Environmental science is a broad, interdisciplinary field that encompasses the biological earth and physical sciences. Environmental scientists identify and develop solutions for a range of environmental problems, including pollution, deforestation, and food sustainability. Depending on the field of expertise, professionals with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science can work as hydrologists, conservation scientists, or environmental engineers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 11% growth rate for environmental scientists and specialists, which is faster than the 7% average projected job growth. Due to climate change and human activity, such as mining and mass plastic production, environmental problems are on the rise and becoming more complex. There is a need for well-trained environmental scientists to address problems and to devise solutions that are environmentally friendly and sustainable.
To develop this list, we examined several factors that affect the quality of an online environmental science degree program, including tuition, academic resources, course offerings, student retention, and graduation rates. The ideal online bachelor’s degree in environmental science will correspond to current academic goals and long-term professional objectives.
This list includes relevant information about prospective schools, so you can choose the online environmental science program that suits you best.
Environmental science bachelor degree holders can find work in several sectors of the industry. Though a degree does not guarantee a successful career or a high salary, it equips graduates with the skills and knowledge that are applicable to a variety of jobs, including the five positions listed below. These job opportunities have relatively high median annual salaries and faster than average job growth, which bodes well for graduates who plan to establish a career in environmental science.
Environmental scientists and specialists work to protect the natural environment and preserve human health. Their responsibilities typically include collecting, analyzing, and compiling air, food, soil, and water samples. They also develop and implement solutions to environmental problems, and working with corporations and communities to reduce waste and minimize the environmental impact of their activities. Environmental scientists can take on specialized roles such as climate change analysts.
Conservation scientists work with farmers, agricultural managers, ranchers, and other stakeholders to improve and maximize land use without endangering or damaging the environment. They implement plans for better forest management, oversee conservation efforts, and monitor the use of cleared land. Foresters design, implement, and monitor reforestation plans, draw up strategies to keep forests disease-free and safe from invasive insect populations and wildfires, and evaluate data on forest and soil quality.
Government and private agencies often consult with environmental engineers regarding follow-up procedures when cleaning contaminated sites. Environmental engineers also inspect commercial and municipal facilities to ensure compliance with environmental regulations, conduct hazardous waste management studies, and design environmental protection projects like pollution control and water reclamation systems. They often collaborate with policymakers to address global concerns such as climate change, environmental sustainability, and unsafe drinking water.
Environmental science and protection technicians fulfill several functions including investigating the sources of contamination and pollution, inspecting establishments to ensure they are environmentally compliant and safe, and creating and maintaining pollution-monitoring equipment. They work with federal and local governments, consulting firms, private and commercial companies, and testing laboratories to identify and solve a range of environmental and public health problems.
Hydrologists study how changes in the environment affect water quality and supply. They often collaborate with stakeholders and policymakers to develop water conservation strategies and evaluate the feasibility of water-related projects, such as dams, irrigation systems, and wastewater treatment facilities. Hydrologists also address the effects of environmental erosion and pollution and devise ways to mitigate and minimize negative impacts.
Sources: BLS 2018
Geographic location has a strong influence on salary level and job growth potential of environmental scientists and specialists. According to the BLS, California has the highest level of employment for this occupation, followed by Texas, New York, Ohio, and Washington. In terms of salary, Washington pays environmental scientists and specialists top-dollar, followed by the District of Columbia, Maryland, Utah, and California.
Coursework for online environmental science degrees can vary greatly between schools since each school maintains a curriculum designed to meet its academic objectives. Most schools offer similar lower-division classes that give students the foundation to begin their career. Upper-division courses tend to be more focused on particular areas of specialization. Students should contact the school for specific information, such as course requirements and class schedules.
In this course, students examine large-scale climate patterns and how they impact the earth and its inhabitants. They learn about topics such as atmosphere-ocean interaction, hurricane and tornado development, and wind circulation patterns.
Students examine emerging conservation topics with a focus on protecting, preserving, and promoting biodiversity. They also study the different tools that are used in conservation efforts, their effectiveness, and how to enhance their usefulness.
