Graduate Program Spotlight: Environmental Studies

One beautiful reason to consider Environmental Science as a career path.

One beautiful reason to consider Environmental Science as a career path.

Well-known institutions like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Yale, etc. consistently rank at the top of every program they offer, and this is no different for Environmental Studies graduate programs. However, the fact of the matter is you do not have to attend one of these schools in order to get a great education out of a Masters or Ph.D. program. At “It’s Not GREek!” we want our readers to be aware of not only the important generalities of the field they are considering, but the multitude of options they have when it comes to picking a graduate school. These are some schools, along with the usual suspects, you may not be aware of, but that experts in your field of study certainly are.

For years, global experts in environmental studies have been proclaiming the necessity of greener living and a reduced carbon footprint. Nobel Prizes have been awarded to especially outstanding activists (Theodore Roosevelt, Al Gore, Wangari Maathai) and the study of environmental sciences has blossomed into an important and prominent part of the scientific community. Though many people associate Environmental Studies with greener living, as a science, Environmental Studies is not strictly limited to campaigning against deforestation or global warming; many environmental scientists are tasked with identifying and eliminating pollutants, concern themselves with issues affecting the general health of the public, or, as we will see, focus primarily on solving environmental problems with innovative engineering solutions.

U.S. Bureau of Labor is an excellent source for occupational projections. If you're interested in a particular field, I strongly recommend visiting USBLS.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is an excellent source for employment and wage projections. If you’re interested in a particular field, I strongly recommend visiting USBLS.

With this broader categorization of Environmental Studies in mind, it is easy to understand why the occupational statistics, including wage and employment, seem so bright for Environmental Scientists and Specialists. Though the employment statistics are not particularly staggering, the mean hourly wage is a comfortable $33.08. This hourly mean is an average that includes both the higher-level earners (those with M.S. and/or Ph. D) and the lower-level income earners (those with only a Bachelor’s or Associate degree). An individual with a Masters or Doctorate in Environmental Science can potentially earn up to $110,000/year or more in salary.

It is important to keep in mind, as we begin our Graduate Program Spotlight: Environmental Studies, that the employment statistics above do not include specific niche areas of environmental studies like Conservation Scientists, Forest and Conservation Technicians, Game Wardens, or Wildlife Biologists; the US Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains separate statistics for each of these employment categories. So, while the employment statistics for Environmental Scientists and Specialists are “not particularly staggering” (with a 19% Job Outlook for 2010-20, which is about average), the existence of these specialized niches suggests that a broader, aggregate consideration would reveal Environmental Studies is a pursuit that is excellent not just for the endeavors of the field but the employment opportunities associated with it.

#1) Stanford University

Stanford offers a number of graduate level studies related to studying the environment, including Energy and Climate, Earth Systems, the Emmett Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies in Environment and Resources, Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy Program, Center for Social Innovation, and the Public Policy Program. Additionally, Stanford’s geographic location has two “unique natural laboratories,” the Hopkins Marine Station and Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, both of which have proven to be outstanding sources for study and research. The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment includes the Rising Environmental Leaders Program, which is an “innovative interdisciplinary initiative that exposes graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to national policy development, partnership building and public service careers.” You can find out more about Stanford graduate admissions here.

Oski the bear is just one more reason to go to Berkeley.

Oski the bear is just one more reason to go to Berkeley.

#2) University of California, Berkeley (UCB)

The University of California, Berkeley offers a stunning array of graduate programs for students interested in post-undergraduate studies in Environment and Sustainability. The university takes a very serious approach to the issue of sustainability; they have even gone so far as to introduce the Cal Climate Action Partnership (CalCAP), which is “is a collaboration of faculty, administration, staff, and students working to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at UC Berkeley.” Recent environmental studies released by UC Berkeley range from why species migrate, or don’t migrate, in response to climate change, to air pollution as it pertains to diesel versus other gas emissions, to the environmental quality of child care settings. The issues UCB considers most important include Agriculture, Air Quality, Energy and Climate Change, Environmental Economics, Natural Resource Management, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Living, Transportation, and Water. You can find out more about Cal Berkeley graduate admissions here.

