Courses in an associate's degree in environmental studies program feature topics like wildlife conservation, botany, biology and environmental law. They also introduce students to issues in natural resource management, controlling environmental hazards, and the impact of humans on the global environment.
Students complete science-intensive lab courses and participate in outdoor fieldwork in watersheds, wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries. There, they gain hands-on experience working with animals, plant life and ecosystems. Graduates might qualify for jobs in government agencies, environmental firms and a variety of other organizations. Graduates can also go on to earn their bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees. Admission to an associate's-level environmental studies program requires a high school diploma or the equivalent.
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Associate's Degree in Environmental Studies
Students in this degree program take courses in chemistry, ecology and statistics. Students also gain hands-on experience working with research technology such as GIS software and wildlife tracking. Common topics discussed in environmental studies courses include:
- Food webs and energy sources
- Animal rights
- Climate patterns
- Pollution and erosion
- Life cycles
Popular Career Options
While many graduates transfer to bachelor's degree programs, career opportunities exist in a variety of settings, including non-profit organizations and research facilities. Graduates can pursue jobs in government, which might include a position at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Forest Service. Graduates might also consider the following job titles:
- Environmental technician
- Laboratory technician
- Wetland field technician
Job Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a job growth of 9%, faster than the average for all occupations, for environmental science and protection technicians from 2014-2024. The median annual salary for these techs was $43,030 as of May 2015. On the other hand, the BLS projected that forest and conservation technicians, including wetlands conservation technicians, can expect a six percent decline in job numbers from 2014-2024. The median annual salary for these technicians was $35,430 as of May 2015.
Because an advanced degree is often necessary to obtain many jobs in the field of environmental science, graduates may consider enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in environmental studies. Other degree options include master's degree and doctoral degree programs in environmental studies.
Additionally, the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) offers numerous continuing education opportunities to its members, including national conferences, courses, seminars and regional meetings. NAEP members also have access to a career center and student internship opportunities.
An associate's degree in environmental studies gives students the foundation in the life sciences to pursue higher education or work as environmental technicians.