Major: Environmental Science

What colleges offer a Major in Environmental Science?

When coal and oil are burned, they form acids that fall to the earth as rain. Acid rain can do a lot of damage, such as killing off living things in lakes. Scientists figured out, however, that lakes on limestone rock were less affected than others. Why? Limestone weakens acid. So as a short-term solution, scientists added lime to lakes where it doesn't occur naturally.

No single science was enough to come up with this solution -- it took experts in biology, chemistry, geology, and other sciences. If you major in environmental science, you'll learn to use the ideas and methods of a number of biological and physical sciences to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Students of environmental science learn how the physical and biological processes that shape the natural world interact. They also look at how we affect nature and come up with solutions to environmental problems.

“Environmental science requires a creative and imaginative approach, one that zips together a working knowledge of physics, chemistry, and biology.”David E. Smith, Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

Are You Ready To...?

  • Choose a specialty, such as natural resources management or land-use planning
  • Get hands-on experience in an internship
  • Complete group projects
  • Conduct research in the lab and outdoors

It Helps To Be...

Passionate about the outdoors as well as interested in math, science, and computers. You should be a problem solver who likes looking thoroughly at every aspect of an issue to come up with original solutions. You must be able to make connections between many fields.

College Checklist

  • What subjects are professors researching?
  • Are classes available in the subjects you're most interested in?   
  • What opportunities will you have to do research?
  • Is the equipment in the lab up-to-date?
  • Will the department help you find an internship?
  • What graduate programs and jobs have recent grads gone on to?

Did You Know?

For most entry-level research and teaching jobs in this field, you'll have to earn at least a master's degree.

Course Spotlight

Early in your college career, you'll probably take an introduction to environmental science. In this class, you'll learn how the life and physical sciences help us understand environmental issues. Topics covered include biodiversity (the variety of living things in a natural area), water resources, and energy resources. 

You'll probably listen to lectures, do a lot of reading, and be tested on your knowledge through writing assignments and exams. You might also complete group projects, take field trips, and analyze data on a computer.