Top Online Environmental Science Degree Programs and Industry Salary 2024/2025

Studying an environmental science degree provides you with a broad understanding of current environmental issues and challenges on a local, national and global change.

Online environmental science degree

The environmental sciences focus on understanding the Earth’s natural systems and how we, as humans, interact with them.
During a degree in environmental science, you will learn learn about the natural world and how humans are impacting the environment.

Online Environmental Science Degree

Environmental science is the study of the environment. It can incorporate many different subjects, including biology, geology and chemistry, and it can take you on career paths that range from desk jobs to hands-on fieldwork.

Environmental science is usually considered a “generalist” field. This means that it’s a broad area of study with many specialties and sub-specialties. Students can choose to specialize in things like conservation, pollution law, wildlife preservation, natural resources, oceanology, meteorology and more.

You can obtain an environmental science degree on every level from associate to doctoral. However, many jobs will require a bachelor’s degree or higher just to get your foot in the door, and some will ask for special licenses and certifications as well.

Environmental Science Curriculum & Courses

What can you expect to learn as an environmental science student? While your exact schedule will depend on things like your school and your specialization, you can expect to see the following on most course lists:

  • Introduction to Environmental Science
    This is a basic, entry-level class for environmental science that provides a foundation in things like biology, geology, sustainability, global warming and wildlife preservation.
  • Environmental Laws and Policies
    These classes might go by different names, but they can cover everything from pollution laws to eco-friendly public outreach programs.
  • Climatology
    This class is essential for most environmental science degrees. It covers the scale and impact of Earth’s climate on things like weather patterns, sea levels, natural disasters and more.
  • Conservation
    A big part of environmentalism is conservation, so you’ll probably take multiple classes that cover the protection and preservation of the planet.
  • Environmental Technology
    As an environmental science professional, you might need to use things like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as well as other tools and technology. These classes can teach you how to operate them and why they’re so important.

Remember, however, that this is just a small sampling of the courses that are available to you. You can explore many different classes and career tracks as an environmental science student.

Admissions Requirements

There aren’t any special requirements for enrolling in an environmental science program. You’ll just need to meet the basic eligibility criteria for incoming students. Depending on your school, this could necessitate any or all of the following:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Application
  • Essay

Some schools might also have GPA requirements if you’re applying for special programs within the environmental science department. Check with an academic advisor to learn more.

Environmental Science Careers & Salaries

According to the US Bureau of Lagos statistics.environmental scientists and specialists make an average of $73,230 per year. However, there are many other career paths for students who are interested in this field of study, and salaries can vary quite a bit.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Meteorologists $99,740
Biochemist or Biophysicist $94,270
Oceanographer $93,580
Environmental Engineer $92,120
Biological Scientist $85,290
Hydrologist $84,040
Environmental Scientist or Specialist $73,230
Zoologist or Wildlife Biologist $66,350

Keep in mind that these salaries are the medians. For example, the full pay scale for an environmental scientist is $42,960 – $129,450 per year, so you could find yourself on either end of the spectrum depending on your age, experience, location, degree level and industry growth.

Environmental Science Concentrations & Specializations

There are two types of environmental science degrees. One is a “general” degree, and the other is a specialized or concentrated degree where you’ve focused your studies on something specific. Here are a few specializations that you might consider for a career in environmentalism:

  • Geospatial Technologies is concerned with mapping the Earth through tools and technologies like remote sensing (RS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS).
  • Sustainability is about preserving the environment and slowing down the depletion of natural resources. Its courses cover topics such as pollution, climate change, ethics, ecology, geology and environmental law.
  • Environmental Policy and Economics is the legal side of environmentalism. This is especially important when it comes to monitoring businesses to prevent natural damage, and this degree can help prepare you to enter the fray.

There are other specializations to consider as well. They can concentrate your studies on a specific subject like water management or soil erosion, or they can prepare you for work in a particular industry like healthcare, business, economics or political science.


If you’re looking at colleges, you’ve probably come across the term “accreditation.” In simple terms, it’s a review process that schools undergo to prove that they meet certain educational standards. Many grants and scholarships will also require you to attend an accredited school.

There are several forms of accreditation out there, including regional, national and programmatic. Regional accreditation is the most common, and it’s granted by institutions that have divided the U.S. into six different regions. You can recognize them by the locations that they have in their names:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Northwest Association Of Schools And Colleges
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

If you’re seeking a science degree, you should also know about programmatic accreditation. It’s granted to specific programs and departments within schools.

Environmental science degrees are accredited by both the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (NEHSPAC) and the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB).

You can learn more about all types of accreditation from the  council of higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Environmental Science Professional Organizations

Professional organizations can help you on your journey to a degree. Many of them offer support to both students and working professionals, so even after you graduate, you can take advantage of their resources.


Here are a few organizations that might interest you as an environmental science major:

  • National association of environmental professionals
    The NAEP is dedicated to all careers involving the environment, and it offers conferences, workshops, webinars, educational courses and more.
  • American academy for environmental engineer and science
    The AAEES has a wealth of resources for STEM-focused environmental professionals. It also boasts different tiers of membership for students, recent graduates, early-career workers and regular professionals.
  • Association for environmental studies and science
    The AESS is an interdisciplinary organization that welcomes anyone interested in environment studies, and it even has scholarship opportunities for current college students.

