Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Environmental Science

By the OnlineU team | Updated February 22, 2021

A number of significant factors, the primary being climate change, are increasing the need for specialists who study the environment, predict patterns, determine effective use of resources, and prevent and solve problems. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that in the U.S. alone, there will be an 8% increase in demand for environmental scientists over the next decade. The following is a ranked list of the best online colleges offering environmental science degrees at the bachelor's level, providing an excellent resource for prospective students to discover programs that fit their needs. Read on to learn more about degree-specific information, specializations, and answers to frequently asked questions about environmental science.

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Online Bachelor’s in Environmental Science with the Highest Return on Investment

2021 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's Degrees in Environmental Science Badge

Our top-ranked online bachelor’s degrees in environmental science all have ROIs over $240,000 after 10 years. To compare programs, we used real-world data and factored in salary growth and loan interest to determine what 10-year alumni earnings and debt might be. The cheapest degree isn’t always the best investment over time and the most expensive doesn't guarantee the highest salary, which is why we account for both earnings and debt over time to see the actual impact on these degrees on their alumni. The majority of schools on our list offer bachelor’s degrees in environmental science with 10-year ROIs above the U.S. average of $314,900 (a number that accounts for on-campus programs in addition to online). For example, top-ranked Columbia Southern University’s ROI is $675,500, and Mississippi State University rounds out the top 10 with an ROI of $354,900.

ROI amounts are based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. Tuitions are manually researched in order to determine tuition amounts specific to online degrees. Read our methodology for more details.

Rank School Annual Tuition Median Starting Salary Median Debt 10-year ROI
# 1 #1 $7,050 $68,219 $21,505 $675,500
# 2 #2 $15,098 $60,320 $42,062 $568,600
# 3 #3 $14,970 $53,984 $20,000 $530,900
# 4 #4 $8,550 $46,380 $25,528 $445,700
# 5 #5 $12,773 $40,896 $26,017 $388,600
# 6 #6 $9,600 $39,585 $17,834 $385,300
# 7 #7 $7,873 $39,369 $17,500 $383,500
# 8 #8 $15,626 $38,289 $19,500 $369,900
# 9 #9 $11,940 $40,981 $42,446 $369,000
# 10 #10 $11,369 $37,158 $22,609 $354,900
# 11 #11 $8,480 $36,567 $13,898 $353,700
# 12 #12 $10,537 $36,344 $20,482 $348,700
# 13 #13 $20,550 $35,060 $22,000 $333,500
# 14 #14 $30,429 $33,518 $13,000 $328,900
# 15 #15 $16,695 $36,134 $35,522 $327,800
# 16 #16 $27,304 $33,993 $20,982 $323,800
# 17 #17 $15,190 $33,459 $22,638 $316,300
# 18 #18 $11,700 $33,206 $23,250 $312,900
# 19 #19 $14,100 $32,594 $27,000 $301,900
# 20 #20 $27,354 $31,640 $22,300 $298,000
# 21 #21 $15,000 $30,483 $14,958 $295,900
# 22 #22 $13,547 $30,098 $19,500 $285,600
# 23 #23 $14,310 $32,936 $24,118 $284,100
# 24 #24 $15,750 $28,133 $18,500 $266,600
# 25 (tie) #25 (tie) $10,376 $25,484 $17,250 $240,900
# 25 (tie) #25 (tie) $12,480 $25,580 $17,997 $240,900

Best Bachelor's Degrees in Environmental Science Rankings Details

#1

Columbia Southern University

Orange Beach (AL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $675,500
  • Median Salary: $68,219
  • Annual Tuition: $7,050
  • Median Debt: $21,505

Columbia Southern University (CSU) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management degree. The curriculum covers environmental hazard mitigation/remediation, applying technology and theory to environmental issues, evaluation of best management practices from an environmental perspective, how to develop a strong environmentally-focused team, and more. This program... allows students to work toward graduation at their own pace.

Students at CSU access asynchronous courses through the Blackboard learning management system. Up to 90 transfer credits are accepted into the program, and students can receive academic credit for life, work, and/or military experience. To qualify for federal financial aid, students must choose CSU's Term Enrollment option. CSU offers benefits to military members and veterans. Textbooks are included at no cost. Online students have access to the school's career services.

Admissions are accepted on a rolling basis. Students who choose the LifePace Learning program can start classes at any time. Students who choose Term Enrollment or Veterans Flexible Enrollment can choose from 11 yearly start dates. Applicants are encouraged to submit their application and required materials online. Services available to online students at CSU include access to the Success Center (providing assistance with writing and math), academic advising, remote proctoring, online library access, and more.

Cost per Credit: $235
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 27%
Federal Loan Recipients: 95%
Accreditation: DEAC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 15,245

#2

Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

University Park (PA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $568,600
  • Median Salary: $60,320
  • Annual Tuition: $15,098
  • Median Debt: $42,062

Pennsylvania State University (PSU)-World Campus offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Energy and Sustainability Policy and a Bachelor of Science in Energy and Sustainability Policy. Both programs require 120 credit hours to complete the degree. Students study the policies surrounding the use and sustainability of energy in today's world. The university offers virtual internships... as well as certification and licensure preparation courses.

Online coursework is delivered through the Canvas learning management system. Scholarships are offered to assist students in covering their tuition. Military discounts are available for both active-duty military personnel as well as their spouses. Students can transfer ten credits to the degree program. PSU offers career resources and certification programs that can be beneficial when students are looking for career options.

