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Best Online Environmental Science Bachelor's Degrees

A few of the best online bachelor's degree programs in the field of environmental science include programs in environmental studies and environmental policy. Compare some of these programs and learn about career options in the field.

Best Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Environmental Science

Some of the best online programs in the field of environmental science may offer affordability, additional areas of specialization, flexible learning formats, and unique learning experiences. Compare and contrast a few of the best online bachelor's degree programs in environmental science below.

1. Oregon State University

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Corvallis, OR$11,16686%

Oregon State University offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Environmental Sciences that can be completed 100% online. The program offers 4 different start dates throughout the year, totals 180 quarter credits, and gives students the option of adding a minor online. Students in the program can choose from a range of specializations, including environmental policy and economics, aquatic ecology, earth systems, environmental agriculture, and conservation, resources, and sustainability.

2. Prescott College

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Prescott, AZ$31,485100%

Prescott College has a BS in Environmental Studies that is available on-campus and online. The program totals 120 credits and includes a senior project. Students in the program take courses in an array of environmental topics, including marine biology, natural history, ornithology, and conservation biology. Prescott has been accredited by The Higher Learning Commission since 1984.

3. Wayland Baptist University

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Plainview, TX$20,07096%

Wayland Baptist University offers an online Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Environmental Studies that includes 12 hours of practical or experiential learning. The degree program totals 124 credits and includes a faith-based perspective to creation care ethics. The program is designed for students with vocational or occupational training, those with a technical degree or certificate from a community college or technical school, and working professionals with a few years of work experience.

4. Southern New Hampshire University

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Manchester, NH$31,13675%

Southern New Hampshire University provides an online BS in Environmental Science that offers a concentration in geospatial technologies or natural resources and conservation. The degree program totals 121 credits and allows online students access to their coursework 24/7. Online students at the school can also meet with career and academic advisors and can complete the degree at their own pace.

5. Purdue University Global

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Mason City, IA$14,343N/A

Purdue University Global has an online BS in Environmental Policy and Management that requires 180 credits. Students complete coursework in 10-week terms and can choose from multiple start dates throughout the year. Students learn through case studies and research and have the option to pursue an accelerated bachelor's to master's degree program that allows students to earn a master's in psychology, educational psychology, human services, public administration, or legal studies.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6Columbia CollegeSonora, CA$1,16674%
7Excelsior CollegeAlbany, NYN/A39%
8Northeastern University Lifelong Learning NetworkBoston, MA$28,38048%

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Environmental Science

Online bachelor's degree programs in environmental science are usually offered as Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. These degree programs typically take 4 years to complete and may require around 120 to 124 semester credits or around 180 quarter credits. Most of these programs are taken full-time and some programs may be self-paced and allow online students access to coursework 24/7. Some coursework may have on-campus or in-person requirements for labs or field trips.

Some online bachelor's degree programs in environmental science offer concentration areas to allow students to focus their studies in this broad field. These concentrations may also help students further prepare for a career of interest. Some available concentration areas available online include, but are not limited to:

  • Natural resources and conservation
  • Sustainability
  • Fish and wildlife management
  • Regional and community environmental planning
  • Geospatial technologies
  • Applied ecology
  • Environmental water resources
  • Environmental agriculture
  • Earth systems
  • Soil, air, and water

Prerequisite Requirements

Most online bachelor's degree programs in environmental science do not have prerequisite requirements for incoming students, but some coursework may require high school algebra, high school biology, or other introductory courses. Some students with prior work experience, prior military experience, and/or transfer credit may be able to apply those credits towards their degree, depending on the institution. Typically, applicants to these online degree programs just need to fill out the appropriate application and include items such as official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and/or a resume.

Common Courses

Coursework for online bachelor's degree programs in environmental science may be 8 to 10 weeks in length, depending on the course and/or institution. Some degree programs require students to complete a final senior project. In general, students in online environmental science programs take some general education courses, some common core courses in the sciences, and then electives or concentration courses in various areas of environmental science. Below, we discuss some of the common course topics for these degree programs in more depth.

  • Biology - Students in these courses learn about broad scientific topics, such as the scientific method and experimental design, as well as some of the foundational concepts in biology, like genetics, cell structure, and molecular biology.
  • Chemistry - These courses explore some of the foundational concepts in chemistry, including chemical reactions and chemical bonding, as well as how chemistry is used in our everyday lives.
  • Environmental Science- Environmental science courses begin to discuss human interaction with the environment and the scientific principles involved in the field. Topics for these degree programs may include sustainability, environmental policy, climate change, biodiversity, and pollution. Some of these courses may apply environmental science to real-world problems and some courses may also include field trips for hands-on experience.
  • Environmental Law/Ethics- Courses in law may provide students with an overview of specific pieces of legislation, such as the Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, while courses in ethics may focus on ethical theories of the field and how to apply them to global issues.
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)- Many environmental science or studies programs include a course that discusses GIS in detail and gives students the opportunity to use geospatial technologies. Students may read literature discussing these technologies and techniques and learn how to collect and analyze data using GIS.

