The Best Environmental Science Degree Programs

The Best Environmental Science Degree Programs
1University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadison, WI
2Harvard UniversityCambridge, Massachusetts
3Columbia University In The City Of New YorkNew York, NY
4Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridge, MA
5Pennsylvania State UniversityState College, PA
6University of California, BerkeleyBerkeley, CA
7University of ChicagoChicago, IL
8University of VirginiaCharlottesville, VA
9University of Minnesota – Twin CitiesTwin Cities, MN
10University of Illinois, Urbana-ChampaignChampaign, IL
11The University of Texas at AustinAustin, TX
12California State Polytechnic University – PomonaPomona, CA
13Cornell UniversityIthaca, NY
14Bryn Mawr CollegeBryn Mawr, PA
15Yale UniversityNew Haven, Connecticut
16University of California, Los AngelesLos Angeles, CA
17Dartmouth CollegeHanover, NH
18Stanford UniversityStanford, CA
19Albion CollegeAlbion, MI
20Arizona State UniversityTempe, AZ

We have ranked the best Environmental Science degree programs in the US.

This ranking is designed to help students interested in Environmental Science make informed college decisions for which college to attend and which degree to pursue.

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Environmental Science, as the name implies, is the science of studying the environment.

There are different environments in the world, so different disciplines come to bear on how the science is conducted, and therefore what students will learn in college when studying Environmental Science.

Students learn subjects such as conservation, environmental quality controls, geoscience, sustainable and renewable energy, marine biology, and geochemistry.

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The Best Environmental Sciences Degree Programs

1.University of Wisconsin-Madison

Madison, WI

The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers a science-based, rigorous interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences major through both its College of Letters & Science and College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Regardless of whether a student pursues a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science in Environmental Sciences, each program emphasizes environmental problem solving in service to society and promotes strong critical-thinking skills.

The Environmental Science degree program provides students with a solid foundation in mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology as well as environmentally oriented courses in arts and humanities, and the social sciences.

Credit requirements: 120 credits

Selection of core courses:

  • Principles of Environmental Science
  • Introduction to the Earth System
  • Soil: Ecosystem and Resource
  • General Ecology
  • Science of Climate Change

Students also complete a capstone course, internship or apprenticeship with an environmental business or organization, a senior thesis, or an undergraduate research project focused on environmental science.

Accreditation: The University of Wisconsin-Madison is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

2.Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard University has a long history of engineering and applied sciences education, beginning with the establishment of the Lawrence Scientific School in 1847. The current John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, created in 2007, offers programs in astronomy, earth and planetary sciences, physics, organismic and evolutionary biology, chemistry and chemical biology, and more.

Through the John A. Paulson School, students can pursue several degrees, including the Environmental Science and Engineering A.B., the Environmental Science and Engineering Track within the Engineering Sciences S.B., the Ph.D. in Engineering Sciences: Environmental Science and Engineering, and the A.B./S.M. in Engineering Sciences: Environmental Science and Engineering.

The interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program focuses on understanding, predicting and responding to human-induced environmental change. The program includes the study of the Earth system as a set of biological, physical and chemical interactions made more complex by human activities.

Credit requirements: 14 to 20 half courses, depending on math placement and whether the student selects the bachelor of arts or the bachelor of science program

Selection of core courses:

  • Environmental Physics
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Intro to Environmental Science and Engineering
  • Engineering Sciences

Accreditation: Harvard University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

3.Columbia University In The City Of New York

New York, NY

Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences shares facilities and staff with the university’s world-renowned research institution, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Through the Department, students can pursue undergraduate majors and concentrations in Earth Science and Environmental Sciences as well as a number of elective courses.

The undergraduate major in Environmental Science provides students with an understanding of the natural functioning of the earth and the possible consequences of human interactions with it. The program prepares graduates for careers in law, public policy, journalism, diplomacy, business, and more.

The university’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences also offers a Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Credit requirements: 47 credits for the major

Selection of core courses:

  • Earth’s Environmental Systems: Climate
  • Earth’s Environmental Systems: Solid Earth
  • Earth’s Environmental Systems: Life
  • Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • Solid Earth Dynamics

Students also must complete a research project and senior thesis.

Accreditation: Columbia University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

4.Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA

The Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences is known for offering rigorous, hands-on training and the collaboration of ideas. The department emphasizes the study of climate, geobiology, atmospheres, planetary sciences, geochemistry, geophysics and oceans. Through fieldwork, theory, modeling and experimentation, students develop a greater understanding of the natural world.

The Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) undergraduate major enables students to solve real-world problems through the application of mathematics, chemistry and physics. Once students complete their core courses, they select lab/field subjects and concentration area subjects based on their personal goals and interests.