Applications are submitted online with the following deadlines: June 30 (Fall), October 31 (Spring), and March 15 (Summer). Students can access many online resources such as tutoring, study materials, activity forums, and study groups.

Graduation Rate: 29%
Acceptance Rate: 67%
Federal Loan Recipients: 72%
Average SAT Scores: 990 - 1260
Accreditation: MSCHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 8,346

#3

University of Maryland Global Campus

Adelphi (MD)
  • 10-Year ROI: $530,900
  • Median Salary: $53,984
  • Annual Tuition: $14,970
  • Median Debt: $20,000

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management at the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) offers a concentration in sustainability or toxicology and hazard control. Students learn how to develop environmental management plans that comply with regulations to address air, water, and solid waste pollution. The curriculum includes courses in geographic information systems,... environment and ecosystems, and human health. The program requires students to complete 120 credits.

Online courses are synchronous. Throughout the program, students will utilize the UMGC online learning management system to access lessons, upload projects, and engage in discussions with classmates. Financial assistance is available to students, active military, and veterans. UMGC offers over 100 scholarships for students every academic year and monthly payment plans. Program faculty have worked in environmental protection agencies and consulting firms. The Environmental Management Club connects students with professionals and alumni in the environmental management field.

To apply for an online bachelor’s degree at UMGC, students will need to begin the online application and gather the required documentation. Accepted students will gain access to resources like career advising, academic tutors, and tech support.

Cost per Credit: $499
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 15%
Federal Loan Recipients: 53%
Accreditation: MSCHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 36,550

#4

American Public University System

Charles Town (WV)
  • 10-Year ROI: $445,700
  • Median Salary: $46,380
  • Annual Tuition: $8,550
  • Median Debt: $25,528

American Public University System (APUS) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with concentrations in sustainability, fish and wildlife management, environmental technology and management, and regional and community environmental planning. This 120-credit program instructs students in general biology, general chemistry, soil science, water science, environmental... policy, and more. All students must complete a senior seminar before graduation.

Students at APUS access asynchronous courses through the Brightspace learning management system. Classwork may include posting on message boards, viewing lectures, writing assignments, and completing tests, quizzes, and more. Active duty military members qualify for the Freedom Grant, an award created by APUS for active duty service members, National Guard members, and Reservists who are using tuition assistance to pay for their education. Students may transfer up to 90 credits into the program.

Courses start monthly, and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Applicants are encouraged to apply and submit any required materials online. Online students join student clubs and organizations, use a mobile app to access course materials, access the APUS online library, and more.

Cost per Credit: $285
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 42%
Federal Loan Recipients: 97%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 37,746

#5

St. Petersburg College

Clearwater (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $388,600
  • Median Salary: $40,896
  • Annual Tuition: $12,773
  • Median Debt: $26,017

The Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Sustainability Management at St. Petersburg College (SPC) program teaches students how to develop and manage sustainable business practices. Students will learn how to create solutions and manage teams in the natural and energy resource sector. The 120-credit program can be completed entirely online.

Synchronous courses are delivered via Zoom.... Students also use the online learning platform to access course materials, projects, and discussions. Zoom will allow students to attend lectures and communicate with others in their group projects. SPC students can earn business certificates or take professional development courses through the Workforce Institute.

To apply for an online bachelor’s degree at SPC, students can complete an online application or call the admissions office. Resources available to online students include tech support, video conferencing, academic advising, and career development.

Cost per Credit: $426
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 28%
Federal Loan Recipients: 74%
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 10,068

#6

Southern New Hampshire University Online

Manchester (NH)
  • 10-Year ROI: $385,300
  • Median Salary: $39,585
  • Annual Tuition: $9,600
  • Median Debt: $17,834

The Bachelor of Science (BS) in Environmental Science and BS in Geosciences at the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offer concentrations in data analytics in science and natural resources and conservation. SNHU also offers an online BA in Anthropology- Environmental Sustainability degree. Students will actively participate in labs with custom lab kits that are directly mailed... to their homes. The120 credit online program can be completed at the student’s own pace.

Asynchronous online courses are delivered through SNHU's learning management system, where students can access coursework, reading materials, and discussion boards. Active military students receive a discounted tuition rate. Graduates are prepared for careers as environmental scientists, climate change analysts, park rangers, and geospatial analysts.

To apply for an online bachelor’s degree at SNHU, interested students will need to complete the online application. Online students have access to resources like technical assistance, career development, and academic tutoring.

Graduation Rate: 52%
Acceptance Rate: 78%
Federal Loan Recipients: 75%
Accreditation: NECHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 76,929

#7

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

Green Bay (WI)
  • 10-Year ROI: $383,500
  • Median Salary: $39,369
  • Annual Tuition: $7,873
  • Median Debt: $17,500

The online Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Applied Studies (BAS) in Organizational Leadership - Environmental Policy and Planning programs at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) focus on environmental preservation and policy. These degree completion programs are for students with some college credits or an associate degree. Students will receive an interdisciplinary... education and develop their critical and creative thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. Students must complete 42 credits and an internship to graduate.

Online courses are synchronous. Students can access their textbook, coursework, project information, labs, and other information through the Canvas learning management system. Veterans are eligible for discounted tuition rates or scholarships. All other students may apply for UWGB scholarships. Graduates will find career opportunities as biologists, forest rangers, oceanographers, meteorologists, and other environmental specialists.

