Online Environmental Science Degree

To meet the need, many online schools now offer environmental science degrees. Scientists in this field want to build a greener future. This fast growing field offers a range of rewarding career paths. If you hope to make a difference, an online degree offers a flexible format.

What is an Online Environmental Science Degree?

An online degree in environmental science (ENVS) studies earth systems and resources. At the same time, it looks at human impacts to find ways to reduce or solve pressing environmental issues.

One may find online degree programs in ENVS at all levels. Bachelor’s, master’s and PhDs. Bachelor’s programs explore basic sciences, policies and issues. Grads may be ready to enter the workforce or to study at the graduate level. Master’s programs offer a path to hone skills. Some scientific and others strategic. Grads may leave ready to develop the systems that manage resources or step into a supervisory role. PhDs are research focused. Some grads choose this path to teach, consult, direct and set policy. To earn a PhD one must input new theory or add value to the field through discovery.

Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science

An online bachelor’s degree in environmental science is an entry level degree. It tends to cover sciences as well as the team player skills needed to launch a career. Grads may go onto start a job search or apply into a graduate program 

Most online schools offer one of two types of degrees. A Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS). In some cases the BA is about environmental studies. Instead of more science classes, it may cover policy, sustainability and environmental law. To do this, you might look at certain examples through case studies. 

Either kind of program may take four years to complete about 120 credits. Some of these focus on sciences. While others may touch on the problems we face to climate, air, water, land and forests. Along the way, one may learn how to bring solutions to the table through policy or compliance.

When searching for schools, you may notice tuition rates vary. In 2017/18, public college tuition averaged $17,797 per year. Private schools were (and tend to still be) more expensive. These cost in the range of $46,014 (private nonprofit) or $26,261 (private for profit) per year according to NCES.

That said, many students qualify for financial aid. To find out more, you file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before the due date. Take note that only accredited schools take part in this type of funding.

As a freshman applicant you need a high school diploma. When applying you may need to provide a list of HS courses, grades, test scores and awards. Some online schools also ask for an essay and full list of your extra activities. They may use this material to weigh admission and for scholarships.

Master’s Degree in Environmental Science

An online master’s is a graduate degree. Most online programs award a Master of Science (MS) in this field. To gain entry, one needs an undergraduate degree from an accredited school. Some online schools also look at GRE scores, letters of recommendation and a personal statement. It is a place to describe goals, and explain how you think a certain MS program fits your interests and aims.

Many programs take two years and cover 36 credits of online courses. These may study the links among ecology, economics, policy and culture. A final research thesis might also refine skills in critical thinking. ENV professionals may use the MS as a spring board to a leader role. The classes shed light on how to update policy to keep pace with the times. Also new ways to regulate and manage resources. 

When looking into grad schools, tuition varies. The average graduate tuition and required fees at a public school is $11,617. You may find programs that are more affordable as well as ones that cost even more.

PhD in Environmental Science

A PhD is a research degree. It is the highest award in environmental science one might achieve. Some schools also award a Doctor of Env in Environmental Science and Engineering. Many who go for a PhD plan to remain in science, teach and work in research and development. While those who work towards a D-ESE may strive for a senior leadership role. For example, at the Environmental Protection Agency or Army Corps of Engineers.

Because both programs may be hands on, it is less common to find them fully online. Many come with residencies and research under the supervision of faculty. Often the first one to three years devote to classes and the remaining time, to this research. Admission to a PhD may require a bachelor’s and master’s. Many schools also ask for a sample of past research, a goals statement and references. Most are looking to see if your research interests match ongoing faculty projects.

What can I do with an Online Environmental Science Degree?

A degree in environmental science may be a gateway to a range of career paths. The need to solve environmental problems is generating jobs across sectors. Including science, technology, policy and management. Many of these careers are evolving, so there may be jobs for various levels of education. As a rule, scientists in this field need at least a bachelor’s degree and many have a master’s or PhD. Here are some possible career opportunities for those interested in the environment. 

1 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST

Environmental specialists and scientists work to protect the earth, resources and human health. Many work in the lab, offices or in the field where they diagnose samples of air, soil, water and food. The data they collect aims to remedy issues like global warming and carbon emissions. 

2 CONSERVATION SCIENTIST 

conservation scientist protects forests, parks, natural habitats and their resources. It is their role to ensure these areas stay intact. To do this, they need to understand government rules and ensure anyone who works on these lands complies. 

3 ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SPECIALIST

Many who work in this field are lab techs who work with scientists or engineers. They collect samples of gases, soil, water, and other materials. When there is an oil spill, food poisoning or outbreak, these pros are in the lab running tests. 

4 HYDROLOGIST

A hydrologist studies the way water moves across and through the earth. Some of the time they are on the computer analyzing data. In the field, they may have to get their feet wet to read and inspect equipment. Some workers enter the field with a master’s degree but for research roles, may need a PhD.

