If you have done your research and determined that an Environmental Science degree is what you would like to pursue, then you may also be considering an online degree. A decade or so ago your choices would have been very limited, and the quality of the program may have been questioned. With so many schools now moving into the online arena, there is definitely a recognized increase in degree integrity. The reasons for choosing to pursue a degree online can be numerous; cost of moving is prohibitive, flexible scheduling, desire to only take 1-2 classes at a time, etc.
There are definitely some factors to consider. Just as with the traditional classroom setting schools, there is more variety among schools offering Bachelor's in Environmental Science than Master's, and very few that offer a PhD option. The schools that do offer these programs can be considered two types of schools; those that pioneered online learning, and added many realms of class work, and those that already had Environmental Science degree programs, and chose to take them online. Each type has advantages; it will come down to which school seems to be the best fit in cost, admission requirements, coursework, material requirements, financial aid, etc. Perhaps the most important question to consider is if the school has accreditation or not. Another good thing to consider is the alumni network. How broad is it? Will it help you find a position in your desired field?
How Do Online Environmental Science Degrees Work?
Taking classes on your own schedule, while working full-time, or staying up late, or some other reason to do it online sounds great, right? Besides, it won't take THAT much time…. You might think that until you begin to take the classes. Most online classes today still have an instructor or two, but these courses may be videotaped lectures, slides, or a combination. There will definitely still be required reading outside of the lectures. And yes, you will need to watch them! There may be quizzes embedded in the videos, or tests may not “unlock” until you have watched all the videos. If you go to any of the schools at the bottom, they will probably have links to virtual classrooms, to give you a taste of online learning.
What If I Have Questions about the Online Environmental Science Degree Learning Format and Process?
What about help? What if something makes no sense? If you can't query the professor directly (generally you can, but some classes may have hundreds of students), you will probably have a peer forum available. This forum will undoubtedly be monitored by someone from the program to make sure people are staying on track, making appropriate remarks, etc. You may have to submit work for grading to some of these same peer reviewers. This type of activity would depend on course size and school size. It would be more common at the Bachelor's level, and in general education requirements. These are the same types of classes that can have hundreds of students at a physical university as well, so don't feel as if you are missing anything. In fact, if you are willing to ask for help online, it may be easier than doing so in a room full of strangers. Consider it meeting your classmates for review, only, you don't have to walk across campus to the library in your pajamas.
What Will I Need To Be Successful Online?
Most programs dictate at the beginning what you will need equipment-wise. Your supply list will probably include some version of a recent laptop, with high speed internet access, at a minimum. Each course will have its own additional requirements. Some may be ebooks, others may be physical books or supplies that need to be purchased. You may be required to make up your own field trips from your home. Perhaps you need to tour a water facility or find a unique geological formation in your home area. Though these may be easier to do in a group setting, most places will be accommodating if you explain your situation. And most classes won't ask you to do anything too difficult, but it is important to show you can do research away from the confines of your home and the internet.
Environmental Science Online Course Examples
Typically, bachelor's degree programs in environmental science require a mix of core, general education courses as well as specialized degree courses. Students can also expect to take some credit hours of approved electives. The BS in Environmental Science program at Southern New Hampshire University offers the following degree-specific courses:
- General Biology (with Lab)
- Ecological Principles and Field Methods
- Fundamentals of Chemistry (with Lab)
- Environmental Science
- Environmental Science Research Methods
- Environmental Science Colloquium I & II
- Principles of Physics
- Environmental Ethics
Tuition and Costs for an Online Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science
Online higher education has grown in popularity, and many are surprised to find out how affordable it can be. While costs may fluctuate from program to program, the online BS in Environmental Science at Southern New Hampshire University will cost approximately $960 per course (or $320 per credit hour), along with a $150 graduation fee and the cost of any applicable course materials. Keep in mind that tuition rates can change, and are typically reviewed annually. If you are active duty military or a military spouse, be sure to inquire about the 30% discount that Southern New Hampshire University provides on tuition.
Importance of Accreditation for Online Environmental Science Programs
With so many online degree programs out there, many students are concerned about choosing the right one. An easy way for any student to ensure that they are picking a quality environmental science degree program is to check the school's accreditation. Accreditations from reputable organizations lend valuable credibility to these degree programs. There are local as well as national associations that offer accreditations. Southern New Hampshire University, for example, is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Learning.
