Online Environmental Studies Degrees and Certificate Programs

Research online environmental studies courses and programs. Find out what you can learn in these courses and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

Essential Information

Online programs in environmental studies are available at the certificate, bachelor's degree and master's degree levels. A decent number of online programs in environmental studies areas are available. More rarely, associate's degree programs in environmental studies that provide an introduction to the field are also available online, but they aren't discussed in this article.

Certificate programs may be offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels. They may be designed for students who want in-depth knowledge in a particular field to complement their major field of study, or for environmental workers and scientists seeking professional development. They are short-term programs of study and can often be completed entirely online. Focus areas of study may include sustainability, public lands management, environmental technology or global environmental management.

Fully online degree programs aren't likely to be offered, since environmental studies typically involve practical work. Bachelor's degree students may be able to complete the majority of coursework through distance learning, but campus visits could be required for certain classes or laboratory components. Master's degree programs typically also have on-campus coursework or local fieldwork requirements. Students interested in a program they can complete entirely online might consider enrolling in a closely related environmental science program.

Certificate in Environmental Studies

An environmental studies certificate is often pursued as a complement to a bachelor's degree in another field. It may also be used as a means of enhancing the proficiency of someone already working in the field. Certificate programs in environmental studies typically cover environmental problems such as pollution or climate change and how such problems correlate with social factors. Students consider how humans can work to solve these problems.

Program Information and Requirements

Certificate programs do not generally confer academic degrees, but a number of certificate programs offer courses that also can be counted towards a bachelor's degree program. Certificate programs are also useful for working professionals who want to update their knowledge of environmental issues without pursuing an entire degree program. Coursework in certificate programs is typically meant to enhance the students' understanding of environmental issues and how they relate to civilization.

It typically takes 1-2 years to complete a certificate program online in environmental studies. In an online setting students can complete coursework at times that best fit their schedules. They watch lectures online and correspond with their teachers and each other on discussion boards or by e-mail.

Course Topics

Coursework in certificate programs for environmental studies tends to deal with subject matter that relates directly to the students' intended profession in the field.

Environmental Biology

An environmental biology course studies plants, animals and other organisms and how they relate to the environment. Biodiversity, human impact on ecosystems and evolutionary processes are typical subject matters.

Environmental Chemistry

Courses on environmental chemistry study the chemical aspects of various environmental components, such as water systems and soils. They examine how changes in chemical composition affect other components of the environment.

Environmental Geology

Environmental geology studies rock formation, erosion and other geological processes in an environmental context. Classes consider how geological processes affect other aspects of the environment and how they interact with human decisions and civilization. Specific topics might include coastal erosion or the impact of mining on the environment.

Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Studies

An online bachelor's degree program in environmental studies typically includes courses in social science, science and the humanities. An online bachelor's degree in environmental studies typically takes 3-4 years to complete. Some programs include courses that have to be taken in a classroom setting, as they require laboratory components that are difficult to complete online.

Program Information and Requirements

Students in online environmental studies programs use educational software that delivers lectures and sometimes simulates scientific experiments. Online environmental studies programs allow students to complete work within the program as their schedules permit. Programs typically discuss human civilization and its relationship with and impact on the environment. Classes encompass science and social science, while concentrating on environmental issues within social and cultural realms.

Course Topics

Courses in environmental studies typically focus on human interaction with the environment. Topics in science, social science and humanities are often studied in order to cover multiple aspects of science and the environment.

Environmental Biology

An environmental biology course focuses on the study of biodiversity. It typically covers the impact that humans have on biodiversity by means of habitat destruction, hunting, agriculture and conservation efforts.

Environmental Management

This course studies demographics and public policy pertaining to the environment. Issues include the description and analysis of urbanization, industrialism and population growth.

Environmental Impact

Students learn the fundamentals of conducting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by following guidelines set by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). An EIS evaluates the effect of an action on the local environment and is a significant component of environmental policy development.

Master's Degree in Environmental Studies

Master's programs in environmental studies place a heavy emphasis on research methods and typically require hands-on work in the field. Most courses deal with science and mathematics. Online courses at the graduate level are offered, although the bulk of the work is generally done in close contact with faculty members within the field and may require in-person meetings. Graduates are prepared for careers in research or management.

Program Information and Requirements

A master's degree in environmental studies typically takes 2-3 years to complete. The master's program tends to place heavy emphasis on students' individual study and research in his or her specific field of study. Internships within the field are a common requirement as a means of hands-on experience to be completed by master's students.

Online course options may be limited to more theoretical classes in mathematics or the fundamentals of science. Other classes might require hands-on research and laboratory work that cannot be completed exclusively online.

Course Topics

Many courses taken en route to earning a master's degree in environmental studies require students to conduct independent research on their chosen focus in the field. The coursework is meant to prepare students for research methods that they will need to work at a high level in the field.

Research Methods in Environmental Studies

Students conduct independent research meant to go towards the completion of their thesis. This course is intended to improve research techniques and increase knowledge of prior studies and papers in the field.

Health and the Environment

An environmental health course studies human exposure to hazardous substances in the environment. Students consider how to research and alleviate such problems by technological, legal and economic means.

Sustainable Development

Students become familiar with concepts and framework for development of environmentally sustainable methods for construction, manufacturing and other economic activity. This course focuses on the relationship between environmental, economic and social conditions.

Career Information

Many people pursue a certificate in environmental science as part of an education program for a career as a biological technician. As of May 2015, the average annual wage for someone in this field was $45,230, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The BLS reported that between 2014 and 2024, job opportunities for biological technicians are expected to increase by 5%.

Careers as environmental scientists and specialists, who study pollutants and hazards that affect the environment and work on reducing them, are popular options for someone with a bachelor's degree in environmental studies. As of May 2015, the average annual wage for someone in this field was $73,930, according to the BLS. Between 2014 and 2024, job opportunities for environmental scientists and specialists are expected to increase by 11%.

A popular career option for someone holding a master's degree in environmental studies is to become a geoscientist. As of May 2015, the average annual wage for someone in this field was $105,720, according to the BLS. The BLS reported that between 2014 and 2024, job opportunities for geoscientists are expected to increase by 10%.

Certificate, bachelor's and master's degree programs in environmental studies are available online for students wishing to study environmental management, biology, sustainable development and more. Depending on their level of education, graduates can pursue a variety of jobs, such as biological technician, geoscientist or environmental specialist.

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