Environmental Studies Degree

Should I Major in Environmental Studies?

Are you interested in Environmental Studies? Are you already working in the field and looking for more responsibility or specialization? With the job marketplace changing on a daily basis it seems difficult to know what career will make a good financial investment, or even a good fit. Luckily for people with an interest in environmental studies there is a growing demand for professionals with this background. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for environmental scientists and specialists will grow at a rate of 8% over the next decade.

Despite all the increasing demand for people knowledgeable in environmental issues, the competition is still tough to land an interesting, well-paying job in the field. This often leaves qualified candidates wondering what could set them apart among a pool of passionate applicants all vying for the same job. The answer is simple: a graduate degree in environmental studies.

2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics job market data for environmental scientists and specialists reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed October 2021.

What Are My Career Opportunities Compared to Having a Bachelor's Degree?

Career opportunities differ for candidates with a Bachelor's degree and a graduate degree. Bachelor's degree holders generally start on a lower rung of a corporate ladder and must work for several years before they gain the experience needed to apply for jobs that a graduate degree holder can apply to directly after graduation. Since Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary field, the range of careers available for those with a degree in environmental studies is also broad.

Potential jobs for those with a Bachelor's degree include: environmental monitoring technician, sustainability coordinator, corporate social responsibility officer, energy auditor, park interpreter, remediation specialist and aquaculturist. Environmental studies master's degree holders have the opportunity to apply for similar careers, although often with a greater degree of specialization and authority. Potential careers include: sustainability consultant, climate change specialist, environmental policy analyst, environmental manager, lobbyist, soil conservationist, and environmental economist.

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What Are the Differences in Coursework, Tuition, and Program Length between Master's & PhD Programs?

A Master's degree may be pursued following the completion of a Bachelor's degree and is typically 2 years in duration. Generally speaking, there are two types of Master's programs: course-based and research-based, although some hybrid programs exist. Both types of Master's programs will require that students follow several mandatory courses related to their specific field of study and for the most part course-based programs will allow space for electives to be chosen. Tuition does tend to vary from university to university and program to program. A Master's in Environmental Studies will generally cost anywhere in the range of $30,000 to $75,000, depending on the institution, program length, and type and student residency status.

A doctorate, or PhD program, may generally be followed after the successful completion of a Master's degree. Coursework for a PhD program is lighter than those for a Bachelor's or Master's program as PhD students are more focused on their unique research topic. A big part of a PhD student's work is supervising students in Bachelor's or Master's program as either a teaching assistant or research assistant. Typically, a PhD student will spend the last year of their studies entirely focused on their thesis. A PhD program will generally last about 5 years, which may include first getting a master's degree. A doctorate will again vary in price from public to private universities and from program to program, but will be in the range of $150,000 to $250,000 to complete.

Master's Programs in Environmental Studies

A Master's degree in Environmental Studies is one of the best ways to demonstrate expertise and interest in a specific area of study. As one of the best ways to stand out in early and mid-career, a Master's in Environmental Studies represents a distinct advantage over other job seekers with only a Bachelor's degree. Not only are starting salaries higher for Master's degree holders, but work tends to be more specialized, and not as repetitive.

Admission Requirements for Master's Programs

Admission requirements for a Master's degree in Environmental Studies typically include previous transcripts from every post secondary institution attended, two to three academic references, a resume/curriculum vitae, GRE scores, and a letter of interest addressing your reasons for choosing THIS school, THIS program, and perhaps, THIS professor. It is important to customize these for each school to which you apply, though often students only apply to one graduate program. There are also other documents that need to be submitted, if applicable, such as English language test scores, sponsorship letter and permanent resident card or form.

Some Environmental Studies Master's programs give students a wide range of options to gain practical experience to complement their academic training. By working with local and global business, policy, and consulting organizations, students can apply their knowledge using real world situations as they study.

The University of Pennsylvania has been a pioneer in Environmental Studies graduate programs. Their basic requirements are similar to other schools, in that they stress a blend of “real-world” applications in humanity classes in order to graduate.

Students enrolled in a Master's of Environmental Studies will generally need to take required courses in areas such as research methods and contemporary issues in environmental studies. The beauty of pursuing a Master's in Environment Studies is the flexibility allowed in many programs, such as the University of Oregon's program which gives students a high number of elective courses to customize their degree.

