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The 30 Best Colleges for Environmental Science

What’s Covered:

 

Environmental science is a phenomenally important discipline that draws on fields of natural sciences to study the planet, its resources, problems associated with it, and the human impact on the environment. People who study the subject go on to have thriving careers in a number of industries. Common career paths include roles as marine biologists, researchers, consultants, conservationists, environmental engineers, ecologists, educators, meteorologists, environmental lawyers, and more.

 

How We Made This List

 

To create our list of the best environmental science programs in the country, we examined a range of factors, including the reputation of the program, the overall quality of the school, the popularity of the major in the context of the school, and the size of the program relative to the size of the school.

 

30 Best Environmental Science Schools

 

1. University of California, Berkeley | UC Berkeley

 

Location: Berkeley, CA

Undergrad Enrollment: 30,800

Acceptance Rate: 15%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: N/A

 

Berkeley’s Environmental Science major is a top-rated, interdisciplinary program. Students explore concepts in biology, ecology, chemistry, toxicology, geology, hydrology, meteorology, geography, engineering, statistics, behavioral science, policy analysis, economics, and law. Students choose a Social Science, Physical Science, or Biological Science Concentration.

 

The program culminates in a year-long research project — the senior thesis — during which students will investigate an environmental issue and design and execute independent research.

 

2. Yale University

 

Location: New Haven, CT

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,900

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1480-1580/33-35

 

Yale College Environmental Studies offers both BA and BS degrees. The interdisciplinary programs explore concepts in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, encouraging students to grapple with the most challenging environmental problems the world faces today. During their studies, students prepare for the EVST senior essay, the major’s capstone project. 

 

3. Columbia University

 

Location: New York, NY

Undergrad Enrollment: 8,200

Acceptance Rate: N/A

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1470-1570/33-35

 

Columbia’s Environmental Science major explores the interaction between Earth’s physical environment and the biosphere. Students study a range of relevant science fields in depth. The program includes a senior capstone experience, during which majors will complete a research project and a Senior Thesis under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

 

4. Bucknell University

 

Location: Lewisburg, PA

Undergrad Enrollment: 3,500

Acceptance Rate: 35%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1210-1410/26-32

 

At Bucknell, you can major in Environmental Studies or Environmental Science — each pathway leads to a BA. No matter which program you choose, you will partake in experiential learning, visiting local waterways, rural communities, and state forests. You’ll also conduct faculty-led research, traveling around the world to tackle real-world problems — from sustainability in Europe to climate change in Central Asia.

 

5. University of California, Los Angeles

 

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Undergrad Enrollment: 31,500

Acceptance Rate: 14%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1290-1520/29-34

 

Combining theory, community, and real-world practice, UCLA’s bachelor’s degree in environmental science is a diverse, immersive experience that prepares students to tackle complex environmental issues. Students complete the program by undertaking a Senior Practicum, a year-long capstone program, where they will work alongside peers and a faculty member or another environmental expert.

 

6. Brown University

 

Location: Providence, RI

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,000

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1440-1560/33-35

 

The Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES) offers two undergraduate degrees: an A.B. in Environmental Studies and a Sc.B. in Environmental Science. Both degree paths offer an interdisciplinary approach, immersing students in the natural and social sciences, as well as public policy. Students will also choose among five tracks of study: 

  • Air, Climate & Energy
  • Conservation Science & Policy
  • Environment and Inequality
  • Land, Water & Food Security
  • Sustainability in Development

 

7. Colgate University

 

Location: Hamilton, NY

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,900

Acceptance Rate: 17%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1340-1500/31-34

 

The Colgate Environmental Studies Program takes an interdisciplinary approach, offering majors in Environmental Biology, Environmental Economics, Environmental Geography, Environmental Geology, and Environmental Studies, along with a minor in Environmental Studies. 

 

All paths have plenty of opportunities, including extensive study abroad experiences, such as an immersive program at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia. There are also numerous research opportunities.

 

8. University of Pennsylvania

 

Location: Philadelphia

Undergrad Enrollment: 11,800

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1460-1570/33-35

 

The Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Penn offers undergraduate majors in Earth Science (EASC) and Environmental Studies (ENVS), as well as minors in Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Geology, and Sustainability and Environmental Management. Students have plenty of research opportunities through programs like Hayden Scholars, along with communities like the Penn Geology Society.

 

9. Washington University in St. Louis | WashU

 

Location: Saint Louis, MO

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,700

Acceptance Rate: 13%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1490-1570/33-35

 

In the Environmental Studies program at WashU, students work to understand the systems that shape the Earth’s environment. Students may major or minor in Environmental Analysis, and an Environmental Studies minor is also available. All programs prepare students to tackle real-world environmental problems through coursework and independent research. They may also participate in interdisciplinary, project-based, community-engaged learning experiences.

 

10. University of Southern California | USC

 

Location: Los Angeles

Undergrad Enrollment: 19,900

Acceptance Rate: 13%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1410-1540/32-35

 

The ENVS degrees at USC are built on specialized natural and social science courses and interdisciplinary courses focusing on sustainability. Students may pursue one of two concentrations toward earning a BA: Science and Management or Policy and Management. Meanwhile, four concentrations are available within the BS degree path: Sustainability and Society, Oceans and People, Climate and Environment, and Environmental Policy.

