Top Majors in Environmental Science

Choose the environmental science specialty that’s right for you.

Environmental science combines both biological and physical sciences to reach a better understanding of how our planet works. With increasing concerns about global warming, research in the field of environmental science is more important than ever. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this field, it’s important to find a major that’s right for you. Check out the many types of environmental science majors available and which colleges specialize in these areas.

Environmental Studies

A common path in this field is an environmental studies degree. Students in an environmental studies program learn about a wide variety of scientific specialties, including chemistry, biology, hydrology, geology and atmospheric sciences. In addition to the scientific aspect of the program, an environmental studies major also includes courses that help students gain a better understanding of the human relationship with the environment, like economics, history, literature, religion and philosophy. Students who major in environmental studies go on to enjoy careers as scientists, policy makers, scholars, consultants, activists and non-profit workers.

With increasing concerns about global warming, research in the field of environmental science is more important than ever.

According to Mother Nature Network (MNN)Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, has one of the best environmental studies programs. It’s also the oldest program of its kind in the country. About two-thirds of Middlebury’s environmental studies majors also study abroad for a semester.

Environmental Engineering

If you pursue a major in environmental engineering, you’ll study ways to use engineering to improve the planet’s health. This is a great choice for problem-solvers who have talents in both math and science. Your major will include courses about geology, biology, chemistry and social sciences, along with engineering courses that develop your math, computer and problem-solving skills. After college, you’ll need to take the professional engineer licensing exam in order to work as an environmental engineer.

A number of colleges have excellent environmental engineering programs, including the University of Connecticut, which offers a research-based program with excellent facilities and small class sizes. For those who want to continue their studies, U.S. News and World Report ranks the University of California at Berkeley as the best graduate school for environmental engineering.


Students who are passionate about the environment can focus their interests on trees when they major in forestry. Programs in this field focus on the conservation of forests through the understanding of their ecology and biology. Students learn about forest management, as well as the identification and impact of biological diseases on forest trees. In some cases, students also take courses dealing with policy and administration as it relates to forests.

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry is consistently ranked among the top programs in forestry. The school has thousands of acres across the country available for research opportunities, giving students access to an excellent network of resources and professionals in their field.


Students who want to specifically target their education toward the responsible use of natural resources should look for a degree in sustainability or resource management. Students in these programs learn about the practical challenges that affect the availability of environmental resources and the effects of global climate change. In addition, these programs involve courses that deal with human impact on the environment, sociological studies, environmental policy and ethics.

Cornell is a top-ranked college for sustainability studies thanks to its Resource Policy and Management major. In addition, MNN ranks Montana State University’s sustainable food and bioenergy systems program – which includes concentration options in agroecology, sustainable crop production and sustainable food systems – among the best in the country.

Wildlife Biology

Environmental health directly impacts wildlife health, which makes wildlife biology another popular major in the field of environmental sciences. Those working towards a wildlife biology or wildlife management degree will learn all about the biology of various animals, along with their relationship to the ecosystem in which they live, sometimes with the option to concentrate on a particular wildlife type such as birds or fish. Wildlife disease and habitat management are typically included as topics of study in this major. Students in these programs often go on to careers as wildlife managers, game wardens, conservation consultants or educators.

The University of Montana is an excellent choice for students who want to major in wildlife biology. Their unique location near forests, fields, lakes and mountains gives students access to world-class learning and research opportunities.

Any degree in a field related to environmental science is a great choice for someone who is passionate about conservation and sustainability. As an added bonus, many jobs in this field are in high demand as concerns about the earth’s health increase. Do your research to find out which school with your intended major is the best fit for your specific interests and career goals.

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