Students can contact the admissions office directly or complete the online application to apply. Once enrolled, students will receive access to resources like career planning, academic advising, and technical support.

Graduation Rate: 52%
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Federal Loan Recipients: 86%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,481

#8

Arizona State University

Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • 10-Year ROI: $369,900
  • Median Salary: $38,289
  • Annual Tuition: $15,626
  • Median Debt: $19,500

Arizona State University (ASU) offers three online environmental science degrees for undergraduates: a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability, a Bachelor of Science in Sustainability, and a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Food Systems. All three take 120 credits to complete. The sustainability B.A. focuses on social and policy issues around sustainability and the B.S. emphasizes... technological and scientific solutions to environmental problems. The food systems B.S. covers topics such as human nutrition, global water supplies, dynamic systems modeling, and much more. All three degrees include a capstone internship supervised by a faculty member.

The majority of coursework is asynchronous and includes assignments with specific due dates. Classes run for 7.5-week sessions in all programs. ASU’s scholarship search tool lets students target funding opportunities by running filtered searches.

There are six start dates each year in the spring, summer, and fall, and students are admitted on a rolling basis. Applicants submit a completed online application and transcripts from high school or a GED. Transfer students must have at least a 2.5 GPA in previous postsecondary courses. Students who don't meet these qualifications may apply to the ASU Earned Admission Pathway, which lets them work with an enrollment coach. Online students can benefit from enrollment support, advising, and the Help Desk.

Graduation Rate: 66%
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Federal Loan Recipients: 94%
Average SAT Scores: 1091 - 1298
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 28,353

#9

University of Phoenix

Nationwide
  • 10-Year ROI: $369,000
  • Median Salary: $40,981
  • Annual Tuition: $11,940
  • Median Debt: $42,446

The online Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science at the University of Phoenix (UP) provides students with education on contemporary environmental problems. Students will analyze issues, propose solutions, and manage resource sustainability. The 120-credit program and can be completed in four years. Students take one course at a time, which can be completed in five to seven... weeks.

Students can receive synchronous education through UP’s online learning management system, where students to access coursework, reading material, programs, and labs. UP offers several scholarships. Military students are offered tuition assistance. Graduates will find career opportunities as environmental analysts, specialists, and program specialists.

Students can start their application online at any time. Some of the available resources include tech support, academic tutoring, career advising, and networking.

Cost per Credit: $398
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 14%
Federal Loan Recipients: 81%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 73,536

#10

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State (MS)
  • 10-Year ROI: $354,900
  • Median Salary: $37,158
  • Annual Tuition: $11,369
  • Median Debt: $22,609

Mississippi State University (MSU) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Geosciences - Broadcast and Operational Meteorology degree, instructing students in a wide variety of meteorological topics. This 124-credit program can be completed on a part-time basis, with students taking two classes per semester.

Online students at MSU access their courses through the Canvas learning... management system. Many students at MSU receive financial aid, and tuition assistance is available to military students. While this program is designed for professionals who have received military weather training, it is not a requirement for admission to the program. MSU accepts transfer credits. Students at MSU have access to the school's career services office and a strong alumni network.

MSU accepts applications on a rolling basis. Applicants can fill out an application and send in any required documentation online. Online students have access to online orientation, tutoring, the writing center, and more.

Cost per Credit: $367
Credits Required: 124
Graduation Rate: 58%
Acceptance Rate: 62%
Federal Loan Recipients: 96%
Average SAT Scores: 1070 - 1330
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 812

#11

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Syracuse (NY)
  • 10-Year ROI: $353,700
  • Median Salary: $36,567
  • Annual Tuition: $8,480
  • Median Debt: $13,898

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry offers an online Bachelor of Science in Sustainability Management degree. The program emphasizes practical solutions to sustainability issues. Students take courses in sustainable development, data analysis, sustainable energy policies, environmental justice, and managerial economics. The degree completion program takes approximately... two years to complete with a full-time course load. Students must complete a sustainability management capstone to graduate.

Students participate in hands-on labs, group projects, and online discussions. SUNY offers several grants, loans, and scholarships to students, such as the SUNY Excelsior Scholarship. Students can also enroll in deferred tuition payment plans. Students can Graduates are prepared for careers as environmental researchers, forest rangers, specialists, and consultants.

To apply, students will need to contact the admissions office and begin an online application. Upon acceptance, students will have access to digital libraries, tech support, academic advising, and other online resources.

Graduation Rate: 77%
Acceptance Rate: 52%
Federal Loan Recipients: 95%
Average SAT Scores: 1120 - 1310
Accreditation: MSCHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1

#12

South Dakota State University

Brookings (SD)
  • 10-Year ROI: $348,700
  • Median Salary: $36,344
  • Annual Tuition: $10,537
  • Median Debt: $20,482

South Dakota State University (SDSU) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Geography program. The 120-credit degree focuses on the study of geography and how it relates to the world. Internships are available to students who have completed at least one year of their degree program. Certification and licensure prep courses are available for careers that may require a state board... exam.

SDSU uses the Desire 2 Learn online learning management system to deliver online coursework. SDSU offers small classes and emphasizes hands-on learning opportunities. A variety of scholarships are available for students. Military discounts are offered to both active-duty personnel and their spouses, as well as National Guard members. Twelve credits may be transferred into the program from previous institutions.