This course teaches students about different environmental phenomena, such as global warming, environmental acidification, and sedimentation, that are affected by natural geological processes, like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The course also explores the impact of human activity on the geology of the planet.
Students become familiar with GIS, which are frameworks for gathering, analyzing, and managing data about different areas of the earth. Using GIS data, they learn to interpret and organize layers of information into 3D representations.
This course provides an overview of topics at the forefront of environmental science such as sustainability, climate change, and environmental health. Students also learn about sustainable energy options and long-term environmental solutions.
Before deciding which online environmental science program to pursue, examine the key factors that affect program quality. These factors include tuition, courses, graduation requirements, student-to-faculty ratios, and student retention rates. You should also make sure the programs you consider reflect your personal preferences, like the availability of asynchronous courses or the number of required onsite visits.
Below are answers to five commonly asked questions about online environmental science programs.
Enroll in classes that give you the opportunity to explore different aspects of environmental science that you already find interesting and classes that cover topics you would like to know more about. A healthy academic curiosity and an open mind will more than likely lead you to a section of environmental science where you can carve out a career.
Most colleges and universities that have both on-campus and online bachelor’s degrees in environmental science make it a point to offer the same roster of courses to their students, regardless of how they choose to pursue their degree. Since the rigor and standards of online and on-campus courses are the same, there is often no notation on diplomas indicating how the degree was earned.
The National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (NEHSPAC) accredits environmental science programs. Schools that offer NEHSPAC-accredited degrees usually state this clearly on their website. In lieu of this programmatic accreditation, choose a school with regional accreditation that is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Four years of full-time enrollment are usually required to complete a 120-credit online bachelor’s in environmental science. Some online programs offer asynchronous classes; however, which allow students to enroll in additional courses per intake period, significantly shortening the length of time it takes to earn a degree.
Employers know that a job applicant with a bachelor’s in environmental science from an accredited college or university has the knowledge and skills needed to meet the challenges of positions in the field. Additionally, a four-year bachelor’s degree tells prospective employers that an applicant is focused, determined, and intent on pursuing a career in the environmental science arena.
As the cost of college education continues to rise, many students are taking out private or government student loans to help pay for a college degree. Scholarships and grants are better funding options since they do not have to be paid back, while loans require repayment. You can begin your search for environmental science scholarships with the five programs listed below.
This scholarship opportunity is administered by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and open to high school and undergraduate students who plan to pursue a career in environmental science or the energy sector. Applicants must submit a personal statement describing how the scholarship will help them reach career objectives and an abstract of the paper they will present at the annual AGU meeting if they are awarded the scholarship. The scholarship amount is $1,000. Scholars also receive a $500 travel grant to attend the AGU meeting.
This scholarship awards $5,000 to qualified students pursuing a degree in environmental science or a closely-related field. Applicants must be enrolled full time, at least during their junior year of study, and have a 3.0 GPA at minimum. Along with their resume, transcript, and two letters of recommendation, applicants are required to submit a 250-word essay about a personal experience that influenced their decision to pursue an environmental science career.
Applicants must be full-time students in their second year of a four-year program or their third year of a five-year program. Their declared major must support the mission of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They must have a 3.0 GPA at minimum. The scholarship awards $9,500 each year in addition to a $700 a week stipend for a 10-week summer internship position at a NOAA facility. The program will also pay for recipients to attend a mandatory NOAA scholarship orientation.
This program accepts applications from both undergraduate and graduate students. Applicants must be enrolled in a four-year college or university with NEHSPAC accreditation. Undergraduates must be in their junior or senior year of enrollment with at least one more year of full-time study left in their program. Graduate students must have a minimum of one semester of coursework left in their program. The scholarship award is $1,000 for undergraduate students and $2,000 for graduate students.
This scholarship opportunity is open to full-time undergraduate students who are pursuing a degree related to environmental studies. Applicants must complete a minimum of three semesters of college coursework at an accredited two-year or four-year college in the United States. Scholarship candidates can only be nominated by a Udall faculty representative. Applicants must submit an essay demonstrating their understanding of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall’s legacy and how their career goals support this legacy. The award amount is $7,000.