The Department also offers a Fifth-Year Master of Science Degree program.

Credit requirements: 144 to 150 units

Selection of core courses:

  • Introduction to Geology
  • Introduction to Geophysics and Planetary Science
  • Geobiology: History of Life on Earth
  • Introduction to Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics
  • Field Geology
  • Experimental Atmospheric Chemistry

Students also must complete an undergraduate thesis.

Accreditation: Massachusetts Institute of Technology is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

5.Pennsylvania State University

State College, PA

The oldest college at Penn State, the College of Agricultural Sciences awarded its first degrees in 1861. The College is home to nine academic departments, which offer 17 undergraduate majors and 18 graduate majors as well as certificates and minors.

Through the College of Agricultural Sciences students can complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Resource Management with an Environmental Science option. The program provides students with the knowledge to resolve issues concerning the management and conservation of natural resources.

To complete the Environmental Science option, students choose at least 18 credits that focus on an aspect of the environment, such as watersheds and water resources, geographic information systems, energy and air pollution, climate change impacts, and ecology, among others.

Credit requirements: 121-126

Selection of core courses:

  • Careers and Issues in Environmental Resource Management
  • Introductory Soil Science
  • Basic Principles and Calculations in Environmental Analysis
  • Case Studies in Ecosystem Management
  • Resource Systems Analysis

Accreditation: Pennsylvania State University is accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

6.University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA

The Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management is part of the College of Natural Resources, the oldest college in the University of California system. The Department’s multi-disciplinary program features award-winning faculty in biodiversity, climate science, environmental policy, community outreach, and land use.

The Environmental Sciences undergraduate major focuses on the impact of human activities on natural systems. Students develop – and learn to apply – tools and techniques from chemistry, meteorology, statistics, behavioral science, policy analysis, and more. Students complete a year-long senior thesis project, which allows them to investigate an environmental issue, design and execute independent research.

Students choose from three concentrations – Physical Science, Social Science or Biological Science.

Credit requirements: 120

Selection of courses:

  • Environmental Biology
  • Americans and the Global Forest
  • Environmental Issues
  • Introduction to Environmental Sciences

Accreditation: The University of California- Berkeley is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

7.University of Chicago

Chicago, IL

The Department of Geophysical Sciences offers a variety of programs related to the Earth and other planets. Programs allow students to apply concepts and methods from physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology to fundamental problems in the field.

Designed for students interested in the intersection of biology, chemistry and earth sciences, the BS degree in Environmental Science includes courses in biogeochemical cycles, microbiology, environmental chemistry, climate change, the dynamics of the ocean and atmosphere, ecology, and more. Students can participate in the Semester in Environmental Science at the Marine Biological Laboratory, and the university encourages students to complete undergraduate research.

Credit requirements: 2200 units

Selection of core courses:

  • The Atmosphere
  • Global Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Mechanics
  • General Physics

The university also offers an MS in Environmental Science and Policy.

Accreditation: The University of Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

8.University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA

The Department of Environmental Sciences conducts research and offers instruction in geosciences, ecology, atmospheric sciences and hydrology. Its programs prepare graduates for further academic study or careers in natural resources fields, such as weather and climate forecasting, engineering geology, forestry and agricultural management, and water pollution research and regulation, among others.

The Department offers a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Environmental Sciences and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Sciences.

Credit requirements: 30 to 40 hours in Environmental Science, depending on Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degree tracks.

Selection of core courses:

  • Fundamentals of Geology
  • Fundamentals of Ecology
  • Atmosphere and Weather
  • Physical Hydrology

Students also can complete a Specialization in Environmental and Biological Conservation.

The University also offers an undergraduate Minor in Environmental Science.

Accreditation: The University of Virginia is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

9.University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Twin Cities, MN

The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences consists of 13 academic departments and 10 research and outreach centers across the state. The college emphasizes internships, global perspectives and experiential learning.

Its interdisciplinary Bachelor’s in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management program prepares graduates to solve environmental problems from an integrated knowledge base. The degree program helps improve environmental decision making by integrating biological, social and physical sciences with policy analysis and management.

Credit requirements: 120

Selection of core courses:

  • Issues in the Environment
  • Environmental Sciences: Integrated Problem Solving
  • Problem Solving: Environmental Review

Students also must complete one of four tracks: Environmental Science; Policy, Planning, Law and Society; Conservation and Resource Management; or Environmental Education and Communication.

Accreditation: The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

10.University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences’ programs focus on science, conservation and applied ecology in a host of terrestrial, aquatics and human-dominated ecosystems. Its programs prepare graduates for careers centered on natural resources, human interactions with the environment, and wildlife.

Designed for students interested in understanding how to protect and improve environmental quality and the management of water and soil resources, the Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Environmental Science and Management program includes courses in environmental chemistry, ecohydrology and environmental quality, among others.