The university offers rolling admissions with applications that can be submitted online. Students have access to online tutoring and study programs and career resources, such as job fairs and other events.

Cost per Credit: $351
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 56%
Acceptance Rate: 91%
Federal Loan Recipients: 92%
Average SAT Scores: 1010 - 1260
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,220

#13

Texas Tech University

Lubbock (TX)
  • 10-Year ROI: $333,500
  • Median Salary: $35,060
  • Annual Tuition: $20,550
  • Median Debt: $22,000

Texas Tech University (TTU), a leader in wind energy education, offers students a fully online Bachelor of Science in Wind Energy (Managerial) degree. The 120-credit program is designed to be completed in four years. Students take courses in wind energy science, technology, grid integration, and modeling and design. Students must complete foreign language requirements and either... participate in a study abroad program or complete an approved internship with an international company.

Online coursework includes synchronous and asynchronous instruction and video conferencing The curriculum for online programs are identical to the university's on-campus programs. Students can be eligible for budget or emergency tuition payment options. TTU offers several departmental or need-based scholarships to students. Graduates will find themselves in career opportunities based on their focus, including geologists, meteorologists, and geophysicists.

To apply for a bachelor’s degree at TTU, students should begin their application online and follow the directions. Resources available to accepted students include career development, networking, and academic tutoring.

Graduation Rate: 60%
Acceptance Rate: 69%
Federal Loan Recipients: 78%
Average SAT Scores: 1070 - 1240
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,980

#14

University of Utah

Salt Lake City (UT)
  • 10-Year ROI: $328,900
  • Median Salary: $33,518
  • Annual Tuition: $30,429
  • Median Debt: $13,000

The Bachelor of Science in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism - Sustainable Tourism & Hospitality Management at the University of Utah (UU) covers tourism policy and economics, sustainability, conservation, destination marketing, and event management. Students can focus on sustainable tourism management, hospitality management, or tourism enterprise and marketing management. Students... can also complete a Hospitality Operations Certificate while earning their degree. This program requires students to complete 42 credits of core courses and an internship to graduate.

Online courses are asynchronous and interactive. Students complete group assignments, contribute to discussion forums, and complete peer reviews. Payment plans and degree-specific scholarships are available to students. Graduates can apply for sales, marketing, management, or customer service positions at hotels, resorts, and tourism agencies.

To apply for a bachelor’s degree at UU, students can begin their application online. Students will be expected to collect and provide several documents. Upon acceptance, students will have access to resources such as academic tutoring, advising, and tech support.

Graduation Rate: 57%
Acceptance Rate: 66%
Federal Loan Recipients: 85%
Average SAT Scores: 1130 - 1350
Accreditation: NWCCU
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,140

#15

Purdue University Global

Indianapolis (IN)
  • 10-Year ROI: $327,800
  • Median Salary: $36,134
  • Annual Tuition: $16,695
  • Median Debt: $35,522

Purdue University Global offers an online Bachelor of Environmental Science Policy and Management. The 180-credit curriculum covers research methods, environmental policy and law, environmental management, social responsibility, and environmental issues. The university offers multiple internship opportunities to students. Preparation courses for both certification and licensure... are available.

Purdue University Global hosts online courses through their learning management system, the Purdue Global Campus Portal. Multiple scholarships are available based on merit, course of study, and financial need. This includes the Purdue Promise, Trustee's, Presidential, and Marquis scholarships, among others. The university offers a military discount on tuition to active-duty personnel and their spouses. Up to 75% of the total number of required credits can be transferred for undergraduate programs.

Online resources include tutoring, financial aid, and a variety of learning forums. Career resources such as job fairs and career development seminars are also available. Faculty advisors are available for students who have questions about possible career resources. The university offers rolling deadlines for admissions. Applications should be submitted online.

Cost per Credit: $371
Credits Required: 180
Graduation Rate: 32%
Federal Loan Recipients: 75%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 26,655

#16

Oakland University

Rochester Hills (MI)
  • 10-Year ROI: $323,800
  • Median Salary: $33,993
  • Annual Tuition: $27,304
  • Median Debt: $20,982

Oakland University's (OU) online Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health and Safety instructs students in industrial hygiene, occupational safety, and environmental health. Students in this 125-credit program take 12-15 credits per semester and must complete an internship to graduate. Faculty in the program have real-world experience in the field.

Students at OU use the Moodle... learning management system to access their courses. Most of the online course activities are asynchronous; however, synchronous aspects of courses are listed in the school's course schedule. Students can transfer up to 62 credits into this program. OU also has agreements with other educational institutions regarding competency credits. More than half of OU students receive some form of financial aid.

Classes for the Fall 2021 semester begin on September 2, 2021. Applicants must apply online and submit all necessary materials by March 1, 2021, for consideration for Fall 2021 admission and merit-based scholarships. Online students have access to academic advising, career services, disability support, telehealth appointments, remote library resources, counseling services, tutoring services, and a writing center.

Cost per Credit: $853
Credits Required: 128
Graduation Rate: 55%
Acceptance Rate: 84%
Federal Loan Recipients: 92%
Average SAT Scores: 1010 - 1240
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 415

#17

University of Wisconsin-River Falls

River Falls (WI)
  • 10-Year ROI: $316,300
  • Median Salary: $33,459
  • Annual Tuition: $15,190
  • Median Debt: $22,638

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) offers a fully online Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Management degree completion program. The curriculum includes courses in economics, sustainable agriculture, environmental information systems, marketing, logistics, and natural resource management. Students must complete 63 credits, including a capstone course in sustainable... management, to graduate.

