Environmental Science Degree Program and Certification

You can pursue an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree in environmental science. Read more about each of these degree levels, including the common coursework required. Find out how you can earn voluntary certification in environmental science through various professional organizations. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Your studies in environmental science will cover topics on ecology and conservation as well as coursework in the sciences, such as chemistry and biology. You can earn an undergraduate degree in the field if seeking positions at the entry or technician level, or you may pursue a graduate degree to qualify for lead scientist, consulting or research roles.

Degrees Associate degrees in environmental science or environmental science technology; Bachelor's and master's degrees in environmental science; Master's and Ph.D. degrees in environmental studies
Courses Conservation biology, public policy and conservation, environment and economic analysis, human health risk assessment, air qualify regulation, environmental law, coastal zone management, aquatic chemistry, environmental archaeology
Certification Voluntary certifications available as a Certified or Qualified Environmental Professional or Certified Environmental Scientist

What Will I Learn in an Environmental Science Associate's Program?

You'll find two types of associate's degree programs: an Associate of Science (A.S.) in Environmental Science and an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Environmental Science Technology. You might choose an environmental technology program if you're preparing for a career in environmental consulting or testing. An environmental science program could be the right choice if you're interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree after earning your associate's degree.

In an A.S. program, you might take courses in the following areas:

  • Conservation of botany
  • Cell biology
  • Molecular biology
  • Natural resources management
  • Ecology
  • Environmental ethics
  • Environmental policy.

Your courses in an A.A.S. program could include:

  • Organic chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Environmental health
  • Pollution prevention
  • Waste management

What Are Bachelor's Degree Programs Like?

You could earn a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Environmental Science. Enrollment in a B.A. program could be the right choice if you're planning to enter the workforce after graduation. If you're interested in pursuing a graduate degree, you might enroll in a B.S. program; B.S. programs may include more quantitative science courses.

Bachelor's degree programs in environmental science focus on field and laboratory work in the natural sciences. Many programs include an internship, senior project or practicum. You might take courses in the following areas of interest:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Research methods
  • Geographic positioning and information systems
  • Land use management
  • Energy conservation

What About Master's Degree Programs?

Prerequisites for enrollment in a master's program may include completion of bachelor's-level coursework in science and math; some schools prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree in one of the sciences or in engineering. Many programs will expect you to write a thesis paper based on your own research. In some cases, you might need to take a comprehensive exam in order to receive your degree. These class topics might be explored:

  • Coastal area management
  • Environmental law
  • Renewable resource management
  • Forest ecology
  • Environmental economics

What Kinds of Certification Could I Earn?

As an aspiring environmental scientist, you'll be able to choose from a variety of voluntary certification options offered by professional organizations. The Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals offers the Certified Environmental Professional (CEP) credential. You'll need a bachelor's degree, nine years of experience in the field and four letters of recommendation in order to take the certification exam.

You could also pursue the Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) credential offered by the Institute of Professional Environmental Practice. The certification exam can be taken by applicants who have a bachelor's degree in math, engineering or one of the sciences and five years of work experience in a position related to environmental science.

Several kinds of certification are offered by the National Registry of Environmental Professionals, including the Certified Environmental Scientist (CES) credential. You'll be eligible to take the CES certification exam if you have a bachelor's degree in a related discipline and at least three years of professional experience in the field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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