 

11.  Northeastern University

 

Location: Boston, MA

Undergrad Enrollment: 13,900

Acceptance Rate: 20%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1410-1540/33-35

 

By earning a BS in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences, Northeastern graduates gain a foundation in Earth systems, ecology, sustainable development, and required skills courses in data management and geographic information systems. Students choose among four concentrations while participating in interdisciplinary opportunities.

 

12. University of California, Davis | UC Davis

 

Location: Davis, CA

Undergrad Enrollment: 30,700

Acceptance Rate: 49%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: N/A

 

UC Davis’ College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is home to the Environmental Science and Management major. The program includes a capstone course integrating science, policy, management, and biology aspects of the major, and students will gain practical experience through field courses and a required internship. In their junior year, students choose a specialized track from the six options. 

 

13. University of Texas at Austin | UT Austin

 

Location: Austin, TX

Undergrad Enrollment: 40,800

Acceptance Rate: 32%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1210-1470/26-33

 

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science takes an interdisciplinary scientific approach to environmental and sustainability issues, analysis, and management. Students perform field and laboratory work, computer analysis, and original research, toward the goals of preparing students for careers in local, state, and federal government laboratories and nonprofit agencies, environmental consulting firms, environmental education and outreach agencies, and universities and other research settings. 

 

14. Santa Clara University

 

Location: Santa Clara, CA

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,500

Acceptance Rate: 54%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1290-1470/29-33

 

The Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences (ESS) at Santa Clara offers interdisciplinary programs of study leading to a BS in environmental science or environmental studies. Students take part in coursework in applied ecology, water resources, climate, renewable energy, and more. They are encouraged to study abroad and pursue research-oriented field programs.

 

15. Massachusetts Maritime Academy | MMA

 

Location: Buzzards Bay, MA

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,700

Acceptance Rate: 90%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1040-1190/19-25

 

MMA is uniquely positioned to provide a comprehensive environmental science education through the Marine Science, Safety, and Environmental Protection (MSSEP) program. First-year cadets participate in a tropical ecology field course in Bermuda. 

 

Cadets will also engage in hands-on and offshore work, as well as participate in a six-week co-op internship and three-credit co-op, while utilizing environmental and marine science technology and developing critical skills in the field.

 

16. Trinity College

 

Location: Hartford, CT

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,100

Acceptance Rate: 38%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1333-1480/29-33

 

Trinity is home to a vibrant ENVS community. The program blends theory and practicing, giving students exposure to concepts and practices in the field. They have plenty of research and hands-on learning opportunities, investigating topics like soil chemistry, home ranges of urban hawk populations, and much more. All of this takes place as part of a comprehensive liberal arts education, where students participate in coursework in environmental policy, nature writing, economics, or anthropology.

 

17. University of Virginia

 

Location: Charlottesville

Undergrad Enrollment: 16,700

Acceptance Rate: 23%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1320-1510/30-34

 

The Department of Environmental Sciences at UVA offers both a BA and a BS. Through a flexible curriculum, students gain an understanding of the scientific processes and problems related to the environment, exploring areas like Ecology, Geoscience, Hydrology, and Atmospheric Science. Students are able to tailor their curriculum to prepare for graduate studies or careers.

 

18. Colorado College

 

Location: Colorado Springs, CO

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,100

Acceptance Rate: 14%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1250-1455/29-33

 

Colorado College offers two integrated majors in Environmental Science and Environmental Studies. The Environmental Science major prepares students to investigate the Earth system, focusing on how humans interact with the environment. Meanwhile, the Environmental Studies major prepares students to investigate the complexity of socio-ecological relationships. 

 

19. Virginia Tech

 

Location: Blacksburg, VA

Undergrad Enrollment: 27,800

Acceptance Rate: 56%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1210-1410/26-32

 

This interdisciplinary, student-oriented Environmental Science program emphasizes the essential role that ecosystem processes play in sustaining Earth’s inhabitants. There are many options aimed at various areas of focus, such as resource preservation and the rehabilitation of ecosystems. Students gain a practical understanding of the biosphere through experiential learning.

 

20. Emory University

 

Location: Atlanta, GA

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,000

Acceptance Rate: 13%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1420-1540/32-34

 

A degree in environmental sciences from Emory has real-world impacts. Students are equipped to address the most important challenges of our world: climate change, disease ecology, food and water security, vector-borne disease, and human impacts on the environment. Students participate in coursework, problem-solving, field activities, and individual study. There are several degree paths available:

 

  • BA Environmental Sciences
  • BS Environmental Science Ecology & Conservation Track
  • BS Environmental Sciences Earth & Atmospheric Science Track
  • BS Environmental Sciences Environment & Health Track
  • BS Environmental Sciences Social Science & Policy Track

 

21. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities | Minnesota

 

Location: Minneapolis

Undergrad Enrollment: 34,400

Acceptance Rate: 73%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1310-1490/27-32

 

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Minnesota has existed for more than 125 years, making major contributions toward understanding the Earth and its environment. Environmental Science, Policy and Management is the university’s premier environmental major, preparing the next generation of professionals through interdisciplinary coursework, research, and enrichment experiences. 

 

As a freshman, you will take core classes and explore other interests, before choosing a track to focus on starting sophomore year:

 

  • Conservation and Resource Management
  • Environmental Education and Communication
  • Environmental Science
  • Policy, Planning, Law and Society

 

22. Boston College | BC

 

Location: Chestnut Hill, MA

Undergrad Enrollment: 9,900

Acceptance Rate: 19%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1420-1530/33-34

 

BC’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences offers a breadth of undergraduate programs that prepare students for careers in geosciences, environmental sciences, and beyond. Students may choose between two students: Environmental Geoscience or Geological Sciences. They might also have the opportunity to further customize their studies based on their goals and interests. 

 

Students are encouraged to study abroad through flexible foreign studies programs and paths. 

 

23. University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Location: Madison

Undergrad Enrollment: 31,700

Acceptance Rate: 57%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1260-1460/27-32

 

The Environmental Sciences program emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving, preparing graduates for entry-level positions in nonprofit and private sectors or graduate school. Students may pursue their degrees through either the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) or the College of Letters & Science (L&S) under the BS or BA degree programs. They may also pursue double majors with a variety of other majors.

 

24. University of Maryland, College Park

 

Location: College Park, MD

Undergrad Enrollment: 30,700

Acceptance Rate: 49%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1480/29-34

 

The Environmental Science and Policy program produces leaders who will tackle the most pressing environmental challenges of today. The program takes an interdisciplinary approach, encouraging students to grapple with complex issues like global trends such as environmental change, global food security, the optimization of urban environments, and the development of green technologies. Students choose among several tracks.

 

25. University of California, Santa Barbara

 

Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Undergrad Enrollment: 23,300

Acceptance Rate: 37%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1230-1480/26-33 (currently test-blind)

 

Celebrating 50 years, the Environmental Studies Program at UC Santa Barbara offers three undergraduate degrees: BA and BS degrees in Environmental Studies and a program in Hydrological Sciences and Policy. All paths engage students in foundations in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

 

Students are encouraged to study abroad — currently, 45 students from Environmental Studies are studying abroad in 17 different countries.

 

26. Stanford University

 

Location: Stanford, CA

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,000

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1420-1570/31-35

 

The Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability offers several paths toward a grounding in the environmental sciences. The Earth Systems Program is an interdisciplinary environmental science major, encouraging students to grapple with complex environmental problems caused by human activities in conjunction with natural changes in the Earth system. The School also offers the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER), and the Sustainability and Science Practice Program.

 

27. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 

Location: Chapel Hill, NC

Undergrad Enrollment: 19,100

Acceptance Rate: 24%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1470/27-33

 

UNC’s Environmental Science and Studies programs provide an interdisciplinary perspective on examining and training for work in environmental fields. There are many opportunities available for undergraduates, such as participating in an honors track, internships, study abroad, research, and experiential education. They can also join the Carolina Environmental Student Alliance (CESA), an interdisciplinary organization dedicated to uniting the environmental interests of students across campus. 

 

28. North Carolina State University | NC State

 

Location: Raleigh, NC

Undergrad Enrollment: 25,100

Acceptance Rate: 47%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1440/27-32

 

The NC State Environmental Sciences program prepares students to become these experts through an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the environment. Students explore complex, interdisciplinary environmental issues through coursework in topics like Climate Change and Sustainability, Energy and the Environment, and Analysis of Environmental Issues. Then, they customize their degree paths, designing a focal area of study or selecting a minor.

 

Students also have the opportunity to participate in hands-on internships and experiential learning.

 

29. Villanova University

 

Location: Villanova, PA

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,900

Acceptance Rate: 25%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1350-1490/31-34

 

Villanova’s BS in Environmental Science gives students a firm grounding in the technical knowledge and experience necessary for understanding the biological, chemical, and physical aspects of the environment. The program focuses on the application of principles critical for understanding the natural and physical environments of the Earth. 

 

30. University of Delaware

 

Location: Newark, DE

Undergrad Enrollment: 19,900

Acceptance Rate: 70%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1170-1350/26-31

 

The Environmental Science major at UD gives students unique insight into how natural processes shape the natural environment and how humans impact the planet. The program takes a multidisciplinary approach to encourage students to grapple with issues like habitat loss, sustainable development, water quality, biodiversity, climate change, renewable energy, and more. Students choose among the following tracks, all while participating in research and experiential learning:

 

  • Climate and Society
  • Ecoscience
  • Energy and Environment
  • Geoscience
  • Marine Science
  • Water Science

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance to these Top Environmental Science Schools?

 

Many of the colleges and programs on this list are highly competitive. What are your chances of admission? Find out with our chancing engine. We will calculate your true odds of admission to these and other schools across the country based on your academic and extracurricular profiles, plus give you tips on how to improve your chances of acceptance.


Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.