Online courses are asynchronous. Students access the Canvas online learning platform to communicate with classmates and instructors, access coursework, discussion boards, grades, and reading materials. Tuition rates are the same regardless of location. Online courses are taught by faculty with expertise and experience in the industry.

Students will need to apply for admission online or contact the admission office. Online students have access to resources like technical assistance, career development, and academic tutoring.

Cost per Credit: $490
Credits Required: 124
Graduation Rate: 57%
Acceptance Rate: 75%
Federal Loan Recipients: 90%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 113

#18

University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Amherst (MA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $312,900
  • Median Salary: $33,206
  • Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Median Debt: $23,250

The University of Massachusetts (UMass) - Amherst offers an online Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies -Sustainability Studies degree completion program. Students can tailor their program and choose from a wide range of courses in business, economics, public health, food production, agriculture, hydroponics, environmental policies, and more. The program requires 120... credits to graduate. Graduates are prepared for careers as farmers, agricultural managers, sustainability specialists, and community service managers.

Online coursework is synchronous and delivered through Blackboard, where students can access coursework, online textbooks, group projects, and discussion boards. Students can transfer up to 105 credits to the program from past coursework, prior learning, or life and work experience. UMass offers several scholarships to students, some of which are degree specific. Graduates will fill positions such as ecologists, hydrologists, park rangers, and environmental resource specialists.

To apply for an online bachelor’s degree at UMass, students may contact admissions or begin their online application. Resources available to students include academic advising, career development, tech support, and research opportunities.

Cost per Credit: $390
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 80%
Acceptance Rate: 58%
Federal Loan Recipients: 91%
Average SAT Scores: 1200 - 1390
Accreditation: NECHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,224

#19

Unity College

Unity (ME)
  • 10-Year ROI: $301,900
  • Median Salary: $32,594
  • Annual Tuition: $14,100
  • Median Debt: $27,000

Unity College (UC) offers many fully online bachelor's degrees in environmental science or management, allowing students to choose the program that fits their career goals. Students can select from programs in environmental justice and social change, wildlife conservation, environmental studies, environmental science and climate change, sustainable business management, and environmental emergency management and law enforcement.... Students enrolled in the program will learn how to address environmental challenges and create effective solutions. Students complete one course at a time in eight-week terms. The program takes approximately four years to complete.

Online classes are synchronous and delivered through Unity's online learning management system, where students will have access to course materials, assignments, and virtual labs. Unity offers special pricing for military students, payment plans, and fixed tuition rates until 2023 for distance students. Graduates can pursue careers in ecology labs, national parks, and non-profit organizations.

Prospective students should complete an online application to apply. Students may enter the program during any semester. Resources available include digital libraries, career development, and academic advising.

Cost per Credit: $470
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 66%
Acceptance Rate: 89%
Federal Loan Recipients: 100%
Accreditation: NECHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 17

#20

Florida State University

Tallahassee (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $298,000
  • Median Salary: $31,640
  • Annual Tuition: $27,354
  • Median Debt: $22,300

Florida State University (FSU) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Social Science degree with a concentration in environmental studies. Students take general education courses in anthropology, economics, geography, and more. The program also covers climate change, the geography of water resources, energy, landscape ecology, and natural resource assessment.... It's strongly recommended that students complete an associate degree before applying to the program.

Students taking online classes at FSU access course materials through the Canvas learning management system. Classes may be synchronous or asynchronous. Many students at FSU receive financial aid. FSU is part of the Yellow Ribbon Program to offer additional benefits to veterans. Online students have access to virtual services through FSU's Career Center.

While applications are accepted continuously, students who apply early are given priority consideration. Online students at FSU have access to university email, free Microsoft 365 software, a Canvas student orientation, library resources, and more.

Cost per Credit: $636
Credits Required: 172
Graduation Rate: 83%
Acceptance Rate: 49%
Federal Loan Recipients: 96%
Average SAT Scores: 1200 - 1350
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 982

#21

University of Florida

Gainesville (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $295,900
  • Median Salary: $30,483
  • Annual Tuition: $15,000
  • Median Debt: $14,958

The University of Florida (UF) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in environmental management in agriculture and natural resources. Coursework covers hydrology, soil science, pest management, water resources, and agricultural ecology. The program requires 120 credits, 60 of which students can transfer from previous studies. First-year... students are required to take two chemistry labs in person, either at UF or at another regionally accredited institution.

Most of UF’s online courses are asynchronous, so students can complete assignments and view lectures on their own time as long as they respect due dates. UF provides a scholarship search tool where students can find scholarships specific to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Applicants submit an online application (with fee), a personal statement, official transcripts, and any military credits and CLEP scores. Distance learners have access to academic support (including a dedicated advisor to chart the degree path), career planning, counseling and wellness programs, the UF libraries, and the computing help desk.

