Environmental science is an interdisciplinary academic field that integrates physical, biological and information sciences (including ecology, biology, physics, chemistry, zoology, mineralogy, oceanology, limnology (study of inland waters), soil science, geology, atmospheric science, and geodesy) to the study of the environment, and the solution of environmental problems. These scientists work on subjects as the understanding of earth processes, evaluating alternative energy systems, pollution control and mitigation, natural resource management, and the effects of global climate change. Environmental issues almost always include an interaction of physical, chemical, and biological processes. Environmental scientists bring a systems approach to the analysis of environmental problems.
Environmental Science has many components; the principal ones are:
Atmospheric Sciences– focuses on the Earth’s atmosphere, with an emphasis upon its interrelation to other systems. Atmospheric sciences can include studies of meteorology, greenhouse gas phenomena, atmospheric dispersion modeling of airborne contaminants, sound propagation phenomena related to noise pollution, and even light pollution.
Ecology– the study of the interactions between organisms and their environment.
Environmental Chemistry– the study of chemical alterations in the environment. Principal areas of study include soil contamination and water pollution.
Geosciences– include environmental geology, environmental soil science, volcanic phenomena and evolution of the Earth’s crust.
The profession had been in its infancy until 1970 when a monumental law was signed on January 1, 1970…the “National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).” In a nutshell, NEPA required a major change in the way in which future habitat would be provided for the complex animal species, homo sapiens, in the United States and created the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to assure the uniform application of NEPA provisions. By 1975, it became clear to the responsible professional environmental community that they were part of a newly created professional discipline and that required a code of ethical practices existed to govern the professional practice.
By 1975, many students were graduating with degrees such as environmental science. This was precipitated by fact that most major colleges were quick to develop curriculum which crossed many disciplinary lines to provide the required interdisciplinary knowledge. Currently, to get an entry-level job as an environmental scientist, you need to begin by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science, Biology or a closely related field such as Botany. If you want to become an environmental scientist who works as a consultant you will need a master’s degree in environmental science or a closely related field.
The proliferation of the interest in Environmental Science has created many choices for prospective students who are researching universities and colleges. Many offer both on-campus and 100% Online degree programs. For example, UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, together with the Departments of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Health Sciences and Geography, offers an innovative dual-component degree program in Environmental Science. UCLA is ranked #23 in the 2016 edition of Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report. Its Earth Sciences program is ranked #13 by U.S. News & World Report. The school’s in-state tuition and fees are $12,753 (2015-16); out-of-state tuition and fees are $35,631 (2015-16).
For those preferring an online Bachelor’s program, Oregon State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences through their Ecampus portal. OSU’s Ecampus has earned a Top 10 ranking for the second year in a row in 2016 by U.S. News & World Report.