#3) Harvard University

Harvard’s Sustainability and Environmental Graduate Program is one the best in the country. Their extension program offers a great degree of flexibility, requiring student to take only one classroom course and the other courses online. You can choose from two concentrations, one in Ecosystems and the other in Sustainability. Like every program Harvard offers, admission is competitive. You can find out more about Harvard graduate admissions here.

#4) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Areas of study in MIT’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering include Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Microbiology, Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Coastal Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering and Geomechanics, Hydrology and Hydroclimatology, Materials and Structures, and Transportation; their related graduate degree options are Master of Engineering, Master of Science, Master of Science and MBA, Doctoral Degree, Interdepartmental Master of Science or Doctorate in Transportation. You can find out more about MIT graduate admissions here.

#5) California Institute of Technology

The Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE) program is an interdisciplinary degree option, culminating in research leading to a Ph. D., which aims “to provide a comprehensive understanding of our complex environment and offer efficient and effective engineering solutions to environmental problems.”  Cal Tech requires its Environmental Science and Engineering students to have foundations in science, engineering, or math. Specific research areas include Atmospheric chemistry and air pollution, Environmental chemistry and technology, Dynamics of climate, Biogeochemistry and climates of the past, Environmental microbiology, and Landscape evolution. You can find out more about Cal Tech graduate admissions here.

Honorable Mention:

“Buzz” is a very inspired nickname for a bee, I think.

#27) Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) offers 4 MS degrees: Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MSCE), Master of Science in Engineering Science and Mechanics (MSESM), Master of Science in Environmental Engineering (MSEnvE), and an undesignated Master of Science (MS). In a Welcome from the Chair, Reginald DdesRoches writes, “We believe that our strong reputation is based on several factors, including our attention to engineering fundamentals, investments in state-of-the-art technology, and the world-class scholars that comprise CEE’s faculty.” Research in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering is broadly categorized into six “affinity-areas”: Construction Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Water Resources, Geosystems Engineering, Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials, and Transportation Systems Engineering. You can find out more about Georgia Tech graduate admissions here.

#39) University of Washington

The University of Washington’ School of Environmental and Forest Sciences “focus (is) on the sustainability and functionality of complex natural resource and environmental systems, using an integrated, interdisciplinary approach across multiple scales involving the urban-to-wildland gradient.” Graduate degree programs include a Master of Environmental Horticulture, Master of Forestry – Sustainable Forest Management, Master of Science, and A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.). Though ranked #39 by US World News, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (which ranks universities based on academic or research performance) has consistently ranked UW in the top5 globally for the excellence of their staff, students, and research. You can find out more about University of Washington graduate admissions here.

If you are a fan of the environment, you will be a fan of CU-Boulder.

If you are a fan of the environment, you will be a fan of CU-Boulder.

#43) University of Colorado at Boulder

CU-Boulder’s Environmental Studies Program (ENVS) offers both a MS and a Ph. D; that said, Colorado at Boulder prides itself on the “truly interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environmental Studies that awards (these) two degree(s).” One of the more amazing aspects of CU-Boulder is the breadth and scope of their Certificate Programs, which are offered to interdisciplinary and professional graduate students to complement traditional educations; in the certificate programs, students take classes outside of their department and work directly with a faculty member affiliated with the program. You can find out more about CU-Boulder graduate admissions here.

#50) University of California, Irvine

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Henry Samueli School of Engineering (HSSoE) at the University of California, Irvine offers a Civil Engineering M.S. and Ph. D. with an emphasis in one of three areas: Hydrology and Water Resources, Structural Engineering, and Transportation Systems Engineering. The CEE also offers an Engineering M.S. and Ph. D. with a concentration in Environmental Engineering.  Scholarship in the department is focused around four primary application domains: environmental processes, hydrology and water resources, structural engineering, and transportation systems engineering. You can find out more about UC Irvine graduate admissions here.

This concludes this week’s Graduate Program Spotlight: Environmental Studies. Remember, all of these schools are great and they will all require excellent GRE scores to be admitted into. If you’d like to know more about the GRE keep checking out “It’s Not GREek.” If you’d like additional help, the experts at Test Masters are available year round all your test preparatory needs.

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