Earning an Online Environmental Science Bachelors Degree

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Updated November 3, 2022

A bachelor's in environmental science meets minimum degree requirements for all the careers mentioned above, so bachelor's-holders with requisite professional

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An interdisciplinary field drawing from various social and physical sciences, environmental science focuses on understanding, improving, and protecting environmental systems. As ecodisasters escalate, environmental concern grows, and regulations tighten, demand for environmental science expertise also continues to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an above-average job growth rate of 8% for environmental scientists during 2019-2029.

PayScale data indicates that environmental science bachelor's program graduates make an annual salary of $59,723. However, graduates working as environmental scientists or in engineer positions often earn considerably higher salaries according to the BLS. Top-paying industries for environmental scientists include government, engineering, and management.

Online environmental science degrees usually take about four years to complete, including associate degree credits. Learners in accelerated online programs often finish more quickly by completing shorter intensive courses offered year-round. Eligible applicants hold a 3.0 minimum GPA and complete prerequisite science and math courses. Read further for more information on potential careers, salaries, and requirements for an environmental science degree online.

What Can I Do With an Online Degree in Environmental Science?

Environmental science encompasses many fields, contexts, and careers. Graduates often become environmental scientists working in fields such as environmental restoration, industrial ecology, or climate change analysis. Often employed by the government, environmental scientists and specialists spend their days collecting and analyzing data and designing environmental solutions.

Studying environmental science often leads to lucrative environmental engineering or environmental health and safety manager (EHS) careers. Environmental engineers often assist companies in reducing pollution, improving public health, and adopting more sustainable environmental practices. EHS managers work toward similar ends by assessing risk, ensuring regulatory compliance, and safeguarding against economic hazards.

Entry-level positions such as environmental science and protection technician pay a median annual salary of about $46,000 annually. However, the environmental scientist, engineer, and manager positions mentioned above often pay $70,000-$90,000, according to BLS salary data.

The BLS indicates that candidates often need master's degrees for career advancement. By pursuing curriculum concentrations, advanced degrees, or certificate programs in niche fields with positive growth projections, environmental science enrollees increase their employability.

Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Environmental Science?

A bachelor's in environmental science meets minimum degree requirements for all the careers mentioned above, so bachelor's-holders with requisite professional experience qualify for most environmental science jobs. However, many positions require additional specialization in a specific field or role, so some candidates pursue a master's degree to qualify for promotion or career transition. Advanced degrees also enable professionals to earn a higher salary.

Master's degrees with relevant specializations help environmental science professionals obtain leadership positions such as EHS manager. Master's degrees that include management courses often prove useful for EHS managers. Aspiring environmental managers often pursue an MBA or an MS in environmental management.

Accreditation for a Degree in Environmental Science

To safeguard the value of your educational investment, choose accredited environmental science programs. To obtain accreditation, universities meet academic standards set and evaluated by accreditation agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The accreditation process assesses the quality of schools' academic resources, including curriculum rigor, library resources, and faculty credentials.

Institutions accredited by regional accrediting agencies often enjoy higher academic status than schools holding national accreditation. All students at accredited schools receive consideration for federal financial aid, but credits and degrees from nationally accredited schools often do not transfer to regionally accredited schools.

Good online environmental science degree programs usually also hold programmatic accreditation by the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council. The Department of Education's Database of Accredited Institutions and Programs helps prospective students identify schools' and programs' accreditation status.

FAQ on Online Environmental Science Bachelor's Degree

How many years does it take to study environmental science?

A traditional, full-time bachelor's program takes about two years beyond a two-year associate degree. However, enrolling in an accelerated program shortens time-to-degree.

What is an environmental scientist salary?

The BLS indicates that environmental scientists and specialists earned a median annual salary of $71,360 in 2019.

Is a master's in environmental science worth it?

PayScale salary data indicates that master's in environmental science graduates earn about $7,000 more annually than the field's bachelor's degree-holders.

What does an environmental scientist do?

Usually working for nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or natural resource-related companies, environmental scientists research, analyze, and address environmental issues.

What Are the Requirements for a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science

OSU's holistic admissions process evaluates applicants based on previous grades and coursework completed, class rank, application essay answers, and personal statements. Performance in math and science receives special notice. OSU considers test scores an optional, supplemental part of the application.