Cost per Credit: $500
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 90%
Acceptance Rate: 42%
Federal Loan Recipients: 93%
Average SAT Scores: 1280 - 1440
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,181

#22

University of South Florida Online

Tampa (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $285,600
  • Median Salary: $30,098
  • Annual Tuition: $13,547
  • Median Debt: $19,500

The University of South Florida (USF) offers a fully online Bachelor of General Studies with a concentration in environmental policy. The 120-credit undergraduate degree-completion program is designed for mid-career and adult students who need a flexible learning format. Students must complete at least 30 of the 60 environmental policy concentration credit hours at USF. The curriculum... explores topics such as global conservation, environmental policy, cultural and political geography, and climate change. The program culminates in a senior capstone course, and students can choose to contribute to independent research under a faculty mentor.

Online students can access course materials through the Canvas learning management system. Classes are organized by modules that are assigned to students in weekly increments. USF provides competitive merit-based scholarships for upper-level transfer students to pursue.

The university admits students on a rolling basis. Applicants must submit an online application (with a fee), official transcripts, and test scores. Distance learners have access to career services, technical support, and the Academic Success Center.

Cost per Credit: $452
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 73%
Acceptance Rate: 45%
Federal Loan Recipients: 91%
Average SAT Scores: 1170 - 1330
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,049

#23

Oregon State University

Corvallis (OR)
  • 10-Year ROI: $284,100
  • Median Salary: $32,936
  • Annual Tuition: $14,310
  • Median Debt: $24,118

Oregon State University (OSU) offers a variety of online environmental science bachelor's degrees that require 180 quarter credits to complete (equal to 120 semester credits). Students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences with seven possible concentrations, a Bachelor of Arts or Science in Sociology with a concentration in environmental and natural resources,... a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources with five available concentrations. Other options include B.S. degrees in Fisheries and Wildlife Studies, Geography and Geospatial Science, Horticulture, Rangeland Science, and Sustainability, some with multiple concentrations to help students customize their studies.

The majority of the online coursework follows an asynchronous format. OSU’s financial aid office participates in the ScholarDollars portal where students can submit one application to be considered for a large variety of scholarships. The university also offered need-based grants to online students, including one for students with unexpected hardships.

First-year applicants should submit a high school transcript (3.0 GPA preferred), AP test scores, ACT/SAT scores, and a resume. Transfer applicants must have at least 24 completed college credits with a minimum 2.25 GPA. Classes start each quarter, with summer, fall, winter, and spring start dates. Distance learners have access to library resources, success coaching, technology help, and career counseling.

Cost per Credit: $318
Credits Required: 180
Graduation Rate: 67%
Acceptance Rate: 79%
Federal Loan Recipients: 86%
Average SAT Scores: 1080 - 1310
Accreditation: NWCCU
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 5,306

#24

University of Arizona

Tucson (AZ)
  • 10-Year ROI: $266,600
  • Median Salary: $28,133
  • Annual Tuition: $15,750
  • Median Debt: $18,500

The University of Arizona (UA) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences through the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. This 120-credit program offers students a choice of two concentrations: soil, land, and water or leadership, sustainability, and communication. The curriculum emphasizes science, communication, and leadership in issues facing the environment,... with major classes covering issues such as fundamentals of sustainability, data analysis in environmental science, and assessment of contaminated sites. Students also complete an internship, teaching workshop, or independent study.

UA delivers courses through the D2L platform, where students can complete coursework and interact with faculty and classmates on their own schedule. Online classes are taught in 7.5-week terms with six start dates each year. Students can pursue UA’s financial aid options, including a bridge scholarship for students who’ve graduated from an Arizona community college.

Interested candidates must complete an online application and submit high school transcripts and transcripts from any previously attended colleges. Transfer credit may be awarded from previous college-level coursework, military service, and Arizona General Education Curriculum courses. Distance learners have access to an enrollment counselor, academic advisor, tutoring services, and a network of alumni mentors.

Cost per Credit: $525
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 64%
Acceptance Rate: 84%
Federal Loan Recipients: 92%
Average SAT Scores: 1070 - 1310
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,903

#25 (tie)

Florida International University

Miami (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $240,900
  • Median Salary: $25,484
  • Annual Tuition: $10,376
  • Median Debt: $17,250

Florida International University (FIU) offers a fully online Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability and the Environment. The 120-credit program emphasizes natural resource management and identifies sustainability issues and possible solutions. Students take courses in the global environment, American government, applied field ecology, environmental economics, and complete a capstone... course in sustainability.

Online coursework is asynchronous and hosted on Canvas, where students can watch lectures, complete group projects with classmates, and receive feedback from instructors. A personal success coach provides guidance throughout the program. Veteran students can receive credit for prior military training or education. Online students can join the Honors College to participate in study abroad or research opportunities and have access to additional job and internship listings. Honors students are eligible for specific scholarships and have access to other advising services.

Applications are accepted for the spring, fall, and summer terms. Students must submit an online application and required documentation to be considered. Once enrolled, students have access to academic advising.

Cost per Credit: $346
Graduation Rate: 58%
Acceptance Rate: 54%
Federal Loan Recipients: 89%
Average SAT Scores: 1090 - 1260
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 9,286

#25 (tie)

University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign

Champaign (IL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $240,900
  • Median Salary: $25,580
  • Annual Tuition: $12,480
  • Median Debt: $17,997

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers an online Bachelor of Science in Earth, Society and Environmental Sustainability. Two concentrations are available within the degree: society and environment (ecosystems, climate change, and green chemistry) and science in the earth system (environmental policy, economics, and ethics). This 120-credit degree mirrors the on-campus... version and is only available full-time, requiring at least 24 credits each year. Courses in the major core cover earth systems, geographic information systems, the world food economy, and more. Seniors choose between a senior thesis or an internship.