Tuition Costs and Other Considerations

As mentioned above, a Master's in Environmental Studies can cost between $5,000 and $20,000 per term, depending on the university, program, number of course hours taken per term, and student's residency status. While tuition is the largest cost factor, there are other costs such as program fees, student society fees and clinical fees that contribute to the overall cost of university. Depending on the location of your chosen school, rent or housing may be a very large factor as well.

Objectives and Goals of a Master's Degree

The objective of a Master's program in Environmental Studies is to prepare a workforce of capable, passionate thinkers trained in an interdisciplinary field who are determined to solve some of the world's most complex and challenges issues. Ranging from climate change to ecosystem health to population growth, the world needs people who are knowledgeable of the social, economic, geopolitical and environmental considerations of these issues and who can develop and implement solutions to them.

Career Pathways for a Master's in Environmental Studies

There is a plethora of career pathways that a person with a Master's in Environmental Studies may choose from. Ranging from horticulturist, park warden, peace corps worker, climatologist, eco-journalist, environmental consultant, high school science teacher, environmental policy analyst to environment, health and safety officer, just to name a few.

If a Master's degree in Environmental Studies is of interest to student who do not have the option of relocating, then an online degree may be a great option. Examples of available online programs include the University of Illinois' Master of Arts in Environmental Studies. Online degrees are often the same length in duration with the same requirements, but are often less expensive than on-campus degrees.

One consideration that should be taken into account is alumni networking. Online schools are becoming more popular, so this may be less and less of an issue, but it is amazing how much it can matter where you went to school when looking for a job. Even if you don't necessarily know the same people, an alumnus can relate to your experience, and may give preference in hiring. Also, many schools have programs tailored for their local environment and environmental job community.

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PhD in Environmental Studies

A PhD in Environmental Studies indicates to potential employers in public, private and nonprofit sector expertise and strong skill sets in an interdisciplinary field. Acquiring a PhD requires the highest level of academic integrity and scholarship. Environmental issues studied at the PhD level are complex and require deep and structured analysis. Doctoral students are prepared to solve many environmental, social and economic issues pertaining to sustainability, policy, and management.

Admission Requirements for PhD Programs

Admission requirements for a PhD degree in Environmental Studies typically include everything necessary for admittance to a master's degree program. In addition they may require a minimum 3.0 GPA as well as at least a 50th percentile ranking in all sections of the GRE test.

If you are looking for a PhD program, you may want to consider University of California Santa Cruz, which doesn't have you go through the hoops of a Master's degree first, but straight to a doctorate.

Antioch University is another school which seems to cater to professionals which have already found their niche, or those with a Master's degree already, looking for further depth in their field. There is a sense of the holistic nature of Environmental Studies readily conveyed in their information.

The University of Colorado at Boulder is a rather traditional PhD program with dissertations and timelines.

During their studies at most schools, doctoral students are required to write a research proposal, complete a general examination, conduct research and/or assist with teaching, as well as prepare, present and defend their thesis before a jury of academic supervisors.

PhD students will typically go through several stages of coursework throughout their degree. The initial stage involves taking courses such as contemporary issues in sustainability, interdisciplinary research methods and public policy and conservation, just to name a few. The second stage involves preparing for the general examination as well as teaching or research assistance-ships. The third and final stage involves the preparation and dissertation of a student's research project.

Tuition & Costs for a PhD in Environmental Studies

Tuition fees for a doctoral degree program will vary from institution to institution and from program to program. Many cost structures depend on the degree type, duration and the student's residency status. However, research into the area suggests that in the United States, the standard total cost for a PhD will range between $50,000 and $150,000. Once again, it can be considerably higher depending on the location of the school, and if you have to move there for schooling.

Objectives of a PhD Program in Environmental Studies

The objective of a PhD program is to empower students to gain the research, analysis, written and verbal skills necessary to help them solve some of the world's most complex and interdisciplinary problems. The aim is to provide students with the knowledge and background to understand current issues from multiple perspectives and to enable them to develop and implement potential solutions to these issues. A PhD program prepares students for the real world.

PhD Career Pathways

Whether a doctoral student's interest lies in social justice, ecosystem health, or environmental education, a PhD degree will help them get there. There are a myriad of potential careers that a doctor of philosophy in Environmental Studies can choose to pursue. Some examples include: environmental forensics researcher, environmental journalist, food systems resilience researcher, climate change specialist, government remediation specialist, environmental consultant or university professor.