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Top Online Environmental Studies

Top Online Environmental StudiesEnvironmental studies is a broad, interdisciplinary field that endeavors to at once explore and explain the relationships between the natural and man-made world. The field borrows from and is built upon a framework of principles from varying disciplines, from ecology to economics, resource management to public policy.

Because of its breadth, environmental studies covers a gamut of professions, including environmental engineering, conservation science, environmental science, natural resource management and more. Students interested in such career areas have several educational options available to them, including both certificate and degree programs.

In 2012, US News & World Report revealed its list for the top environmental studies programs, which included the following universities:

  1. Stanford University
  2. University of California, Berkeley
  3. Harvard University
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  5. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  6. Yale University
  7. University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
  8. ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
  9. Australian National University (ANU)
  10. University of Toronto

Learn more about environmental studies programs

According to the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, there are approximately 1,500 environmental studies and sciences departments and programs throughout institutions of higher education in the United States. These programs, at both traditional brick-and-mortar campuses and online schools, typically offer BA and BS degrees, as well as graduate degrees such as MA, MS and the PhD.

Students enrolled in these programs may take courses that cover the spectrum of environmental studies. For example, classes could include environmental ethics, data analysis, ecological economics, environmental law, soil science and more.

Learn more about environmental studies courses and career opportunities

Environmental scientists

Environmental science programs generally include the study of topics such as biology, chemistry, forestry, geosciences and physics, hydrology, fluid mechanics, environmental policy and regulations, and more.

To enter the field, candidates should possess at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012). The employment rate for environmental scientists and specialists is projected to increase by 19 percent nationally between 2010 and 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012). Environmental scientists earned a national annual wage of $62,920 median in 2011, with the lowest 10 percent earning $38,090 nationally and the highest 10 percent earning $110,560 nationally in 2011 (BLS.gov, 2012).

Environmental engineers

During their studies, environmental engineering students usually develop a blended foundation of knowledge in areas such as geology, chemistry, resource management and engineering. Environmental engineering studies may also examine solutions to environmental problems through projects such as recycling, resource management or waste disposal. In addition to classroom-based studies, many programs incorporate laboratory work, field studies, on-the-job experience or a combination of these elements.

Example courses and topics in environmental engineering programs could include water treatment, microbiology, biotechnology, transportation engineering, fluid mechanics, environmental ethics and more.

Nationally, environmental engineers earned an annual wage of $79,050 median in 2011, with the top 10 percent earning $119,560 nationally and the lowest 10 percent earning $48,960 nationally in 2011 (BLS.gov, 2012). The job outlook is positive, with 22 percent growth rate nationally expected between 2010 and 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012).

Conservation scientists

Conservation scientists are typically concerned with maximizing—but at the same time—protecting valuable natural resources. A burgeoning career filed, students with degrees in this area could potentially pursue careers in several industries such as eco-tourism, wildlife conservation, private ranches, museums, social advocacy organizations and more (BLS.gov, 2012).

Courses and topics of study vary by program, but example classwork may include principles of conservation science, plant ecology, freshwater ecology, plant physiology, natural resource planning, spatial analysis and more.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates national job growth for conservation scientists and foresters to reach up to 5 percent between 2010 and 2010 (BLS.gov, 2012). Conservation scientists earned a national annual wage of $59,530 median in 2011, with the lowest 10 percent earning $37,110 nationally and the top 10 percent earning $89,800 nationally in 2011 (BLS.gov, 2012).




Bureau of Labor Statistics (Environmental engineers)

Bureau of Labor Statistics (Environmental scientists and specialists)

U.S. News & World Report (World's Best Universities in Environmental Sciences, 2012)

University of Oregon, Environmental Studies Programs

Dartmouth University, Environmental Studies

Stanford University, Environmental Engineering & Science Program

Texas Tech University, Natural Resources Management

Washington State University, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering