As climate change intensifies, environmental scientists are on the front lines, actively implementing practical solutions to address its impact. They study rising temperatures and extreme weather events. By researching renewable energy sources and sustainable practices, they contribute to mitigating climate change.

With an environmental science degree, you too can be a part of the solution. From collecting soil samples to tracking wildlife, this degree provides hands-on experiences to deepen your understanding. Whether you end up working for government agencies, non-profits, research institutes, or private companies, your impact will be felt far beyond your office walls. 

Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field that explores the physical, biological, and chemical processes that govern the environment and the impacts of human activities on these processes.

Key areas of study with an environmental science degree include:

  • Ecosystems and Biodiversity: It’s about studying life forms, how they relate to each other, and how they interact with their surroundings, including the variety of life in certain areas or ecosystems.
  • Climate Change and Global Warming: The study of why and how climate change, like global warming, happens.
  • Pollution and Waste Management: Understanding where pollution comes from and its effects, including pollution in the air, water, and soil. It also looks at how to manage waste to reduce the environmental harm caused by human actions.
  • Conservation and Sustainable Development: This subject focuses on preserving nature and using resources in a way that doesn’t harm future generations’ needs.

The market for environmental science and related areas is expected to grow, thanks to the ongoing efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions outlined by the Paris Agreement. As a result, most nations, corporations, and businesses of different sizes have joined hands to work towards operating sustainably. 

These organizations need graduates with an environmental science degree to help them achieve sustainable practices in the business—whether you’re producing concrete for an industrial company or making cakes for a bakery—without harming our environment.

According to the sources from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for environmental scientists is projected to grow at 6% from 2022 to 2032. That’s twice the average growth rate for all occupations in the country.

Beyond giving us the tools and resources to understand and tackle the existential challenges with our natural surroundings, an environmental science degree helps you shape policies and regulations that protect our habitat and promote sustainability. These efforts eventually result in more public awareness to act responsibly on an individual and societal-level in safeguarding our environment.

Related: High Paying Non-Clinical Career Options for a Health Science Major

They’re essentially two-sides of the same coin. Here’s more on the key differences between studying environmental studies and environmental science:

AspectEnvironmental StudiesEnvironmental Science
FocusA combined study of natural sciences and social sciences.An interdisciplinary set of courses related to fundamental sciences like chemistry, biology, physics, and geology, among others.
Degree optionsPlease read the note below for clarity on degree options.
Sample courses related to1. Urban planning
2. Environmental law and justice
3. Sustainability management
4. Waste Management
5. Parks/recreation management
1. Math and statistics
2. Data science and data analysis
3. Pollution science
4. Geographic information systems
5. Ecology
Career outlook1. Environment planner ($75,107)
2. Park ranger ($56,260)
3. Game warden ($57,436)
1. Climate change analyst ($76,505)
2. GIS analyst ($63,988)
3. Soil and water conservationist ($75,492)


Degree titles can be a bit confusing in this field. Some colleges and universities may offer a BA in environmental science or a BS in environmental studies. The degree name often depends on the institution’s focus. For example, some schools emphasize liberal arts and designate many of their degrees as BAs, regardless of the specific field of study. 

On the other hand, other institutions may offer BAs for some of their science-related programs. So, rather than getting hung up on the degree label, review the specific coursework before enrolling in any program. The fact of the matter is that many BA majors have secured “science” jobs and BS grads have joined corporate ranks.

Once you graduate with a degree in environmental science, you have the necessary tools to address serious environmental issues like climate change, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, pollution, and more. 

Since it’s a multidisciplinary field with a broad perspective, you have twice as many options to specialize in across different degree levels. An environmental science degree helps you explore your interests by allowing you to take a variety of classes beyond the required coursework.

By studying data analysis and research methodologies or taking any number of courses that align with your interests, you can literally shape your career in any direction you want.


When you’re picking a degree program, be mindful of including online lab classes in your coursework. While these classes might check off credit requirements, they often lack real-world value beyond that. Plus, there’s a chance they won’t be recognized for advanced education or by potential employers. Keep in mind that if these courses don’t transfer, you might need to take extra classes to meet your goals.

Back to the degrees, here’s what you get to study with the various undergrad and grad options available to you:

Associate Degree in Environmental Science

An associate degree in environmental science can help you earn those necessary credit hours needed to transfer to a four-year bachelor’s degree program—or—get employed at an entry-level job, such as an environmental compliance inspector or technician. 

If you plan to continue on to a bachelor’s degree, it’s advisable to check with your admissions counselor regarding the number and type of courses that are accepted for transfer. Doing so can help you offload some courses and expedite your degree completion. 

Related: How to Maximize Transfer Credits for Online College

With an associate degree, you’ll be able to demonstrate knowledge of biology, chemistry, geology, and other fundamental sciences. You can collect and analyze data using field instruments and prepare lab reports to help articulate environmental compliance standards and laws.