Credit requirements: 126

Selection of core courses:

  • Introduction to Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecohydrology and Water Management
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Principles of Ecosystem Management
  • Integrative Ecosystem Management

Students also must complete field experience.

The University also offers master’s and doctoral programs in environmental science.

Accreditation: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

11.The University of Texas at Austin

Austin, TX

The College of Liberal Arts and the College of Natural Sciences work together to meet the needs of each student. Through the colleges, students can pursue programs such as those in psychology, environmental science, and comparative literature.

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science program provides students with an interdisciplinary scientific perspective on sustainability and environmental issues, analysis and management. Students receive a broad foundation in life, psychical and social sciences necessary for careers or graduate study in environmental science or related fields.

Credit requirements: 126 semester hours

Selection of core courses:

  • Conservation, Resources and Technology
  • Natural Parks and Protected Areas
  • Environmental Geographic Information Systems
  • Limnology and Oceanography
  • Topics in Geography

All students also complete a field or research experience.

Accreditation: is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

12.California State Polytechnic University – Pomona

Pomona, CA

The College of Science is committed to science education through innovation and discovery. Its programs incorporate real-world education and advance science.

The Bachelor of Science in Geological Sciences’ curriculum combines modern technology, classroom theory, laboratory application and field experiences. The Geology program provides students with a global perspective for problem solving, leadership roles and decision making in a changing world. Students can complete one of three tracks: Geophysics/Earth Exploration, Environmental Resources, or Geology.

Credit requirements: 120

Selection of core courses:

  • Principles of Geology
  • Earth, Time and Life
  • Meteorology
  • Introduction to Global Geophysics
  • Geochemistry

Accreditation: California State Polytechnic University – Pomona is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

13.Cornell University

Ithaca, NY

Guided by the principle that understanding and resolving environmental problems requires an interdisciplinary approach, Cornell University’s Environmental and Sustainability program is offered through both the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The Environmental and Sustainability Sciences major’s core curriculum provides students with an integrated and comprehensive view of the physical-chemical, biological, human, social and ecological dimensions of the environment.

Students can choose from concentrations in Environmental Biology and Applied Ecology; Environmental Economics; Environmental Policy and Governance; and Land, Air and Water Resources, among others.

Selection of core courses:

  • Ecology and the Environment
  • Climate and Global Warming
  • Environmental History
  • Society and Natural Resources

Accreditation: Cornell University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

14.Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr, PA

The Bi-College Department of Environmental Studies enables students to complete an undergraduate major in Environmental Studies through a collaboration of Bryn Mawr and Haverford College. The program allows students to explore and develop an understanding of their environment from perspectives across social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, and arts.

The curriculum incorporates an in-depth investigation of the theoretical and applied foundations of environmental study as well as community-based learning. Students also have the opportunity to conduct research, complete internships or study abroad.

Credit requirements: 11 courses in the major

Selection of core courses:

  • Introduction to Environmental Studies
  • Environmental Natural Science
  • Environmental Humanities
  • Environmental Studies Social Science
  • Environmental Studies Capstone

Students also can complete a focus area, which allows them to tailor their degree to their interests and goals.

Accreditation: Bryn Mawr College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

15.Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

Founded in 1900, the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies offers master’s degrees and doctoral programs and serves as a site for research into environmental issues on the local, regional and global levels. It is the oldest graduate program in forestry (MF) and its related disciplines in the nation (MFS). It still remains a leader in forestry and forest science training.

Yale offers four degree programs. All are science-based, two year programs.

The Master of Environmental Management (MEM) & Master of Forestry (MF) are oriented toward training professionals in the environmental and natural resource fields.

The Master of Environmental Science (MESc) & Master of Forest Science (MFS) provide PhD preparation with a more disciplinary focus in the environmental and natural resource fields.

The largest degree program is the Master of Environmental Management, with about 70-90 students graduating per year. There are nine professional specializations:

  • energy
  • climate change science
  • industrial ecology and green chemistry
  • water resources
  • business and environment
  • environmental policy
  • nature and society
  • ecosystems and land conservation
  • self-designed

The other professional degree program comprises the Master of Forestry, with about 12-16 students graduating per year.

The Master of Environmental Science and Master of Forest Science programs have the same structure and approach to training and coursework. The MFS focuses on forestry; whereas the MESc represents all other specializations.

The Master of Environmental Science graduates 20-30 students per year, and the Master of Forest Science graduates 4-6 students per year.

The Master of Environmental Science degree features extended research as well as formalized training in the philosophy and practice of Environmental science.

