Oregon Graduate Schools for Environmental Science Programs

Environmental Science Graduate Schools offer several degree levels that range from Masters to Doctorate programs and certificates. Most graduate programs in environmental science (ES) are interdisciplinary. Curricula might, for instance, meld topics in the physical, biological, and information sciences with economics, business, and sociology. However, there are sub-fields that could help students refine their knowledge and skill sets. These include agricultural science, plant science, conservation biology, ecology, and marine science.

Environmental Science Graduate Schools: Overview

To fully understand what Environmental Science Graduate Schools might have to offer, one could think of ES as an umbrella for three distinct topics: (1) environmental policy), (2) environmental management, and (3) environmental studies. Regardless of program focus, students might examine man-made and natural environmental issues with a critical eye and could research to address dilemmas and work towards clean-up and solutions.

Environmental Policy

Schools for Environmental Policy Graduate programs might delve into the creation and preservation of legislation and regulations that relate to how both natural and constructed environments are governed. Students might analyze law, formal policies, and informal customs and practices. Interested students could look for a degree program that highlights policy for a specific aspect of ES such as marine ecosystems.

Environmental Management

Schools with Environmental Management Graduate programs focus primarily on the business and administrative aspects of all types of resources, from energy to population health. Topics of study might include finance and economics, but students might also delve into natural science and natural resources.

Environmental Studies

Schools with Environmental Studies Graduate programs often

spotlight the human and social science aspects of ES, rather than the more scientific parts. Environmental studies often asks the question, “How can we work towards a sustainable future?” Students might therefore study how humans affect and impact their environment, or how structures could be planned that minimize harm to the habitats around them.

When surveyed, 79% of Climate Change Analysts said they had a Master's degree.i

Environmental Science Graduate Schools and Degree Programs

Schools for Environmental Science Masters Programs

Schools that offer Environmental Science Masters Programs may offer an interdisciplinary Master of Science (MS) in Environmental Science or a Professional Science Masters (PSM) degree. An MS is often the more analytic and scientific, whereas the PSM often blends science courses with professional development. One could also look for Environmental Science Graduate Schools with more narrowly focused masters degree programs in areas such as food studies or ecosystem services.

MS in Environmental Science Schools

A Master of Science in Environmental Science is often built around a core of science-based courses and electives that might entail about 34 to 36 credits. Science courses often draw content from other STEM subjects, therefore while the topics below are examples they might provide insight.

  • Biostatistics
  • Public Policy
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Advanced Conservation Biology
  • Hydrologic Applications of GIS

In addition, students might choose to complete their degree with either a thesis or a capstone project. Many environmental science graduate schools suggest that prospective students contact the program faculty before they apply to discuss thesis topics and research projects. Students are often matched with a potential thesis adviser at the time of admission.

Admission Formation

Graduate schools for MS degree programs do not necessarily share the same admission requirements so it is best to refer to individual universities. Some schools look for candidates that have a bachelors degree, earned at a regionally accredited university or college in Environmental Science, Biological Science or a related discipline. Most schools look for applicants with a minimum 3.0 GPA, and may want to see a student’s research and career aims in addition to transcripts, letters, an essay, and references.

Environmental Science Concentrations

In some universities, students might be able to tailor their Masters degree with a concentration that reflects their environmental interests. Some examples are below, but as they vary between universities, make sure to refer to individual schools for more options.

Masters in Global Environment and Sustainability: A focus in global environment and sustainability could analyze the way complex issues are addressed by international regulations, governance, and public and private organizations. Some of the complex issues might include those related to climate change, biodiversity, water quality, the quality of ecosystems, and natural resource suppliers.

Masters in Corporate Sustainability: A focus in corporate sustainability could cover the private sector’s key role in shaping a sustainable society. Coursework might delve into environmental partnerships and ethics.

Masters in Local Environmental Change and Sustainable Cities: A focus in local environmental change could highlight topics such as the development of sustainable cities and regions. Students might analyze and explore sustainable futures; measures and tools with respect to waste, energy, water, transport; and climate-proofing cities and regions.

Masters in European Spatial and Environmental Planning (ESEP): A focus in European spatial planning could enhance student’s knowledge of EU policies. Students could learn how to cooperate with planners across borders and coordinate with other sectors such as economic development as it relates to the environment.