How to Choose an Online Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science

There are many factors to consider when choosing an online bachelor's degree program in environmental science. Students first need to find an online program that fits their lifestyle and time commitment. This may mean comparing programs that have on-campus lab requirements to those that can be completed fully online and/or comparing programs that are self-paced versus those that are more structured.

Another factor to consider is the available concentrations of an online degree program. Specializations are usually designed to help students further focus their studies in a particular area to begin training for a specific career in the field. Students should evaluate their personal interests and career goals and find an online program that best aligns with their goals.

Students may also wish to consider additional factors like final project requirements, available resources for online students (e.g. academic or career advising), and/or any unique features, such as a faith-based program. Below, we explore a couple more considerations for choosing an online bachelor's in environmental science in more detail.


Environmental science programs are generally accredited by organizations that award accreditation to the institution as a whole. For example, an institution may be accredited by regional organizations like the Higher Learning Commission or the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). Typically, these accreditation bodies are non-profit organizations.

Some environmental science programs have specialized accreditation from a non-profit group called the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC). Students must graduate from an EHAC-accredited program to earn the Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) credential and may also be required for jobs within the US Public Health Service.

Costs of Environmental Science Programs

Another very important factor for students to consider when choosing an online environmental science program is the cost of the program and the availability of tuition assistance. Tuition rates vary by school, but some online bachelor's degree programs in environmental science or studies may cost between $300 and $375 per credit hour. This could mean that each course costs over $900. Some courses may also have additional lab or technology fees that may be close to $100.

Students might also be responsible for costs associated with any practical requirements, which could involve transportation, housing, and other miscellaneous expenses. In addition, students might be expected to have reliable internet and a relatively new computer.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Bearing tuition costs in mind, students may want to search for schools that offer various forms of financial aid. Many online students are still eligible for financial aid after filling out their FAFSA and may be able to accept loans, grants, and/or scholarships to help pay for their schooling.

Students should also look for schools that offer ways to get discounted tuition. Many online programs offer discounted tuition rates for U.S. servicemembers and/or spouses of active-duty military members. Some students may also want to ensure that the program of their choice accepts any transfer credits so they don't end up paying for any additional coursework they have already taken. Students may also find some online programs that award college credit for prior work or military experience.

Career Options for Graduates with a Bachelor's in Environmental Science

Those with a background in environmental science can work for nonprofit organizations, the government, environmental consulting firms, research laboratories, nature facilities, and more. Typically, environmental science professionals work full-time and are likely to spend some of their time outdoors performing various job duties. Below are some examples of potential job titles, as well as some details for a couple of the more common job options.

  • Conservation data specialist
  • Natural resource specialist
  • Geospatial analyst
  • Hazardous substance scientist
  • Geographic information systems specialist
  • Protection specialist
  • Environmental compliance inspectors

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Entry-level positions as an environmental scientist or specialist generally requires a bachelor's degree in environmental science or another natural science. These professionals typically work full-time and may spend some of their time in an office or laboratory setting and other time in the field collecting data.

There are several different kinds of environmental scientists and specialists, including environmental restoration planners, industrial ecologists, and environmental health and safety specialists, and their job duties may vary by position. However, in general, environmental scientists and specialists work to protect the environment, as well as work for the benefit of human health. Their job may require them to perform duties such as:

  • Designing research projects and surveys
  • Collecting air, water, or soil samples for analysis
  • Analyzing environmental data
  • Informing the public and other agencies about possible environmental/health concerns
  • Helping create plans for correcting pollution or other environmental issues

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), environmental scientists and specialists had a job outlook of 8% from 2018 to 2028. This outlook is faster than the national average. The BLS also reported that the median salary for these professionals was $71,130 in 2018.

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Conservation scientists and foresters must have a bachelor's degree, and typically this degree is in forestry or another closely related field, such as environmental science. Most of these professionals work full-time and may spend their days in offices, labs, and/or the outdoors.

Conservation scientists may include jobs titles like conservation land managers or soil and water conservationists, while foresters may include job titles like conservation education foresters and procurement foresters. Typically, conservation scientists and foresters help manage natural resources and ensure that natural areas are thriving. Job duties for these professionals may include:

  • Supervising forestry and conservation activities
  • Creating land management plans
  • Determining which conservation and forestry activities to use where
  • Working with local landowners
  • Monitoring sites for regeneration and future use

The BLS reported that conservation scientists and foresters had a job outlook of 3% from 2018 to 2028, which is slower than average. These professionals made an annual median salary of $61,340 in 2018, per the BLS.