Bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and doctoral degrees in environmental protection are available at many colleges and universities. A high school diploma or GED is required for admission to a 4-year bachelor's degree program, and a bachelor's degree is usually required for admission to the master's program. In a 2-year master's degree program in environmental protection, students research and gain experience in environmental waste treatment, public health and toxicology. Flexible scheduling options are often available for master's-level students, with some programs offering courses online.
Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Protection
Students in 4-year bachelor's degree programs in environmental protection or environmental engineering learn about soil science, pest management, environmental policy and sustainability. Programs prepare students to work in industrial hygiene, natural resource management and public health.
Environmental health and sustainability intersects with a variety of disciplines, such as chemistry, social justice and business. Because this program is very hands-on, a significant amount of lab work is expected of majors. Core coursework includes:
- Conservation biology
- Public policy
- Resource economics
- Soil science
Master of Science in Environmental Protection
Students in 2-year, graduate-level environmental protection programs study risk assessment, chemistry, and public policy. Some schools offer online or evening courses to work around a student's schedule. Applicants are expected to have finished a bachelor's degree program, though environmental protection master's programs do not require a specific undergraduate major.
Master's programs in environmental protection teach industrial hygiene and disaster management. Students learn to treat environmental waste, prevent the spread of contaminants and safeguard public health. Graduates from master's degree programs in environmental protection measure human exposure to contaminants in the environment, as well as evaluate the effects of hazardous chemicals in soil and water. These programs offer hands-on training and focus coursework on theoretical backgrounds intended to prepare graduates for management positions. Fields of study include:
- Environmental law
- Health and safety
- Mathematical modeling
Popular Career Options
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70,220 occupational health and safety specialists were employed in the country in May 2015. Bachelor degree program graduates generally find work in large industries, environmental consulting firms and all levels of government. Possible positions include:
- Alternative energy analyst
- Eco-tourism specialist
- Environmental compliance and hazard protection officer
- Natural resources manager
- Occupational health specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The BLS estimated that occupational health and safety specialists are expected to see a job growth of 4% from 2014-2024. The BLS further reported that occupational health and safety specialists earned an annual median wage of $70,210, as of 2015.
Those with a bachelor's degree in environmental protection could choose to continue their education through graduate programs in science, engineering or law. Some law schools offer a joint master's and Juris Doctor (J.D.) programs in environmental protection law and policy.
After training in environmental engineering, students interested in earning professional engineer status can take the licensure exams administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors. Professional engineers must first pass the fundamentals of engineering exam, complete four years of supervised, on-the-job experience and pass the professional engineer exam.
While requirements vary by state, some licensed engineers were required to earn a certain amount of continuing education credits every two years to maintain licensure. Various universities offer individual courses in environmental engineering, often as part of master's degree programs.
Undergraduate and graduate degrees in environmental protection prepare students for jobs in fields such as eco-tourism, natural resources management and occupational health and safety in both government and private industry. Classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels include many science and math courses, such as biology, chemistry, botany and statistics. Because of the inter-disciplinary nature of these programs, there is a large emphasis on lab work, as well as public policy, law and health and safety.