5 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ANALYST

policy analyst who focuses on the environment may work for government agencies or nonprofits. Their role is to craft and research ENVS policies based on surveys, economic data and election results. Because these jobs are complex, one is likely to need a master’s degree or PhD. 

6 ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER

An environmental engineer is a problem solver. These professionals use environmental technology, soil science, biology, and chemistry to address pressing issues. Whether to improve recycling, waste disposal, pollution or unsafe drinking water. Here, a grad degree may be useful if plans include teaching or research and development.

7 ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAM MANAGER

Also called Fisheries Director, Water Team Leader and Natural Science Manager. These professionals oversee the work of scientists. And direct activities related to research and development such as testing, quality control, and production. Apart from a bachelor’s degree, one tends to need a master’s or PhD. 

Is an Online Degree in Environmental Science Worth it?

Jobs in environmental science are growing at a much faster rate than others. So, expertise may yield flexible skills, prospects and above average earning potential. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the outlook is bright. They predict about 7,100 new ENVS jobs to 2019. That signifies an 8% growth compared to the norm which is 4%.

Many of these jobs will be in government and industries that provide consulting services. The demand, says the BLS, reflects a need to come up with greener solutions that also limit damage to resources. Salaries in these areas vary. Also per BLS data, the median annual wage for environmental scientists and specialists was $71,360 in May 2019. Of these workers, the lowest 10% earned less than $42,810. And the highest 10% earned more than $124,760.

Online Environmental Science Degree Jobs & Salary

Occupation Average Salary Jobs
Environmental Scientist $71,360 7,100
Environmental Health Specialist $46,540 2,900
Environmental Engineer $88,860 1,700
Geoscientist $92,040 1,600

Top States for Jobs as an Environmental Scientist

State Jobs Annual Mean Wage
District of Columbia 1,790 $112,540
California 14,380 $92,320
Washington 3,040 $85,870
Virginia 3,270 $85,660
Colorado 2,420 $84,690

What classes will I take with an Online Environmental Science Program?

Topics tend to draw from general areas in the physical and natural sciences. Online students may take the same classes as on campus peers that may include,

  • Atmospheric Issues
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecology
  • Earth Sciences
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Modeling, GIS, Remote Sensing
  • Resources 
  • Law, Policy, Compliance

You may study many of these areas and even more when going for an ENVS degree online. But each level of study presents material in a different way. As a resource guide, we’ve put together sample degree plans to give you a clearer idea.

BACHELOR’S DEGREE CLASSES

Online bachelor of science programs in ENVS start with intro classes. These tend to frame the sciences, technology, policies and issues related to the environment. As the program moves forward, there may be field experiences that add a hands on aspect to online learning.  

INTRO TO ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES

A broad look at the processes and dynamics of ecosystems. This class may also shed light on societal values about the earth’s resources. Side topics may deal with environmental issues such as pollution and ways to solve them using science.

HYDROLOGY

This is about the science of the earth’s water resources and its movement in relation to land. One might look at water supply in various countries including the United States. Also at the policies that impact water quality and marine life.

INTRO TO ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

This class may survey the ways in which humans impact the earth and it resources. Learners might also explore renewable energy and greener ways to reverse harm. 

GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS

This course covers the concepts and mapping tools of GIS and science. It may also discuss design and uses of GIS in a variety of fields. Students may gain practical skills using GIS software.

GRADUATE DEGREE CLASSES

Online courses at this level are likely to study where sciences overlap and inform policy. Students often look at how to apply solutions to treat issues like waste problems, global warming, and harmful effects of fossil fuels. Many programs also include a choice of anchor points to foster expertise in one sector. Energy policy, coastal engineering, resource management are a few. Apart from courses, students may gain research skills through a final thesis (MS) or dissertation (PhD).

AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT

An overview of issues such as air pollution law, pollutants and their sources. Learners may study the real world effects of poor air on health and welfare. Also, standards, rules and enforcement systems for quality assurance.

ENVIRONMENTAL AUDITING

This class studies statutes, laws and compliance related to the environment and resources. It tends to also look at ways to ensure an organization complies. And, at the 12 major statutes. Including air, water, solids and hazardous waste.

WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

A deeper look at the quality, quantity, optimal uses, and governance of water. This class also tends to cover how to develop, distribute and manage water planning. Side topics look at adaptive tech, climate change, and market driven methods.

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY

Studies in environmental and energy law and policy. Including how to craft, implement and enforce these policies. And, the roles and impact government makes on these laws and policies. For example, the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and others.

How long does it take to get an Environmental Science Degree online?