Online environmental science degree programs typically consist of 120 credits, with 60 credits of general education requirements and 60 credits of environmental science coursework. Enrollees complete foundational math and science courses, core environmental science courses, and specialization-related courses. Some programs also require an experiential learning capstone, which usually involves an internship, research project, or thesis.

Courses in an Environmental Science Program

Online environmental science degree programs build students' quantitative skills through foundational courses in math, chemistry, biology, and physics. Meanwhile, enrollees also complete various core environmental science courses related to human environment, environmental management, and environmental policy.

Most programs also require students to complete electives and/or specialization-related courses. Specialization courses vary by program, but often include aquatic biology, environmental agriculture, or environmental policy. Other possibilities include alternative energy, environmental science education, or applied ecology. Most programs offer field experience-based courses also. See below for descriptions of some common environmental science courses.

  • Environmental Sustainability

    Tracing connections between environmental and social issues and improvement strategies, this course surveys how companies and economic policies shift to reflect new awareness, technologies, and environmental developments. Emphasizing efficient, sustainable business practices and policies, this course focuses on bringing human desires and communities into balance with natural ecosystems. This foundational course typically appears in environmental science, engineering, and management program core curricula.
  • Climatology

    Providing an overview of the Earth's climate system and the factors threatening it, climatology proves essential for environmental science students. Enrollees learn about the radiation, energy balance, hydrologic cycling, and ocean and atmosphere circulation. This course covers global climate models and weather forecasting technologies. Climatology proves particularly important for students pursuing concentrations such as Earth systems, conservation, water resources, or environmental policy.
  • Environmental Law

    Found in both law and environmental science programs, this course outlines important environmental protections, statutes, and laws. Major legal landmarks discussed include the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and various hazardous waste and cleanup laws. Other relevant regulations and laws pertain to nuclear materials and other environmental toxins such as pesticides. By focusing on laws, policies, and strategies for improving environmental, economic, and societal sustainability and wellbeing, environmental law courses prepare graduates to become informed and effective environmental advocates.
  • Ecology

    Part of all environmental science programs, this foundational course explores the relationship between organisms and their environment. Enrollees gain a broad understanding of how ecologists study the natural world. Ecology courses also familiarize students with ecological science's fundamental principles, including biodiversity, natural selection, and sustainability. Discussing current ecological challenges, research, and possible solutions helps ecology students determine their interests, goals, and desired career contributions.
  • Oceanography

    Incorporating biological, chemical, and geological principles, this interdisciplinary course discusses ocean basins' origins, processes, and communities. Students learn about elemental cycles, including the carbon cycle and ocean circulation. This course also covers coastal geology, coastal development, and coral bleaching. Other topics include invasive species, climate change, and hydrothermal venting. This course supports environmental science students interested in water science, water resource management, and oceanography.

Certifications and Licensure for Environmental Science Majors

Some jobs require professional certifications or licenses verifying specialized skills and knowledge. Usually awarded by professional organizations or boards, certifications typically require candidates to demonstrate educational or experiential prerequisites and pass an examination. Some common environmental science professional certifications appear below.

  • Certified Environmental Scientist

    The CES certification verifies its holder's grasp of basic principles in environmental science disciplines such as earth science, meteorology, chemistry, and environmental health. Certification candidates require an environmental science-related bachelor's degree (or 12 years of relevant work experience), three years of environmental science employment, and passing results on the CES examination. This certification typically serves environmental science technicians, research assistants, and scientists.

  • Board Certified Environmental Scientist

    Administered by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, the BCES certification requires good character and professional standing, an environmental science-related degree, and full-time engagement in environmental science work. To qualify for examination, BCES applicants need at least eight years of progressive experience, including four years in a board-approved leadership role. Up to two advanced degrees count for 1.5 years of experience each.

  • Registered Environmental Manager

    Serving experienced environmental professionals seeking project manager, manager, or director roles, this credential indicates skills and knowledge in environmental project and program management. Applicants need an environment-related bachelor's degree; five years of experience in environmental science, engineering, health, or management; and successful certification examination performance. Three years of work experience substitutes for one education year.

