5 Most Popular Colleges for Environmental Science Majors

The best schools for undergraduate environmental science students and their tuition prices.


Thanks to worldwide issues like climate change, the environmental science major has grown in popularity over the past 20 years. Today, students can study everything from environmental engineering to environmental resource management.

If you’re thinking about a future that focuses on sustainability, there are thousands of excellent environmental science programs throughout the country. We’ve found the five most popular departments for undergraduates – and even included the cost of attendance.

5. Carnegie Mellon University: $44,880

Ever think an interest in the environment could lead into an engineering degree? At Carnegie Mellon, environmental science is about much more than sustainability and landscape. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon has a somewhat unusual focus: community service. The university is internationally recognized for its research, and students strive to uncover new issues and solutions in the environmental science field.

The environmental engineering degree allows students to develop their own curriculum. Majors can choose classes that fit their goals and interests. With the freedom to take eight electives, undergraduates can build their degree in any way they choose. Carnegie Mellon encourages students to take classes in humanities and social science to expand their post-grad possibilities. As seniors, students must complete an engineering design project – so potential majors should be aware that engineering is in more than just the program name.

4. Carnegie Mellon University: $7,282 (residents), $25,492 (non-residents)

The School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech is an award-winning department. It’s one of the best science programs in the country, thanks to its impressive technology and research. The environmental science department focuses heavily on improving the human condition. With six areas of study, students can specialize in areas such as geosystems or water resources. There’s also a department and degree program for students who are interested in environmental engineering.

Environmental science majors can choose to complete a BA, BS, or even their master’s degree. Georgia Tech offers a five year combined BS/MS program for students who want to complete both their undergraduate and graduate studies at the school. Georgia Tech also caters to students who want to work full time while completing their undergraduate studies. The school offers a cooperative education program that gives students enough flexibility to maintain a full course load as they work.

3. Yale University: $42,300

Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies is one of the best environmental science programs worldwide. With its combination of research, challenging courses, and real world application of principles, the department blows most other colleges out of the water. Environmental science got its start at Yale in 1998, making it one of the newest programs on campus. It’s also a widely specialized program; students can choose from four tracks that include environmental chemical and biological science and environmental resource management.

Environmental science isn’t restricted to textbook learning at Yale. In fact, the university built the department buildings with solar water heaters, a rainwater harvesting system, and a geothermal heating system. As undergrads, students work closely with faculty members and choose a mentor to assist with research. There’s also the benefit of the world’s largest library – environmental science majors can conduct their research with the best sources at their fingertips.

2. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign: $14,960 (residents), $29,102 (non-residents)

Environmental science at the University of Illinois began back in 1867 as an agriculture program. Today, the department is one of the top researchers in the earth and life science field. When it comes to diversity, environmental science certainly qualifies – the department has ten different programs and 39 concentrations. Whether you’re interested in Weed Management or Herbicide Drift on White Oak Seedlings, there are countless programs to meet students’ needs.

If you’re looking for a university that gets students involved, the University of Illinois is the place. With local teaching and outreach programs, environmental science majors can put their knowledge to practice while making a difference in the community. Uniquely, the environmental science department is home to program-specific clubs that get students learning beyond the classroom. From the Forestry Club, which hosts park clean ups and tree plantings, to the Herbology Club, which creates on-campus gardens, there are many ways to get involved.

1. Stanford University: $41,250

Earning an environmental science BA or BS at Stanford gives students the best degree of its kind. Stanford’s programs are housed in the School of Earth Sciences, which has two environment-specific departments. Within the school, each specific program allows undergraduates to design a curriculum that satisfies their interests. It’s not all about environmental science, though. Each program is interdisciplinary, meaning majors take classes in geology and earth systems along with their environment-focused ones.

Stanford takes its students’ research seriously, expecting environmental science majors to research with the mindset of contributing to the world. A capstone research program is required by graduation, and independent research is expected throughout the four years. For students in the Geological & Environmental Science program, six weeks of field research are also required. Internships are also a popular choice for majors who want career experience prior to graduation.

Quick Facts

  • Environmental science majors conduct two different types of research: lab work and fieldwork. As undergraduates, students often get experience in both types in order to understand popular research methods.
  • Though it might sound like a very specific field, environmental science is actually very broad. Graduates enter careers such as public policy, education, and even business management.
  • Wondering about the difference between a BA and a BS? When it comes to environmental science, a BA gives students a more theoretical approach, and a BS provides a hands-on scientific program.

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