional information and support through professional organizations, which offer networking opportunities, career development resources, and useful information on current topics in the field.

Environmental professionals and students benefit from industry publications, continuing education webinars, conferences and other networking events, volunteer opportunities, and a career center. Students can join at a discounted rate. This nonprofit provides board certification, training workshops and seminars, and research publications. Student members can join for free, and the academy sponsors a university lecture series and chapters. An association of faculty and students, AESS seeks to support environmental scholars and scientists with research information, networking and idea sharing, model curricula and professional standards, career development and mentoring, and professional advice. This community of ecologists, researchers, educators, and policy makers advocates for its members and offers online access to publications, an annual meeting, certification, networking, and publishing grants. Students receive a discounted rate. This organization seeks to develop high-level standards of proficiency and ethics within the environmental profession. It offers an annual conference, member events, webinars, workshops, professional certification, and online research materials. NEHA supports its members through advocacy, a "day in the life" of an environmental health professional blog, training and networking events, credentialing, and discounted student memberships. Taking a science-based, multidisciplinary approach to finding solutions to environmental problems, this organization offers professional and student memberships. Benefits include online publications, annual meetings, resume posting, mentoring, and networking. Students can join SER at a discounted "emerging professionals" rate and gain access to training tools, networking opportunities, job and internship listings, and current research on climate change, desertification, and land and water degradation. Working for healthy land and clean water, member benefits include newsbriefs and publications, conferences and networking events, committee service opportunities, and advocacy. It offers a discounted student rate. This nonprofit educational and technical organization posts water quality and sustainable development news. It also hosts an annual water quality conference and a stormwater symposium, and it provides certification and offers continuing education resources.

Online Master's in Environmental Science Programs 2021

North Carolina State University at Raleigh View School Profile Raleigh, NC $14771

NCSU is one of North Carolina's major public colleges. The school's master of environmental assessment explores proper management practice for natural and artificial environmental pollutants. The program highlights science applications in environmental regulation, decision-making, and management.

Learners complete a minimum of 30 credits, including 22 core credits and elective credits. The program core covers topics such as environmental stressors and environmental monitoring. Electives explore specialized subjects such as natural resources, renewable energy, and water quality assessment.

NCSU's environmental science degree caters to working students. All courses run fully online. Most candidates complete 1-2 courses per semester. The program uses a mix of synchronous and asynchronous elements. Most live classes run in the evenings, but students can complete other program parts at any time of day.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign View School Profile Champaign, IL $15829

One of the Midwest's largest public colleges, U of I enrolls more than 52,000 students annually. The school offers a 32-credit master's in environmental science with part-time enrollment options. Learners explore topics such as forestry, soil science, and horticulture.

Candidates can pursue a thesis or non-thesis track. Courses cover watershed hydrology, environmental law and policy, and soil and water conservation. Thesis candidates complete 4-12 hours of thesis research. Non-thesis students complete either a capstone, internship, or group project. They also complete a comprehensive final exam.

Applicants need a background in fundamental sciences, including 2-3 courses in biological and physical sciences. Applicants also need a minimum 3.0 GPA on their last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework. Students with any previous graduate coursework need a minimum 3.5 GPA.

University of Houston-Clear Lake View School Profile Houston, TX $10664

Based in Clear Lake, Texas, UHCL offers one of the state's top master's in environmental science programs. Enrollees choose from three specializations: environmental chemistry, environmental biology, and environmental geology. Full-time students can complete the program in 16 months.

The 36-credit program requires nine core credits and 27 elective credits. Core courses cover applied statistics and research methods. Candidates also complete a graduate seminar or research project. Electives explore topics such as conservation biology and environmental risk management.

Students must complete either a research project or graduate seminar. Degree-seekers can explore a specialized area of environmental science through the research project. At the program's end, candidates present their findings through a paper and public presentation.

University of Illinois at Springfield View School Profile Springfield, IL $10733

UIS is one of Illinois' major public colleges. The school offers a master's in environmental science that runs fully online. Candidates can choose from three concentration options like general environmental science. Other options include environmental planning and management, and sustainable development and policy. Online enrollees complete the same curriculum and engage with the same professors as campus students.

All concentration tracks include a minimum of 40 credits. Candidates complete a mix of core courses, concentration courses, electives, and closure requirements. All learners complete three core courses. They include environmental natural sciences, environmental social sciences and humanities, and research methods in environmental science. The general track lacks concentration courses. Instead, students work with an advisor to select 24 elective credits.

All enrollees complete either a thesis, graduate project, or capstone. The thesis and graduate project focus on research. The capstone allows students to apply their learning to a professional environmental science setting.

Oregon State University View School Profile Corvallis, OR $18625

A major Oregon public college, OSU offers one of the state's top master's in environmental science programs. Candidates choose from either a traditional or professional master's degree. The traditional track includes a thesis or research project. The professional track includes an internship. Both tracks require at least 45 credits. The program runs fully online and offers four annual start dates.

The traditional master's prepares graduates for research careers or Ph.D. programs in environmental science. Candidates choose from eight concentration options, including biochemistry, climate change, and water resources. All traditional master's candidates complete at least 15 concentration credits.

The professional master's prepares candidates for less research-focused careers in the environmental science field. Degree-seekers choose from the same eight concentration options. However, this track offers a more hands-on focus. All professional master's candidates complete a six-credit internship with an environmental science agency.

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