The time it takes to complete a degree in this field varies by program level and course load. A bachelor’s takes about four years. If you bring in eligible transfer credits, it may take fewer. From there, a master’s tends to take two years with many online schools offering more time for part time learners. After a master’s, it may take about four more years to earn a PhD. Longer if needed for research.

University Level of Degree # of Credits Required Starts Per Year Minimum Months to Complete
Prescott College Bachelors 120 2 48
Oregon State University Bachelors 180 Quarter credits 4 48
Southern New Hampshire University Bachelors 120 6 48
University of Maryland Masters 36 Every 8 weeks 24
University of South California Masters 36 3 18
Texas A&M University Masters 36 3 24
Walden University PhD 73 -125 Quarter Credits 12 30
UCLA Doctorate 54+ 1 36
University of North Dakota PhD 90 2 Up to 7 years

15 Schools with Online Environmental Science Degrees

Many online schools offer environmental science degree programs. To help you narrow school search results, we’ve created a list of 15 schools. These offer online degrees in environmental science at all levels.

  1. Prescott College
  2. University of Florida
  3. University of Illinois
  4. Southern New Hampshire University
  5. Oregon State University 
  6. University of Maryland Global Campus
  7. University of South California
  8. Texas A&M University 
  9. Louisiana State University Online 
  10. Johns Hopkins University 
  11. Walden University 
  12. University of California – Los Angeles
  13. University of Idaho
  14. Drexel University 
  15. University of North Dakota

FIND AN ONLINE ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE DEGREE

Here’s a closer look at the environmental science degrees these 15 online schools offer. 

1

Prescott College

Bachelor of  Arts in Environmental Studies  

Online, On Campus


Prescott’s BA entails 120 credit hours. Basic classes draw from life science, earth and physical science, and social systems. Learners may also tailor their course plan with a focal area. Marine or conservation biology, ecology, and env’l education. Apart from course work, one may gain hands on practice via field experiences.

Some courses may be:

  • Soil Science
  • Water in the West
  • Advanced GIS

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $32,553
Grad $22,286
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$14,318

Average Net Price:
$20,965

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

2

University of Florida Online 

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management  

Online / In Person Lab


UF’s 120 credit program studies agriculture and natural resources. The courses look at the science of water, soil, pest mgmt. and ecology. To graduate, one completes an approved senior year research project. This tends to relate to both management and science skills.

Some courses may be:

  • Agribusiness Mgmt.
  • ENVS Quality
  • Intro to Soils

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $5,656 / $18,786
Grad $9,684 / $24,116
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$7,685

Average Net Price:
$12,568

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, student veteran org., member of SOC.

Accredited:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

3

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies   

Online, On Campus


UIS offers a 120 credit BA. Initial classes are broad. These survey environmental policy and law. And, introduce key concepts in science and sustainable choices. A main goal is to help students grow their ability to solve environmental problems. So other topics discuss transport, activism and justice. There is also a MS which goes deeper and covers professional skills.

Some courses may be:

  • GIS Tech
  • Agricultural Politics
  • Water Quality

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $15,122 / $32,264
Grad $18,083 / $31,490
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$13,946

Average Net Price:
$14,660

Military Programs:
Credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, student veteran org., & member of SOC. 

Accredited:
HLC

4

Southern New Hampshire University

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science  

Fully Online


SNHU’s program entails 120 credits. It aims to help learners think and take active steps to tackle pressing issues. Based on a strong foundation in sciences, one may tailor studies too. There are three focal areas to choose from, 

  • Compliance & Sustainability
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Wildlife & Conservation Biology

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $31,136
Grad $18,810
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,913

Average Net Price:
$39,743

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)

5

Oregon State University 

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Economics & Policy  

Fully Online


OSU’s EEP program entails 180 quarter credits. The goal is for learners to grow economic and data analysis skills. To work towards this you study environmental law, policy. And ways to measure their impact on resources.

Some courses may be:

  • Applied Economics
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $6,389 / $20,793
Grad $10,857 / $22,396
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$6,483

Average Net Price:
$17,837

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, student veteran org., & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

6

University of Maryland Global Campus

Master of Science in Environmental Management  

Online, Hybrid


UMC’s 36 credit MS program aims to help mid career pros refine decision skills. The course of study blends env. science, business mgmt., and industry standard tech. And looks at ways to assess threats, hazards and risks to the environment based on how an org. operates. While doing so, learners may grow an ability to manage, plan and conduct a liability audit.

Some courses may be:

  • Energy Law
  • Reporting
  • Waste Management 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $37,560 / $12,336
Grad $8,910
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,659

Average Net Price:
$14,635

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE)

7

University of South California

Master of Science in Green Technologies  

Fully Online


USC’s program entails at least 27 credits. Some of which must be in engineering. As a whole, the field studies alternative sources of energy. Learners also study product life cycles and recycling. These mix in with themes of sustainability and electives including research.

