What Are the Courses for a Master's Degree in Environmental Science?

A master's degree in environmental science can prepare individuals for careers in research and policy. Keep reading this article to learn about how master's degree programs in environmental science work and the typical courses included in the curriculum. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Master of Science in Environmental Science

Environmental science master's degree students can often choose a specialization. Sometimes, they can design their own concentration or pursue a joint degree. Available concentrations may examine applied ecology, environmental spatial analysis, water pollution, biological resources, environmental chemistry, risk assessment or toxicology.

Important Facts About Master's Degrees in Environmental Science

Prerequisites Undergraduate degree; select prerequisite courses, such as calculus, chemistry, and statistics, may be necessary
Online Availability Fully online programs available
Possible Careers Environmental scientist, wildlife manager, hydrologist
Continuing Education Ph.D. in Environmental Science


Although coursework for each program typically differs, the environmental science curriculum typically requires hands-on professional experience through research or an internship. Students may apply sampling techniques for collecting data in the field, conduct experiments in the lab, perform statistical analysis and do environmental modeling. They may employ technology like GIS and remote sensing in their research.

Core Courses

Common core courses in Master of Science in Environmental Science degree programs are listed below along with descriptions:


Students examine how organisms relate to their living and non-living environments. For example, they may study energy balance, nutrient cycles, human impacts on ecology and ecological restoration. Some ecology courses discuss forest ecology, stream ecology, urban ecology or other particular ecological systems.

Environmental Chemistry

In this course, students understand topics such as thermodynamics, chemical kinetics and chemodynamics, and learn how chemical systems of Earth relate to each other. Students can find out how chemistry applies to the environment. For example, students can learn how pollution spreads as a result of physiochemical reactions and how the greenhouse effect works.

Environmental Policy

Examine the process of policymaking, learn about policy analysis models and study policies such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. See how environmental policy is carried out on a global level.

Other Courses

Here is a list of courses that may be offered in environmental science programs, depending on the specialization:

  • Ecology & ecosystem management
  • Conservation biology
  • Water resources
  • Air quality management
  • Wetlands management
  • Environmental justice
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Sustainability science

Environmental Science Careers

Graduates may become research environmental scientists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of all environmental scientists and specialists is expected to increase by 11% from 2016-2026. Professionals in this field earned a median annual wage of $71,130 in 2018. The highest paid scientists worked in wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers, according to the BLS.

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:

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