The courses you would need to take will depend on the school chosen, the specific major or certificate program, and the degree level. Core courses for Environmental Science at the Bachelor's of Science (B.S.) level will generally include a splash of humanities, languages, math, and basic Biology and Chemistry. Different schools may then offer different courses based on the qualifications of their staff or the intent of their program. At the Master's of Science (M.S.) level, there will be a handful of foundational Environmental Science classes and then you will be able to tailor your interests with a few offerings. Remember that not all classes are taught every semester so it is imperative to plan ahead, especially if you are on a 2 year Master's schedule.
Spotlight Schools Offering Online Environmental Science Degree Programs
Oregon State University
Oregon State University (OSU) - offers a B.S. degree online. Currently requires 180 credits to graduate, with a cost of $271/credit. A number of minors and options are available to tailor your degree to a specific interest area in environmental science. Just a few examples include Environmental Conservation and Sustainability, Fisheries and Wildlife, horticulture, and Resource Economics. Classes are taught by OSU staff and the degree is equivalent to one received by someone attending classes in person. It is important to note that biology classes need to be taken elsewhere as they are not currently offered online. 45 of your last 75 credits must be through OSU in order to graduate as a transfer student.
University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix- offers a B.S. degree in Environmental Science. It requires 120 credits, mixed from lower and higher level classes which are currently $395 and $420 per credit respectively. A projected degree could cost about $55,000. The University of Phoenix is accredited with the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association. Over the past decade it has become a very popular school option and has a growing alumni network around the country. Courses include a variety from general biology and chemistry, to environmentally focused choices such as law, policy, economics, and toxicology.
Montana State University
Montana State University - offers a M.S. degree in Land Resources and Environmental Sciences. The degree is 30 credits, including 3 credits of a term paper. Credits are currently $353.50 each plus registration fees for each semester enrolled. Students also receive the same degree as someone who attended classes on campus. It is a projected 2 year program. Minimum GRE scores and undergraduate GPAs will apply, so entrance may be more difficult than to a similar program elsewhere. Classes include Water Quality, Holistic Thought and Management, Environmental Biophysics, and Remote Sensing Applications in Environmental Science. There are some area specific courses, with broader applications, as well, such as Ecology of Invasive Plants in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
American Public University
American Public University - offers a M.S. degree in Environmental Policy and Management. They also offer B.S. degrees in Environmental Science, with or without a fish and wildlife concentration. They offer numerous certificates in the Environmental arena as well, from Hazardous Waste Management to Planning, and Public Lands Management. Graduate Certificates are available in similar topics as well as Environmental Risk Assessment. Credit costs are currently $250 for undergraduate credits and $325 for graduate credits. A full-time student can expect to pay $8-10,000 per year. American Public University is accredited with the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association. Courses are often taught by current and past employees working in the field so first-hand experience with certain issues is conveyed. Classes are similar to those offered elsewhere with a mix of general science and more intense Environmental classes.
University of Illinois
University of Illinois - The School of Earth, Science, and Environment now offers an online degree in Environmental Sustainability for students with some prior college credits. Students must transfer into the program, but have the option of concentrating on either Science in the Earth System or Society and Environment. It is best to have completed a foreign language before transferring into the school. The degree conferred is the same as a student attending school live. A GPA of at least 2.7 is also required to transfer into the program. Even though you may be able to transfer in many credits, a student must have at least 60 credits directly from Illinois University, currently costing $397/credit. Classes may be offered in shorter, more intense periods than traditional classes, such as in 8 week sessions. Classes are taught by University professors and cover a variety of Environmental issues such as watershed hydrology, natural disasters, and air pollution to climate change.
University of Maryland - University College
University of Maryland University College (UMUC) offers a Master's Degree in Environmental Management which been recognized by the Council of Graduate Schools as a Professional Science Master's Degree. It consists of 36 credits, 12 courses in total. Costs range from approximately $16,500-$24,000 depending on your residency, or military status. A few classes include Watershed Management Planning, Environmental Auditing, Principles of Water Management and Pollution Control, and Environmental Communications and Reporting. UMUC is a part of the University of Maryland and is regionally accredited.
Bachelor's in Environmental Science Salary and Job Outlook
A BS in Environmental Science is essential even for most entry-level jobs in the field. While salary can vary depending on how much experience an environmental scientist has, the median annual wage as of May 2020 is $73,230, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also projects a favorable outlook on future environmental science jobs, which are expected to grow about as fast other occupations at 8 percent through 2030. Population growth and increased public interest in environmental hazards mean that professionals in environmental science will continue to be in demand. For more information on the types of jobs available with a degree in environmental science, visit our Environmental Careers page.
2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for Environmental Scientists and Specialists reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.