Credit requirements: 48 credits

Selection of core courses:

  • Introduction to Statistics and Data Analysis in the Environmental Sciences
  • Ecological Patterns and Processes
  • Society and Environment: Introduction to Theory and Method
  • Urban Ecology for Local and Regional Decision Making

Students also complete 12 credits of thesis research.

Accreditation: Yale University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

16.University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA

The Institute of the Environment and Sustainability offers a number of degrees – from bachelor’s to doctorate – designed to foster community and break down barriers between areas of study. Its programs feature a hands-on approach to environmental research and practice.

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science degree program provides students with a foundation in physical and life sciences, social sciences and the humanities as well as real-world experience. The program prepares graduates to take on complex environmental issues.

Credit requirements: 106-108 units

Selection of core courses:

  • Programming with Big Environmental Datasets
  • Foundations of Environmental Policy and Regulation
  • Sustainability Talks
  • Environmental Justice Through Multiple Lenses
  • Climate Change Assessment

Students also complete one of seven minors, such as Earth and Environmental Science, Environmental Health, Conservation Biology, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Environmental Engineering, among others.

Students also complete a year-long senior practicum where they work in small teams to tackle a real-world environmental issue for clients in public agencies, non-profit organizations, or private firms.

Accreditation: The University of California – Los Angeles is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

17.Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH

Dartmouth College offers an interdisciplinary undergraduate major in Environmental Studies. Established on Earth Day 1996, the major draws on concepts from social sciences, natural sciences and the humanities. The program prepares students to understand and address environmental problems.

Credit requirements: 13 courses

Selection of core courses:

  • Introduction to Environmental Science
  • Environment and Society: Towards Sustainability?
  • Ecological Economics
  • Governing the Environment
  • Humans and Nature in America

The college also offers three related minors – Environmental Studies, Environmental Science, and Sustainability.

Accreditation: Dartmouth College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

18.Stanford University

Stanford, CA

The School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs focused on understanding earth and sustainability for the future. The school offers field-learning on all seven continents.

Formerly the Bachelor of Science in Geological and Environmental Studies, the newly named Bachelor of Science in Geological Studies consists of field research skills, earth sciences fundamentals, advanced coursework, and quantitative and analytical skills, among others. Students develop the skills needed to conduct research and critically think about questions involving Earth.

The program allows students to focus on contamination of natural waterways, resource depletion, sustainable practices, and more.

Credit requirements: 103 to 121 units

Selection of core courses:

  • Earth Materials: Introduction to Mineralogy
  • Introduction to Petrology
  • Introduction to Geology
  • Coevolution of Earth and Life
  • Introduction to Geochemistry
  • Rock Deformation and Tectonics

Accreditation: Stanford University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

19.Albion College

Albion, MI

The Center for Sustainability and the Environment encourages students to explore environmental issues from multidisciplinary perspectives and recognize that their actions have environmental implications. Its programs combine environmental theory and practice. The center offers three majors and two concentrations.

The Major in Environmental Science provides students with a broad understanding of environmental science as well as the social and humanistic context in which scientists work. Students also gain real-world experience through internships, service projects and research projects.

Credit requirements: 10 units

Selection of core courses:

  • Introduction to the Environment
  • Sustainable Living Seminar
  • Fundamentals of Environmental Studies
  • Economics, Politics and Environmental Policy

Albion College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

20.Arizona State University

Tempe, AZ

Through its commitment to high-impact scientific discovery, the School of Earth and Space Exploration enables students to explore the great unknowns of the Earth, solar system and the universe. The School offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

The Bachelor of Arts in Earth and Environmental Studies provides students with a solid understanding of the evolution of the earth system with a broad study in the physical sciences. The program also emphasizes the planetary context for sustainable human societies.

Credit requirements: 104-120 credit hours

Selection of core courses:

  • Oceanography
  • Dynamic Earth
  • Complete Cultural Diversity in the U.S.
  • Global Awareness
  • Earth’s Critical Zone
  • Solving Environmental Problems

Accreditation: Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Environmental Science Career information

Environmental Scientists can work in a wide variety of fields. The typical level of entry is with a bachelor’s degree. The median salary was $73,230 as of 2020. The projected growth rate is 8% (faster than average), adding 9,900 more jobs between now and 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ranking Methodology

This ranking is a combination of the Environmental Science ranking at and our own ranking criteria. Academic Influence* uses a proprietary method of ranking schools based on the influence that the school’s academics and alumni have produced in the subject of Environmental Science.

Successful Student takes this ranking into consideration, along with our own criteria of academic reputation of the school as a whole, and particulars of the program: such as variety of the courses and interdisciplinary instruction. As a result, Successful Student has created a unique ranking, which is, hopefully, to the benefit of students. *For a more detailed explanation of how the influence ranking was determined at Academic Influence, see our College Calculator.

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