Environmental science incorporates policy studies with science and other disciplines, such as economics. Its interdisciplinary approach enables graduates to respond to the complex and ever-changing environmental problems of the 21st century. Professionals with environmental science degrees bridge the gaps between scientists, business leaders, and policy makers; they frequently work as ecologists, consultants, mediators, land managers, and conservation biologists.

Typical environmental studies online degree programs require four years to complete. As with most undergraduate degrees, environmental science majors usually spend the first two years enrolled in general education courses, followed by two years of environmental science online courses. The best programs offer internships, which allow students to glean real world experience as part of their education.

Why a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), people with at least a bachelor’s degree had a much easier time remaining employed during the recession than those with less education. In 2012, the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s was only 4.5%, while those without a high school diploma suffered from an unemployment rate of over 12%; in fact, a person with a bachelor’s degree had a 25% better chance of finding work than someone with an associate degree. Over their lifetimes, people with bachelor’s degrees will earn nearly $1,000,000 more than a high school graduate, according to a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Getting Into an Environmental Science Bachelor’s Program

The requirements for online colleges for environmental science vary; nonetheless, they share a few basic requirements:

  • Sufficient grade point average (GPA) – typically at least 2.0
  • High School Diploma of General Educational Development (GED)

Inside an Environmental Science Bachelor’s Degree Program

Students in environmental science programs typically spend the first two years fulfilling the general education requirement. History, math, writing and literature are commonly required. Many students choose to take introductory courses in other fields that will help with the environmental science major, such as economics and politics. The best programs encourage first and second year students to begin to take geography and geology classes as well.

During the last two years of most programs, students take most of the classes in their major field. Students can expect to get a thorough grounding in American politics, environmental law and policy, and ethics. Many programs offer course work in geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing, as well as natural resource management. Prior to graduation, many students take advantage of internships and practicums, which are usually valued by potential employers.

What’s Next for Environmental Science Bachelor’s Degree Holders?

Graduates of environmental science programs have a number of employment options. Some take environmental scientist positions and earn a median salary of $61,700. Those who choose to work in the field as conservation scientists earn a median salary of $57,420 each year, according to the BLS. Many others work as ecologists, making $57,430 annually. Still others find work as geographers and GIS specialists, where they earn a median salary of $72,800.

Knowing that employers in today’s tough job market expect their workers to have advanced degrees, many environmental science graduates choose to continue their education and pursue a master’s degree. The typical environmental studies master’s program will take two years to complete; however, with the degree, graduates have even more opportunities for fulfilling careers. Many graduates of master’s degree programs take positions as policy analysts, where the median salary of $107,420. In fact, according to the Georgetown University study, master’s degree holders will earn $400,000 more over their lifetimes than a colleague with a bachelor’s degree.