What Are the Best Colleges for Environmental Studies?

Top-ranked environmental studies schools include a variety of majors, minors and certificates; high-ranking programs; top-level faculty; and established research centers. Review three top-ranked schools with programs in this field, and find out what kinds of environmental studies degrees you could earn at each school. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are the Characteristics of Top Environmental Studies Schools?

Depending on your area of interest in the environment, you might pursue programs that explore environmental education and outreach, policy or science. If you're policy-oriented, you might look for schools with opportunities to combine environmental studies with law, journalism or public affairs. If you want to become a scientist, you might want laboratory facilities, centers or field opportunities on or off-campus that addresses your interests. The best schools, like the ones below, have a plethora of majors, minors and specialty certificates; high-ranking faculty and programs; and research centers or programs related to environmental studies.

Three Top-Notch Environmental Studies Schools

Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH

The Ivy League's Dartmouth was 12th in U.S. News & World Report's best national universities in 2019. The Environmental Studies Program houses the environmental studies undergraduate major, the interdisciplinary Earth, Ecosystem and Ecological Sciences Program (EEES) and the IGERT Polar Environmental Change program. The Polar Science program, funded by the federal National Science Foundation, includes fieldwork in Greenland. Environmental earth sciences bachelor's and master's degrees are offered by the Department of Earth Sciences. The Dartmouth Organic Farm provides practical experience in sustainable food systems. Sixteen students travel to southern Africa annually to study population, land and water use, wildlife and resource management. Students can earn these degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) in Environmental Studies
  • A.B. in Environmental Earth Sciences
  • A.B. in Earth Sciences
  • Master of Science in Earth Sciences
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in EEES
  • Ph.D. in Earth Sciences

Duke University in Durham, NC

In 2019, Duke ranked third for its environmental policy and management graduate program, and it ranked eighth among national universities in 2019 according to U.S. News & World Report.The Nicholas School of the Environment hosts ten interdisciplinary research centers, including the Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the 7,060-acre Duke Forest and the Duke University Marine Laboratory. In addition to a variety of bachelor's and master's degree programs, Nicholas also offers an undergraduate Marine Science and Conservation Leadership Certificate and a graduate certificate in ecology.

Candidates for the Master of Environmental Management (MEM) can further specialize in coastal environments. The Duke Environmental Leadership (DEL) program offers a flexible online MEM in cooperation with the Fuqua School of Business to mid-career professionals. Doctoral programs jointly administered by Nicholas and other academic units are available in environmental health and ecology, environmental policy and integrated toxicology. These degrees are available:

  • Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) in Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Environmental Sciences
  • A.B. and B.S. in Earth and Ocean Sciences
  • Master of Environmental Management
  • Master of Forestry
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Earth and Ocean Sciences
  • Ph.D. in Environmental Policy
  • Ph.D. in Ecology
  • Ph.D. in Marine Science and Conservation

Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington

According to U.S. News & World Report's 2019 rankings, IU's graduate environmental policy and management program was listed first, and it tied for 89th as a national university in 2019. IU's Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands consults on park, recreation and public land management worldwide. The School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) supports the IU Public Policy Institute and the Center for Research in Energy and the Environment.

The Bloomington campus has a bachelor's and a master's program in environmental science along with a variety of traditional and dual degree master's degree programs related to environmental studies. There's also an accelerated master's degree program in environmental science and a graduate certificate in hazardous materials management. Master of Science in Environmental Science (MSES) dual degrees are available in areas such as chemistry, geography, law, journalism and geology. The following degrees are available:

  • Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science
  • Master of Science in Environmental Science (MSES)
  • Master of Public Affairs (MPA) in Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management
  • MPA in Sustainable Development
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science

Ten Schools with Programs in Environmental Studies

College/UniversityInstitution TypeLocationEstimated Graduate In-State Tuition (2018-2019)*
University of California-Berkeley4-year, PublicBerkeley, CA$14,000
Harvard University4-year, PrivateCambridge, MA$47,000
University of California-Davis4-year, PublicDavis, CA$13,500
Stanford University4-year, PrivateStanford, CA$51,000
University of California-Santa Barbara4-year, PublicSanta Barbara, CA$13,500
Cornell University4-year, PrivateIthaca, NY$30,000
Yale University4-year, PrivateNew Haven, CT$42,000
University of Washington4-year, PublicSeattle, WA$16,500
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities4-year, PublicMinneapolis, MN$18,500
University of Wisconsin-Madison 4-year, PublicMadison, WI$12,000

*Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education

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