A very dynamic area of research, environmental science covers a number of fields of study, but at its heart, environmental science is the study of the environment, its living and nonliving components and how they interact and affect each other through natural and unnatural processes.
With a world population that has grown more rapidly than ever before in the past half century, technology and lifestyles that are ever changing and material demands continuously increasing, human activity has greatly affected the natural environment. The study of environmental science allows us to understand how these effects and changes came to be and learn how to plan for any environmental consequences.
In undertaking a degree program in environmental science, you should expect lectures, laboratory classes and fieldwork that focuses on the different sciences such as biology, biodiversity, ecology, sustainability, and environmental processes. Aside from these, institutions may also require their students to take general subject as part of the curriculum, including mathematics, languages and social sciences. Assessment may be in the form of examinations, laboratory reports and field exercises.
In the latter years of a program, students may be required to undergo their own research and thesis on a topic of their choice, usually in line with their intended specialisations, more of which will be discussed later.
Entrance into an environmental science degree course varies from institution to institution. Some universities require you to take an entrance exam, while some will take into consideration national or standard exams.
Environmental science is comprised of the study of a wide range of the sciences, therefore applicants may be considered based on performance in previous science classes undertaken. A number of universities also take into consideration advanced placement exams, while some consider transfer credits for post-secondary students or applicants.
Another factor for entrance into an environmental science program would be an applicant’s purpose or objective, as in some cases, applicants are asked to write a letter of intent. For a complete list of requirements, you are advised to check out or contact the institution you are interested in applying to.
The accreditation of a degree usually depends on the country where the degree is awarded. In most cases, countries have their own accrediting systems for universities, students and graduates. Please check with the institution you are interested in for their accreditation details.
As for certifications, individuals may obtain certification as environmental scientist through institutions such as the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists. These usually require a degree in environmental science and many years of significant experience.
As mentioned earlier in the article, many specialisations are likely to be available. It may be a requirement as part of the degree program to take a specialisation or it may be optional, depending on the institution and course. Below is a short list of common specialisations in environmental science typically offered by universities:
An undergraduate degree in environmental science can typically take around four years of full-time study. The exact period of time would depend on the university of your choice and the country wherein it is located. It may also depend on the kind of specialisation you intend to take.
There are also a great number of programs for those who want to pursue a master’s degree or a doctorate in environmental science. These include programs for international environmental studies, environmental engineering, natural resources and sustainability.
The options for graduates of environmental science degree programs are sizeable and varied. Environmental science degree programs develop technical skills in laboratory procedures and specialist knowledge, and those who receive a degree in environmental science and especially those who pursue further studies and specialisations can opt for specialist roles in private research institutions or government organisations.
Outside of the lab and research, some graduates choose to become secondary school teachers, environmental consultants or nature conservation officers. There is a range of career options available to graduates of environmental science programs because of the many different transferable skills they gain throughout the program. These include research and problem-solving, project planning, evaluation and management, data gathering and analysis and knowledge and understanding of local, national and international issues.
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