Major: Environmental Studies

Find the right college for you.

We use cars to get to work, run errands, and visit friends. Most of these cars run on gas, but the oil we use to make gas is running out. What’s more, drilling for oil destroys natural areas, and burning gas creates pollution. Other ways to power cars, such as electricity, ethanol, and biodiesel, already exist. So why isn't everyone using these energy sources?

To answer this and other important environmental questions, you’ll need to draw on the ideas of many fields, such as science, economics, and politics. If you major in environmental studies, you’ll learn how.

Students of environmental studies use what they learn in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities to understand environmental problems. They look at how we interact with the natural world and come up with ideas for how we can prevent its destruction.

“It’s hard to be bored by the subject: the issues are too large, the stakes too high, the rewards too great.”Michael Maniates, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Political Science, Allegheny College

Are You Ready To...?

  • Write a thesis based on research, observations, or interviews
  • Choose a specialty, such as environmental policy and law, energy issues, or urban planning
  • Conduct research in a lab or outdoors
  • Get hands-on experience in an internship

It Helps To Be...

Passionate about the outdoors and committed to making the world a better place. You should be a problem solver who enjoys looking thoroughly at every aspect of an issue to come up with original solutions. You must be able to combine ideas from many fields.

College Checklist

  • Will you be able to choose between the B.S. (focusing on science) and the B.A. (focusing on social science)?
  • Is the program housed in a single department, such as biology or chemistry, and mostly focused on that subject's relationship to environmental issues?
  • Are there courses that will teach you how to connect ideas from different fields and how to apply this knowledge to solving environmental problems?
  • Will you get a chance to do research either in a lab or outdoors?
  • Are there professors whose only job is teaching and advising students in environmental studies? 
  • Will the department help you find an internship?

Did You Know?

In this major, you won’t just memorize facts from a textbook; you’ll come up creative solutions to environmental problems.

Course Spotlight

As an environmental studies major, you will probably take an introductory environmental studies class. In this course, you'll most likely learn how human activity causes environmental problems. You'll also examine how social forces can be changed to solve these issues. You'll analyze specific topics in the field, such as global warming, energy sources, and biodiversity (the variety of living things in a natural area). 

Expect to do a lot of reading and to show what you’ve learned through writing assignments and exams.