How fast can I earn a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science?

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Anyone paying for a college education knows how expensive tuition can be. Unless you attend college outside the United States, you or a payer will carry the financial burden. Some schools offer free education to international students. However, you would have to go to Finland, Norway, or Germany, for example. Germany has a variety of English programs-the University of Munich and Bonn are two institutions. Moreover, you don’t need to speak a word of German!

Earning a degree outside the U.S. may not be an option. You prefer to take your graduate program in this country because of family, personal, or work commitments. Many students carry the debt of their undergraduate degree to the next level. Therefore, speeding up the process may save you time and money. The quicker you receive your master’s, the sooner you can start or advance your career. And, elevate your income.

Environmental science has many names. Examples are sustainable development, environmental studies, environmental engineering, and global sustainability. We will include these degrees due to their ecological theme. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Traditional Path

The traditional method is to earn your bachelor’s, then proceed to a graduate program. Most master’s degrees require two years of study. There are choices in learning institutions that have stand-alone programs that you can complete in fewer than the two-year average.

A one-year master’s degree may be optimum for students who can attend college full-time on campus. A short list of the Master of Science degrees is in Environmental Sciences, Earth Sciences, Environmental Engineering, Climate Change & Global Sustainability, and Environmental & Green Chemistry. With each of these, there is diversity in the coursework, which allows you to choose the curriculum that suits your career.

The following is a synopsis of courses from the above degrees.

  • Earth Sciences explore geology, physics, ecology, hydrology, and biology.
  • Environmental and Green Chemistry looks at the creation of green technology from the chemist’s perspective. The concentration on chemistry provides insight into toxicology, air & water chemistry, energy, and other chemical processes affecting the environment.
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering involves a study of the ways and means to make conditions safer for the population. Examples are water treatment facilities, air quality, waste management, toxic materials, and soil contamination.
  • Global Sustainability, at the School for International Training, combines with Climate Change as a one year Master of Arts. You will travel across the globe to study carbon dioxide levels, energy, geopolitical policies, and conservation.
  • Environmental Science is concerned with the preservation of natural resources.

For further research, we invite you to check out this list of schools that offer shorter programs than the traditional two-year graduate degree.

The programs mentioned above each consist of thirty credits. As you consider a faster completion rate, keep in mind that you might be increasing your workload. A two-year master’s with 30 credits or semester hours may allow a more relaxed schedule. Faster does not equal easier. Another factor is whether your program of choice offers a thesis and non-thesis option. A dissertation could add time to conduct the necessary research for your chosen topic.

Dual Degree

By combining your bachelor’s with a master’s degree can shave a year off the completion time. Typically, students enroll in a three-year undergraduate program, then proceed directly into your master’s studies. The outcome is fewer credit hours for graduation.

An example is Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Their relationship with Washington College allows taking a three-year bachelor’s curriculum there. Eligible students transfer to Duke to complete your two years of graduate courses. Therefore, you finish in five years.

Some of the dual degrees allow you to take a liberal arts bachelor’s degree. You are free to select your major. You can choose business, political science, or a subject that will complement your master’s degree in the environmental sciences.

When reviewing potential colleges and universities, make a note of the eligible transfer credits. Depending on the requirements, you may receive credit for prior classes. Prior learning could reduce the total credits needed for graduation. The caveat is that the transferable credits must be in designated courses.

Admission Requirements

You will also encounter master’s programs with a checklist of acceptable disciplines for your baccalaureate. Therefore, at some learning institutions, you will need to plan your bachelor’s degree if contemplating attending graduate school. The Master of Science in Environmental Science at the University of Texas, San Antonio, is one example. Admission hinges on a bachelor’s degree in either chemistry, ecology, biology, geology, or associated field. There are many exceptions to this prerequisite.

Students should also review the application requirements as these can be stringent. Grades, letter of recommendation, a resume, academic goals, and English language proficiency may comprise the partial preconditions. Anyone of these conditions could impede your advancement to a master’s program.

Additional Resources

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