Some courses may be:

  • Sustainable Cities
  • Renewable Energy
  • Industrial Ecology

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $58,195
Grad $47,107
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$39,516

Average Net Price:
$37,521

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, student veteran org., & member of SOC. 

Accredited:
WASC Senior College and University Commission

8

Texas A&M University

Master of Natural Resource Development   

Fully Online


Texas A&M’s 36 credit program blends ecosystem science, management and research. It also explores economics, policy and culture as influencers on conservation efforts. Specifically areas of forestry, wildlife, wetlands and genetics. That said, each student develops a plan for the course work and other credits based on academic needs.

Some courses may be:

  • Eco Hydrology
  • Global Change Ecology
  • Spatial Science Research

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $7,348 / $18,666
Grad $6,190 / $13,786
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$7,783

Average Net Price:
$3,323

Military Programs:
Credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, student veteran org., & member of SOC. 

Accredited:
SACSCOC

9

Louisiana State University Online

Master of Science in Environmental Sciences  

Fully Online


LSU Online’s program focuses on studying the environment with an eye to solve problems. It covers 36 credits which relate to the links between social and natural systems. As a result, one of the main themes is eco toxicology and health effects of ENV pollutants. While studying these issues, other courses look at policy analysis and there is a practicum to cap things off.

Some courses may be:

  • Spatial Modeling
  • Law & Regulation
  • Design of ENV Mgmt. Systems

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $7,327 / $20,481
Grad $7,349
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$8,782

Average Net Price:
$8,834

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, student veteran org., & member of SOC. 

Accredited:
SACSCOC

10

Johns Hopkins University 

Masters of Science in Environmental Engineering  

Fully Online


This 30 credit program studies how today’s scientists can better treat waste and pollution in the air, water, and soil. Learners take a look at new technologies used in the design of collection and treatment processes. And delve into the concepts that underlie biological, physical, and chemical treatments. The main program also offers a range of concentration tracks.

Some courses may be:

  • Water and Wastewater
  • Biotechnology
  • Subsurface Fate

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $55,350
Grad $57,556
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$40,594

Average Net Price:
$28,999

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, dedicated point of contact

Accredited:
MSCHE

11

Walden University 

PhD in Public Policy and Administration  

Online / 4 Residencies


Walden’s PhD entails 73 – 125 quarter credits. It discusses leadership ideas and theories used to manage in the public sector. These areas aim to help grads develop solutions related to public policy. Apart from research courses, there are ones related to finance, budgeting and social justice. Students must also complete a final dissertation.

Some courses may be:

  • Organizational Change
  • Governance
  • Strategic Planning

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $12,150
Grad $12,039
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,900

Average Net Price:
N/A

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

12

University of California – Los Angeles

Doctorate of Environmental Science and Engineering   

Mostly On Campus


UCLA’s professional doctorate is all about solving problems related to the environment. It offers a diverse and practice based course plan. One that draws from 12 academic departments and includes supervised research. All students take a set of ESE required courses. These include air pollution, water quality and applied ecology. Then also choose electives related to the core topics.

Some courses may be:

  • ENVS Engineering
  • Mgmt., Law & Policy
  • ENVS Toxicology

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $13,240 / $42,994
Grad $12,953 / $28,055
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$19,300

Average Net Price:
$15,718

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
WASC Senior College and University Commission

13

University of Idaho

PhD in Environmental Science

Mostly On Campus


U Idaho’s PhD entails 78 credits and draws from a wide range of classes. The school bases admission on how compatible a student’s research interests are with those of a major professor. Also on the availability of research support and candidate’s record and potential.

Some courses may be:

  • Earth Science
  • Ecology
  • Biodiversity

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $8,304 / $27,540
Grad $9,876 / $29,112
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$8,735

Average Net Price:
$15,017

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
NWCCU

14

Drexel University

PhD in Environmental Science  

On Campus


Drexel’s PhD has no set courses. Learners craft their course plan with faculty help. That said, the program allows in depth study, research and teaching. Since it draws from many areas, one may work with other University departments too.

Some courses may be:

  • ENVS Assessment
  • Conservation
  • ENVS Policy

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $54,516
Grad $35,181
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$25,076

Average Net Price:
$38,025

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
MSCHE

15

University of North Dakota

PhD in Environmental Engineering  

Online / 3 Campus Visits


UND’s PhD entails 90 credit hours and with the exception of a few in persons, is fully online. The main focus of the classes is to study ways to protect the environment while also building the economy. Learners take classes in other Eng. disciplines and also research in the field of energy and its technologies.

Some courses may be:

  • Energy, Resources, Policy
  • Advanced Transport
  • Hazardous Waste Mgmt.

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $9,736 / $15,895
Grad $12,058 / $19,958
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$5,506

Average Net Price:
$15,654

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC