Coastal Environmental Science Degree

Jul 08, 2020

Overview of Coastal Environmental Science Degrees

Students who are interested in the subjects of marine biology, environmental science, oceanography, and sustainability may want to consider enrolling in a coastal environmental science program. These programs integrate all of the above disciplines and may provide students with the opportunity to further specialize their studies in an applied or research track. They also offer students opportunities to get hands-on experience through internships, fieldwork, and lab requirements. Below, we'll discuss these programs in greater detail by covering admission requirements, common courses in the curriculum, and career opportunities following completion of these degrees.

Admission Requirements for Coastal Environmental Science Degrees

In order to be admitted into a coastal environmental science program, students will need to meet a number of admission standards and submit a complete application file. This process includes submitting proof of high school transcripts detailing all courses taken, official ACT or SAT test scores, a letter or letters of recommendation, and a personal essay discussing applicants' motivation to attend a school and its program. Some schools also require students to earn a C average in first-year science and math classes before being allowed to take courses in the major.

Common Courses in Coastal Environmental Science Degrees

Bachelor's degree programs in coastal environmental science generally require that students complete a number of core classes from a variety of scientific disciplines in addition to elective courses that are more specific to the field of coastal environmental science. Students often have to complete some sort of capstone course or final research project within the field. Below, we will look at five courses that are commonly found in these programs.

Chemistry for Environmental Science

Programs in coastal environmental science usually require that students take several courses in chemistry, such as general, organic, and analytical chemistry. Students will also likely study chemistry as it relates to environmental science, covering topics like chemical degradation of natural materials and the composition of organic and inorganic materials. They might also investigate topics in geochemistry and conduct case studies of current events related to environmental chemistry.


In an oceanography course, students may study the physics of the ocean, discussing topics like flow dynamics, ocean circulation, and the make-up and properties of ocean water. Another angle that may be covered is the geology of the ocean. Students may learn about marine geology, the history of the ocean floor and crust, continental drift, and how currents affect the geography of the ocean.

Global Climate/Atmospheric Change

In a course that focuses on global climate and atmospheric change, students learn about the effect that global climate change has on the ocean, marine life, and the biosphere. The course may focus on current issues, the history of the problem, and future implications. In addition, the course might cover possible policies that could be enacted to protect the ocean and relate to the topic of sustainability.


It is very common for these degree programs to require students to take at least one course in ecology, which may be a broad overview of the subject, or more specific ecology courses on different topics. In a general ecology class, students learn about different types of biological environments and how they are affected by human activity. More specific ecology courses, like estuarine ecology or freshwater ecology, would focus on the ecological characteristics affecting specific zones and the issues that are unique to those areas.

Environmental Physics

Students in an environmental physics course cover the foundational concepts of physics, including light behavior, mechanics, and conservation principles. An environmental physics course also covers how these concepts relate to the study of ocean environments. Students can expect to complete experiments in the lab as well as during field trips.

How to Choose a Coastal Environmental Science Degree

There are a number of different coastal environmental science degree programs in the United States, and students may be wondering how to choose which program is right for them. There are a number of factors worth taking into consideration when faced with this choice. For example, students may want to take a close look at the course catalog to see which program offers courses or concentration areas that are most interesting to them or are most closely aligned with their future career interests. It is also important for students to consider the location of each program and ensure a school's proximity to the type of coastal environment they're interested in studying. The cost of tuition and whether the school is active in helping graduates connect with career opportunities are also among the factors to consider.

Career Options with a Degree in Coastal Environmental Science

Students who obtain a degree in coastal environmental science can pursue a number of different job opportunities following graduation. They may want to work as an environmental scientist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, environmental scientists earned a median annual salary of $71,360 in 2019, and the field is expected to grow by 8% between 2018 and 2028. Other job possibilities include:

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