Most courses are delivered asynchronously and include readings, forums, quizzes, final papers, projects, and exams. Classes typically run for eight weeks and are available in the fall, winter, spring, and summer terms. The Office of Financial Aid provides scholarship and grant opportunities based on need, merit, and demographic factors.

Interested candidates need to meet transfer status, which requires at least 30 college credit hours before applying. The minimum transfer student GPA is 2.7. Applicants must also submit an essay and resume, as well as all transcripts and test scores. Online learners have access to the institution's Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning, which assists students with any online education questions and directs them to additional student resources.

Cost per Credit: $416
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 84%
Acceptance Rate: 62%
Federal Loan Recipients: 62%
Average SAT Scores: 1200 - 1460
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 419

Online Environmental Science Degree Overview & Career Information

Environmental science degrees are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctorate, and certificate levels in both traditional and distance learning settings. The education level you'll need in environmental science will largely depend on the career you plan to pursue after graduating. Associate degree programs in environmental science concentrate on basic forestry, resources, and energy conservation. They take approximately two years to earn and are primarily used as a prerequisite for a bachelor's degree.

An accredited bachelor's degree program will require a four-year commitment and will include classes in political science, communications, business, basic math and science, the national park system, global warming, conservation efforts, and wildlife threats. The master's degree in environmental science is an interdisciplinary graduate program, focusing on the natural environment and environmental problems. Students in these programs learn about environmental threats in different regions, the natural science principles behind environmental problems, and policy issues surrounding environmental protection.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Environmental Science

The online Bachelor of Arts in environmental science provides an interdisciplinary look at ecology, earth science, biology, geology, and other natural and social sciences. Students begin the degree with introductory courses in environmental science, which discuss basic scientific principles and major issues in environmental science today. These four-year programs explore the science of the earth from many different angles and often include coursework in pollution, water resources, ecosystems, and methods of protection, management, and restoration of environments. Other courses include public policy, climate change, and environmental law, as environmental scientists are often involved in crafting regulations surrounding environmental use.

Online bachelor's degrees also include an array of general education courses in topics like math, statistics, humanities, and other liberal arts areas. Communications courses, including English, history, and composition are important for environmental science students. Some schools allow students to earn credits by participating in internships with local environmental agencies and organizations.

Most entry-level jobs in environmental or green companies require at least a bachelor’s degree. Those with a bachelor's degree in environmental science can qualify for entry-level positions as environmental scientists and specialists. For those interested in environmental regulatory fields such as government agencies or consulting firms, it is imperative that geology courses are also part of the curriculum. While a bachelor's degree is sufficient preparation for most entry-level government positions, a master's degree is often necessary for employment in the private sector or for further career advancement.

The Importance of Accreditation

Accreditation is a process by which colleges, universities, and degree programs receive a comprehensive evaluation by an authoritative, independent agency. Legitimate accrediting agencies are recognized by the US Department of Education and will be found in the USDE database. While it isn't mandatory to attend an accredited school, doing so can provide you with a level of confidence that your degree program meets high academic standards and that it will be acceptable to graduate schools (should you decide to pursue a master's or doctoral degree), future employers, and licensing boards.

Accreditation is also important for students who wish to apply for scholarships or financial aid, as most organizations and lenders will only grant aid to students who attend an accredited school. Many professional licenses, such as a professional engineer license or a license to practice law, also require applicants to have a degree from accredited institutions. Visit the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation for a list of accredited schools.

What Students Will Learn in an Online Environmental Science Program

Students who study environmental science will focus on current environmental issues, as well as the legal and financial restraints that govern the way environmental protection is approached politically. They will take a range of courses that explore scientific techniques and processes. A typical course may include the politics of energy, conservation biology, international economics, or the science of global warming. Undergraduate courses in environmental science often focus on practicality as opposed to theoretical approaches. Many schools offer internships as part of their degree, varying from field research to political internships. With more widespread acknowledgment of the impact of climate change, these opportunities are increasingly more present. 

Most master's degree students who study environmental science already have some sort of specialized interest that led them to pursue a degree in the first place. Those who do not will likely go on to select one after exploring their interests through a variety of classes. The specialization they choose will affect the courses they take, their thesis and research options, any internships or volunteer opportunities they participate in, and the kinds of jobs available to them upon graduation.

The following list provides an example of some of the courses that students may take in an accredited undergraduate or graduate environmental science degree program:

  • Chemistry or Geochemistry: All environmental science students will study chemistry. Most chemistry courses at the graduate level will focus specifically on geochemistry, or the major chemical processes that govern the way the environment functions. This class may also include an exploration of nuclear waste and the ways in which is it disposed.
  • Climate Change: This is one of the most fundamental classes to a degree program in environmental science. Topics include weather patterns, the rhythm of the tides, and dendroclimatology.
  • Energy and Sustainability: This class explores the ways in which environmental science work in conjunction with ecology, engineering, and even economics. Thermodynamics and the search for a sustainable fuel source are both important topics in the course.
  • Environmental Measurement: Measuring rainfall, air pressure, and wind requires delicate instruments that must be handled properly; however, the main focus of an environmental measurement class for environmental science graduate students will be utilizing and reading satellite images that help track major environmental changes over time. This may be one of the more technical classes in the program.
  • Geohydrology and Water Preservation: There are millions of people in the world who do not have access to clean drinking water, and because water is becoming increasingly polluted and scarce, many students who are studying environmental science will find that they have the option of taking a course in geohydrology or in water preservation.
  • Nonfiction Environmental Writing: In order to express independent, original thoughts and research in this discipline, students need to understand the precise writing style expected of them. Place narration and proposal writing will be included. 
  • Population Geography: This class focuses on how the patterns of movement and settlement exert an influence on the environment and the lay of the land. A specialty under the heading of human geography, students will encounter issues like immigration and mortality rates.