PSM in Environmental Science Schools

A Professional Science Masters in Environmental Science is often planned around a core of about 36 credits of required science and professional courses that provide common baseline knowledge. Non-technical courses could help students learn to manage projects and write professionally. Technical courses might include the following topics.

  • Ecosystem Ecology
  • Environmental Quality
  • Land Use Planning
  • Watershed Management
  • Applied GIS

This core may be enhanced by a broad range of electives tailored to an individual's area of interest. Restoration ecology, public health, and environmental economics are some examples. Refer to individual schools for a full list. Together, the core and related electives form a curriculum that might easily adapt to the needs of individual students.

Students might also complete a capstone research project with a faculty mentor and a professional in their sector of study. This allows students to apply their course work and experience to real world problems. Some PSM programs are designed to be completed in two years of full-time study.

Admissions Information: Schools with environmental science PSM degree programs may have different admission requirements. That said, often students are required to have a bachelors degree, earned at a regionally accredited college or university. Acceptable majors might include:

Environmental Science, Marine Science, Earth Science, Chemistry, Biology, or other related majors. Other material that applicants may need could include a minimum GPA of 3.0, essay, references, resume, GRE scores, and transcripts.

PSM in Environmental Informatics: A focus in Environmental Informatics includes in-depth analytical and computer-based methods used to manage natural resources and the environment. Required business courses might cover organizational leadership, strategic marketing, and applied linear statistics. Students might also take a course in accounting information for managerial decisions. Technical courses could cover topics such as environmental statistics, applied GIS, and remote sensing.

The degree might provide a business foundation and concepts that might be applied to fields such as sociology, public policy analysis, business, sustainable systems, and terrestrial/aquatic ecosystem management.

Graduate Certificates in Environmental Science

Some environmental science graduate schools may offer graduate certificate programs in a singular topic of study. Students might use the certificate to add onto present skills and undergraduate knowledge—or, to earn graduate credit and potentially transfer these credits to a Master's degree later.

Schools for Environmental Science PhD Programs

A PhD in Environmental Science is a research-based and terminal degree that might enable students to develop both breadth and depth of knowledge. Often it is a multi-disciplinary program that collaborates with other University departments. This feature may allow students to conduct research in ecology, biodiversity, conservation, geology, or environmental policy. Students often work closely with one or more faculty members to master their chosen area of environmental research.

Some schools that offer Environmental Science PhD Programs may anchor studies in a concentration area such as chemistry or biology. However, there are also less technical programs that might discuss global ecological challenges such as climate change. PhD students may take about 61 credits of course work and doctoral research and dissertation.

To earn their Doctorate in Environmental Science, students typically need to successfully take a comprehensive exam and present/defend their original research (dissertation) in front of a committee. And, while there may not be a one-size fits all curriculum, all doctoral students might need to spend time in residency and teach, run seminars, or supervise labs.

Admissions Information

Applicants to some universities could need either a bachelors or masters degree in science, mathematics, engineering or environmental science.

Earn Your Environmental Science Degree on Campus

Graduate schools for Environmental Science might offer immersive programs where students focus on place-based field science education. This might take the form of a hands-on curriculum that brings the didactic courses to life. For instance, students who hope to study wildlife, parks, plants, marine life or other ecology-focused program might have the opportunity to live in the environment they choose to study.

In other more academic programs, graduate students might get involved with faculty research projects and may have placement opportunities with local organizations. Or, students might connect with community-based networks and initiatives.

Why a Graduate Degree in Environmental Science?ii

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) more of today’s businesses are expected to consult with environmental scientists and specialists in the future to help them minimize the impact their operations have on the environment.” The BLS also projects that employment of environmental scientists and specialists is on the rise; an 11 percent increase is expected to the year 2024, to be exact.

That said, environmental science graduates might pursue diverse career paths, some examples of which follow. iii

  • Climate change analysts
  • Environmental health specialists
  • Environmental restoration planners
  • Industrial ecologists
  • Environmental chemists

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[i] onetonline.org/link/summary/19-2041.01 | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm#tab-6 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm#tab-2

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