Professional Organizations for Environmental Science Students

The four environment-related professional organizations sampled below provide advocacy, community, and professional development. Online environmental science degree students and professionals benefit from joining these organizations, which often provide networking opportunities, certifications, and career resources. Some professional organizations offer discounted student memberships, chapters, and leadership opportunities.

The nation's largest professional organization for ecologists, the ESA advocates for the profession and produces various publications. The ESA supports professional development and networking through continuing education, a member directory, and an annual conference. The ESA offers four levels of ecologist professional certification. This nonprofit organization supports corporations in sustainable environmental practice efforts. The NAEM shares webinars and blogs on relevant topics. The NAEM also connects environmental health, safety, and sustainability professionals through conferences, executive roundtables, and leadership opportunities. This multidisciplinary professional association advocates for high ethical standards of practice and connects environmental professionals with educational and career resources. Committed to advancing environmental professions through networking and information sharing, the NEAP also provides professional training and certification programs, conferences, and a job board. This professional association works to improve organizational leadership regarding climate-related issues. Through networking events, leadership development, training, and credentialing programs, the ACCO helps climate-change professionals enhance their expertise and advance their careers. ACCO events and programs also facilitate solution-building collaborations among policymakers, climatologists, and practitioners.

Scholarships for Environmental Science Students

Eligible college students, including environmental science students, can apply to scholarships offered by government organizations, professional organizations, schools and nonprofit or for-profit entities. Usually awarded based on combinations of merit, financial need, or group membership, scholarships do not require repayment. See below for a few scholarships available to environmental science students.

National Garden Clubs Scholarships

Who Can Apply: NGC's offers over 41 scholarships that go to legal U.S. residents majoring in environment- or plant-related subjects. Eligible applicants maintain 3.25 minimum GPAs in undergraduate or master's programs at accredited schools. Application materials include recommendation letters, transcripts, financial aid forms, and a list of activities.

Amount: $4,000

Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Environmental Division and Veolia Water Technologies Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship invites applications from SME student members enrolled in a bachelor's or graduate program focused on mining and the environment. Eligible candidates hold a 3.0 minimum GPA and have completed at least two years of undergraduate-level coursework. The recipient's school must hold ABET accreditation, an SME student chapter, or a four-year or graduate geological science degree program. Applicants submit a short essay discussing the role of water in mining.

Amount: $2,000

Bailey Research Fellowship

Who Can Apply: Cosponsored by the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, this fellowship financially supports current or graduating graduate students in spending 3-4 months research in the RMNP. Eligible candidates demonstrate advanced communication skills, research excellence, and/or natural or cultural resource training.

Amount: $3,000-$8,000

David S. Miller Young Scientist Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This financial award goes to enrollees in undergraduate or graduate programs related to geo-environmental science or engineering. Candidates have high potential, financial need, and a 3.4 minimum GPA.

Amount: $1,500

Switzer Environmental Fellowship

Who Can Apply: This fellowship supports California or New England graduate students enrolled full time in environmental conservation, environmental law, environmental technology, or environmental science. The Switzer Environmental fellowship only accepts applications from U.S. citizens that demonstrate financial need and leadership ability.

Amount: $15,000

Best Online Environmental Science Degrees

Environmental science is a growing industry, and a degree in the field gives graduates a better foot in the door to the growing list of jobs and careers that are becoming available. Program options from two-year to bachelor's to graduate can get you started in the field and help you move along your career path, allowing you to help tackle the environmental problems of today — and tomorrow. We're helping with your research for the perfect school by looking at the degrees available, class sizes, student services and net price. Using these metrics, we've compiled our list of the Best Schools for Environmental Science in 2019.

#1 Earning an Online Environmental Science Bachelors Degree

Oregon State University

  • Corvallis, OR
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

From its main campus in Corvallis, Oregon State University supports online programs reaching 14,977 distance learners. The college promotes online learning through its 22 online bachelor's degrees. One option includes a bachelor of science in environmental sciences.

Degree-seekers can enroll full or part time. Students benefit from rigorous curriculum, consisting of foundational and advanced coursework. Learners can also pursue collaborative work with colleagues and faculty members, such as faculty-driven research projects.