Career Specializations for Environmental Science Graduates

Careers in environmental science focus on protecting the earth's resources by identifying things that are harming it and working to reverse environmental degradation. In order to help realize these goals, environmental scientists work in both public agencies and private firms in a variety of specializations. Some work for the government, testing and analyzing environmental resources and suggesting policy items and regulations. Others work as consultants, helping businesses comply with government regulations and develop sound environmental practices. Academic environmental scientists may work on more theoretical research and may apply a variety of disciplines to the study of the environment, such as math and chemistry.

Job opportunities for students of environmental science are growing both in the public and private sectors. Recent congressional stimulus and budget packages have allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to clean energy and environmental research, which creates many grants and programs for professionals. Many NGOs (non-governmental organizations) rely on the research and work of students of environmental science to publish reports, lobby governments and to help ensure their practices meet state and federal guidelines. Even energy companies hire many environmental science graduates to analyze aspects of their businesses. In the public sector, many environmental science majors go into teaching.

Entry-level environmental science positions in government and some private firms typically require an undergraduate degree in environmental science, earth science, or a related area. Master's degrees are required by some consulting firms and are often necessary for advancing to higher positions. Environmental scientists at colleges and universities will usually need a doctoral degree in an environmental science area. Mastering the technology used in environmental science and earning the available professional certifications can also help an aspiring environmental scientist land a job.

Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field that provides many opportunities for specialization. During their undergraduate or graduate degree program, students can tailor their studies to focus on political, scientific, natural, or social issues. Determining which specialty is right for you may require some research. Here is a list of some possibilities:

  • Conservation Scientist: Conservation scientists often work as foresters who preserve and protect natural lands. They also manage habitats for various wildlife and protected lands. Licensing is required in some states in order to practice forestry.
  • Environmental Advocate: Environmental advocates navigate the political process and work for non-profit or lobbying firms to help erect, amend, obstruct, or pass laws regarding the environment.
  • Environmental Analyst: Analysts tend to work with a team helping to ensure that companies or organizations meet environmental regulations. In this case, it is beneficial to have certification in environmental risk management. 
  • Environmental Business Consultant: Corporations and businesses all over the world hire professionals who are dedicated entirely to improving a company's environmental record. They are hired as consultants to point out areas where corporations can decrease their carbon footprint and increase their positive impact on the environment.
  • Environmental Scientist: The number of environmental science jobs increases each year. Many such scientists have PhDs, but earning a master's degree in environmental science is often the first step. Successful environmental scientists are problem solvers; they will be charged with finding solutions to pollution and other scientific problems, and they may spend many years working on one particular issue. Patience and the ability to work well with large groups is of the utmost importance for environmental scientists.
  • Green Architect: Green architects assist other professionals in the architecture field by researching, assessing, and planning greener ways to build homes and structures using renewable energy and energy efficient strategies.
  • Lawyer: Lawyers must have a Juris Doctorate degree, which take three years to earn, but combining a law degree with an environmental science master's degree will lead to a whole new array of opportunities. Students will have a unique mastery of environmental law that will enable them to work in top positions and make effective, positive changes.
  • Political Advocate: A political advocate can work for a government organization but will more often work for a third-party lobbyist organization. Most advocates are dedicated to a specific issue, and they seek to garner more public interest that will aid them in meeting their end goals. They also work with government agencies to encourage new legislation or better enforcement of laws. A number of political environmental groups employ graduates of master's in environmental science programs.
  • Renewable Energy Consultant: These consultants help companies and other groups find ways to cut their carbon footprint and assess their levels of waste.
  • Surveyor, Cartographer, and Mapping Technician: These professionals measure and map the earth’s surface on land and water. They are trained to write descriptions for legal, construction, and scientific purposes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Environmental Science Degrees

How much can I make with an online degree in environmental science?

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows environmental scientists and specialists earned an average annual salary of $71,360 in 2019. However, there is a wide range of salaries for environmental science professionals depending on sector and experience. For example, the highest-paying industry for environmental scientists and specialists is the federal government with an average annual salary of $102,910.

Do I need a degree to work in environmental science?

Students' long-term career goals will influence which level of education they wish to pursue. Entry-level environmental science positions at the government level, as well as at some private firms, typically require a bachelor's degree in environmental science, earth science, or a related area. Master's degree are often necessary for advancement to higher positions, especially in consulting firms. To teach and/or conduct research at colleges and universities, an environmental scientist will need a doctoral degree in an environmental science area.

What is the demand for positions within the environmental science field?

A number of emerging issues, such as the evolving effects of climate change and the dangers of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), are expected to drive above-average growth (8%) in demand for environmental scientists and specialists over the next eight years. Professionals with the right combination of education and experience will thus be eligible for many employment opportunities across a range of disciplines in the field of environmental science.

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