There are other organizations that you can look into as well.

Environmental Science Licensing and Certification

Depending on your career goals, a degree might not be enough to set you apart from other job applicants. You might need professional certification as well. Here are just a few acryonms that are common in the field of environmental science:

  • Board certified environmental scientist
    Requiring both an application and an exam, this is a high-level certification for environmental engineers with several years of experience.
  • Board certified environmental engineering
    This certification is much like the BCEE, but you don’t have to be a licensed, full-time engineer to apply.
  • Board certified environmental scientists
    Meant for scientists rather than engineers, this is another high-level certification that will require a degree, license, exam, application and several years of experience.

As you can see, certification won’t be easy, but it might bolster your resume in a competitive job market. You can read more about it at the website for the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists.

Financial Aid

If you can’t afford college on your own, financial aid can help.

The first step is filling out the Free Applications for federal student aids (FAFSA). There is no cost involved and, depending on your income level, you could qualify for several types of assistance:

  • Grants are funds that don’t have to be paid back, but you’ll need to meet certain conditions to get them. For example, the most common grant is the Federal Pell Grant, and its amount is based on both your income level and your estimated family contribution (EFC).
  • Loans are available to all college students, but if you’re considered a “low-income” student, you might qualify for a subsidized loan where the government pays the interest while you’re in school.
  • Work-study programs can connect you with part-time jobs while you’re a student. These jobs are usually on campus, so they might not be a possibility for long-distance learners getting an online degree, but they’re something to consider if you live close to your school.

Additionally, you can look into things like tuition reimbursement and employee training programs that will pay for a portion of your degree. Another possibility is scholarships.

Environmental Science Scholarships

There are a number of scholarships that you can pursue as an environmental science student:

  • David E. Linley Young science scholarship for energy and environmental science : Funded by the American Geophysical Union, this scholarship offers $1,000 for tuition and $500 for travel costs to attend the annual AGU conference.
  • Dr whistle scholarship : This scholarship awards $5,000 to undergraduates who are studying environmental science or civil, electrical, mechanical or chemical engineering.
  • Ernest F. Hollings scholarship program: Offered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, recipients of this scholarship will receive up to $9,500 for two years of college as well as a paid internship with NOAA.
  • National Environmental health association and the American academy of sanitarians scholarship: A joint scholarship from two related institutions, this one awards $2,250 to both undergraduate and graduate students majoring in environmental studies.
  • Udall undergraduate scholarship: Named for Native American activists, this scholarship awards up to $7,000 for students who want to make positive environmental changes in Native American communities.

These are just a few of the scholarships that are available to environmental science students. There are many more, including both need- and merit-based scholarships that can be awarded to students of any major.

Can I Get an Environmental Science Degree Online?

There are many online degree programs for environmental science. They’re available at every level of study, including an online association degree in environmental science, an online bachelors in environmental science, and an Online masters in environmental science. You can even earn a Phd in environmental science through an online program.

Just know that some programs might have a lab or fieldwork component that you’ll need to arrange in advance with your school.

What Can You Do With a Degree in Environmental Science?

An environmental science degree can take you down a variety of career paths. The most obvious option is becoming an environmental scientist, but you could also become a biologist, ecologist, meteorologist or horticulturist.

You could also become an engineer, architect or business manager with an environmental focus.

Is a Degree in Environmental Science Worth it?

Yes, a degree in environmental science is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 5% job growth in life, physical, and social science occupations over the next 10 years. Common careers in this field include wildlife biologist, hydrologist, biological scientist, meteorologist, and environmental scientist.

Everyone has their own opinion about the “worth” of different subjects and degrees. However, a career in environmental science can be quite lucrative.

That makes an environmental science degree a profitable investment for the future.

Are Online Environmental Science Degrees the Same Quality as a Campus Program?

The worth of an online degree depends on the school. Do they have a well-developed learning portal for online students? Are the online classes taught by the same professors as the campus-based classes?

Do they use the same textbooks? Are they accredited?

Are Online Degrees Legitimate?

If you’re wondering about the legitimacy of an online degree program, look at its accreditation. The college should be regionally or nationally accredited at the bare minimum.

You might also want to look for programmatic accreditation, but that isn’t standard in the industry just yet, so don’t worry if your program lacks it. It’s just a bonus.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Science Online?

A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years to complete. This is assuming that you’re a full-time student earning 12 – 15 credits per semester.

It typically takes around 120 credits to get an environmental science degree.

What Kind of Online Bachelor’s in Environmental Science Degree Should You Get?

The best degree for you will depend on factors that only you can judge. For example, here are some questions that you might ask yourself:

  • What subjects do I like to study?
  • Which specializations are in-demand in my state?
  • How much can I afford in tuition?
  • What degree level do I want?

You might need to do some research on things like salaries and job growth percentages before you can properly answer these questions.

How Much Can you Make With a Degree in Environmental Science?

The top-earning environmental scientists can clear as much as $129,450 per year. Other occupations in specialized fields such as biology and meteorology can net between $85,000 – $95,000 per year (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

How Much Does an Online Environmental Science Bachelor’s Degree Cost?

The cost of your environmental science degree will depend on many different factors. For example, while in-state tuition rates range from $200 – $500 per credit, you might have to pay more as an out-of-state student.

If you’re getting a four-year degree, that will most likely cost more than a two-year degree.



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