Credits required: 60 credits (more or less)

Program duration: Usually requires an average of two-years to complete

Degrees and some of their sample courses offered: 

  • Associate of Arts (AA) in Environmental Science:
    • Civic Engagement
    • Global Awareness
    • Calculus and Analytical Geometry (Basics)
    • Economic and Political Systems
    • Cultural Anthropology
    • Geography
    • Physical Sciences
    • Literature and Ecological Balance
  • Associate of Science (AS) in Environmental Science:
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Ecology
    • Meteorology
    • Natural Sciences
    • Math
    • Communication and Critical Thinking
    • Human Diversity
    • Ethical Responsibility

Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science

The key feature of a bachelor’s degree in environmental science is it allows you to customize and tailor your coursework according to your interests. And moreover, you get valuable hands-on experience in solving real-world environmental challenges.

There are plenty of options with an environmental science degree and the skills you earn during your time—either as a full-time student or as a part-time work-student—are applicable across a range of jobs and industries. 

Related: Goals for College Students: Balancing Work and Study

Look for classes and internships in data analysis, Geographic Information Systems (GISs), computer modeling, or any other similar skill-based coursework to be best prepared for the job market.


Apart from your electives and minor, you can choose to pursue a certification in geographic information science, water conflict management, marine resource management, and many others, if provided.

Credits required: 120 credits (more or less), transfer up to 90 credits at some chosen colleges and universities

Program duration: Usually requires an average of four-years to complete

Degrees and some of their sample courses offered: 

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Environmental Science
    • Sustainable Cities
    • Ethics, Policy & Law
    • Microeconomics
    • Environmental Sociology
    • Cultural Diversity & Historical Awareness
    • Spatial Analysis
    • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Environmental Science
    • Environmental Systems Modeling (Math)
    • Biodiversity
    • Ecology and Evolution
    • Marine Science
    • Chemistry Processes
    • Calculus
    • Geologic and Oceanographic Applications of GIS
    • Remote Sensing of the Environment
    • Probability and Statistics
    • Data Analysis
    • Information Systems
    • Decision Science & Analytics

Concentrations offered across different institutions:

  • Data Analytics in Science
  • Natural Resources and Conservation
  • Applied Ecology
  • Aquatic Biology
  • Conservation & Sustainability
  • Earth Systems
  • Quantitative Energy Systems
  • Agriculture
  • Policy & Economics
  • Water Resources

With data from the BLS, here’s the job outlook across different industries for environmental scientists and specialists:

These are top three industries with highest levels of employment (number of occupations are stated in closed brackets):

  • State governments, excluding schools and hospitals (20,060)
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services (16,700)
  • Architectural, engineering, and related services (10,150)

These are top three highest paying industries (average salaries by industries are stated in closed brackets):

  • Merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods ($137,140)
  • Oil and gas extraction ($122,210)
  • Natural Gas Distribution ($121,310)

Let’s look into the various career options available to you with an environmental science degree.

Careers With an Environmental Science Degree

Environmental science majors have diverse career paths, including teaching, research, conservation, sustainability, and natural resource management. Choose based on your interests and skills, whether desk-based or fieldwork-oriented.

Please note that while some of the jobs listed below may require a master’s degree and/or additional certifications, specific requirements for each job may vary. Here are some roles that you can pursue with an environmental science degree:

  • Corporate Sustainability Officer (CSO) ($243,679): Develops and oversees sustainable practices within a company. This is an executive position that reports to the CEO of the company, that requires a master’s degree with certification(s) and relevant work experience to pursue. So, best to consider it as a long-term goal.
  • Environmental Health and Safety Specialist (EHS) ($90,158): Ensures organizational compliance with environmental regulations and promotes workplace health and safety. You need a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification to land this desk job, which is pretty common in this field. 
  • Climate Change Analyst ($76,505): Studies climate trends and assesses their impact on ecosystems using computer data-modeling. You may need to take more math-related courses to fit into this desk role. There may be some traveling involved at times.
  • Soil and Water Conservationist ($75,492): Focuses on soil health and water resource management. There’s a lot of traveling involved, as you’d be going to meet various people—from farmers, landowners, and government officials—to bring about good change in the region where you work.
  • Industrial Ecologist ($73,413): Develops strategies to optimize energy consumption, reduce pollution, and recycle waste in industrial settings by applying ecological principles. A mix of fieldwork and office-time is part of the job description.
  • GIS Analyst ($63,988): Collects and analyzes geographic data to create maps that help inform decisions on urban planning, public health, and disaster management. Just like any other analyst, you need to take more math and data analysis related courses to be the right fit for this role. This is mostly a desk techie-job.

Picture this: you’re exploring lush rainforests, studying marine ecosystems, or analyzing air quality in urban areas. Environmental science degree offers exciting opportunities for fieldwork and research. 

Studying environmental science isn’t just about professional growth, it’s about personal impact. You can help individuals, corporations, and governments make informed choices—reducing plastic use, conserving water, supporting eco-friendly products—that collectively create a healthier world.

Is environmental science hard?

No, it’s not. The fact that an environmental science degree is broad in nature—due to its interdisciplinary approach—you get to study a variety of subjects that can make the coursework interesting. It’s your choice to take the necessary courses to build your specialization beyond studying the basic courses related to earth and physical sciences.

What is the highest paying job in environmental science?

In an executive role, a corporate sustainability officer gets handsomely paid about $243,679 per year. And in a non-executive role, an environmental health and safety specialist earns well over $90,000 annually. Please keep in mind that these are average salaries and the actual pay may vary with location, experience, and industry.