Degree candidates benefit from institutional support systems through career services, academic advising, and other offices. The college reports a 67% graduation rate. Prospective applicants can learn more about funding opportunities through the financial aid office. The institution notes that 85% of all students receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,846
Out-of-state
$29,445
Retention Rate
85%
Admission Rate
82%
Students Enrolled
31,719
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#2 Earning an Online Environmental Science Bachelors Degree

Southern New Hampshire University

  • Manchester, NH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Southern New Hampshire University, a private college in Manchester, provides flexible educational opportunities to learners from all walks of life. The college provides in-person and online educational opportunities across 62 bachelor's programs. A leader in online education, the college reaches 106,762 distance learners across the world.

The bachelor of science in environmental science appeals to students seeking flexible study relevant to the environmental science field. Degree-seekers can enroll full or part time. As part of the program curriculum, enrollees complete coursework equipping them with general and advanced knowledge. Outside of the classroom, students can pursue experiential learning opportunities, such as internships and externships, as they prepare for a career in environmental science. Students can benefit from institutional resources and receive personal and professional guidance through career services and other offices.

Enrollees typically pay $465 per course credit. The college boasts numerous internal and external funding opportunities available to eligible students, reporting that 77% of all enrollees receive aid. Prospective applicants can speak with the financial aid office to learn more.

Average Tuition
In-state
$30,756
Out-of-state
$30,756
Retention Rate
65%
Admission Rate
88%
Students Enrolled
113,514
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#3 Earning an Online Environmental Science Bachelors Degree

University of Maryland Global Campus

  • Adelphi, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online

Located in Adelphi, University of Maryland Global Campus boasts flexible degrees attracting learners from all walks of life. The public college offers 31 bachelor's programs, all of which learners can pursue online. The college connects 52,298 distance learners with a top-ranked education and premier faculty.

Students seeking a career in environmental science may find the bachelor's in environmental management appealing. Learners complete foundational and advanced coursework while attending industry-specific lectures in a virtual classroom environment. Degree-seekers can choose electives and modify their classes based on their career goals. Enrollees can also pursue internships and other experiential learning opportunities to further prepare for the demands of a career. Throughout their program, students can access institutional resources such as career services and academic advising.

Eligible students can receive internal and external funding opportunities to defray the costs of their degree. Interested applicants can explore their eligibility for internal and external aid in consultation with the financial aid office.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,200
Out-of-state
$11,976
Retention Rate
52%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
58,281
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
90% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#4 Earning an Online Environmental Science Bachelors Degree

University of Florida-Online

  • Gainesville, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online

Learners seeking a career in environmental science should consider enrolling at University of Florida-Online. The Gainesville-based school offers a bachelor of science in environmental management.

The program provides flexible study options for students seeking to advance in the field. Upon enrolling, students pursue coursework alongside classmates, instructed by top-ranked instructors in the field. Degree-seekers benefit from a rigorous course curriculum, consisting of foundational and advanced coursework. Outside of the classroom, enrollees can pursue experiential learning opportunities, such as internships and externships. Distance learners receive support from academic advisors, faculty mentors, and career services throughout the course of their program.

Eligible students can receive internal and external funding opportunities to defray the costs of their degree. Applicants can explore their eligibility for internal and external aid by working with the financial aid office.

Average Tuition
In-state
$3,358
Out-of-state
$15,000
Retention Rate
63%
Admission Rate
32%
Students Enrolled
3,926
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Earning an Online Environmental Science Bachelors Degree

Prescott College

  • Prescott, AZ
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Arizona-based Prescott College offers an industry-relevant education to undergraduates looking to advance in the environmental science field. The college offers 18 bachelor's programs, with 14 programs available online. One option includes the environmental studies program.

The program prepares students for the demands of the field through a personalized online curriculum. Students benefit from interactive learning through a virtual classroom environment, where they can collaborate with colleagues and faculty. As part of the program curriculum, degree-seekers complete major-specific coursework equipping them with general and advanced knowledge related to the field. Outside of the classroom, enrollees can pursue experiential learning opportunities, such as internships and externships. Degree-seekers can access institutional resources, including career services and academic advising.

Eligible students can apply scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid to their educational costs. Students interested in learning more about funding and eligibility requirements can meet with the financial aid office.

Average Tuition
In-state
$30,888
Out-of-state
$30,888
Retention Rate
61%
Admission Rate
97%
Students Enrolled
993
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
65% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

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AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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