What Is Environmental Science?

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By Deshan Mendis
Last updated on September 22, 2023

A degree in environmental science can help you gain an in-depth understanding of environmental challenges and how to solve these issues for the greater good. Learn more about studying environmental science and what you can do with your degree.

Environmental science is a STEM field focusing on environmental health, sustainability, human impacts on the environment, and how to create solutions that combine various approaches of natural sciences. Studying environmental science in the US allows you to dive deep into the effects of global climate change and pollution, their impacts, and how you can make a difference. 

With an environmental science degree, you can work toward rewarding careers where you play an important role in raising awareness about pressing environmental issues and finding long-term solutions for problems threatening environments around the world. 

Read on to find out what is environmental science, meaning the focuses of US degree programs; the pathways to becoming an environmental scientist or professional; what you gain from an environmental science degree, and more. 

What Is Environmental Science – An Overview

What is environmental science? According to the experts at EnvironmentalScience.org, the environmental science definition covers an interdisciplinary field that studies how interactions between natural and man-made activities affect the planet’s ecosystems.

Environmental science courses incorporate information and ideas from biology, chemistry, ecology, geography, physics, and sociology. By choosing to study environmental science, you will explore different environmental challenges such as loss of habitats, climate change, and water pollution, and apply the knowledge you gain from these different disciplines to implement impact-driven solutions. 

Why Is Environmental Science Important?

So, we’ve covered “what is environmental science?” Now, let us look closer at why it is so important, especially in our current moment. 

The world is changing at a rapid pace — as technology develops and global innovations drive economic and social change, there are many negative impacts on the environment. Environmental science involves studying these impacts and their effects, including which factors contribute to these issues. 

Depending on your chosen university, your program will cover a wide range of topics that deepen your knowledge of ecosystems, what threatens them, and potential solutions. In class, you’ll analyze theories, conduct experiments, and collaborate with peers to explore and test these solutions. These skills are key to any career related to environmental science. You can also expect to develop transferable skills such as analysis, research, communication, and problem solving. The knowledge and skills you gain over the course of your program can help you pursue roles where you create policies aligned with environmental laws, analyze pollution and its effects, or provide sustainable alternatives and solutions which organizations can use to reduce their environmental impact.  

The ability to address complex environmental issues and present innovative solutions gives you access to a diverse career possibilities across multiple sectors. One very popular career pathway is to work toward becoming an environmental scientist.

What Does an Environmental Scientist Do?

Environmental scientists use their understanding of ecological systems to protect environmental health and sustainability. An environmental scientist investigates potential threats to both the environment and its communities across a particular location, industry, or even the world at large, with the goal of finding sustainable long-term solutions.

Their work includes:

  • Conducting environmental impact analyses

  • Conservation and management of biological resources

  • Developing short- and long-term management goals and objectives for fisheries, wildlife, and habitats

  • Enforcing laws and regulations to protect and preserve wildlife and fish

  • Examining and analyzing pollution

  • Studying how environmental, atmospheric, and human activity impact animal and plant life

As environmental concerns are relevant to most organizations, you can access career opportunities in many private sector roles across a wide range of industries, at nonprofit organizations, or with environmental departments within government. An environmental scientist’s role is multifaceted, meaning you have the opportunity to explore a variety of career options and responsibilities, based on your interests and skillset.

What Career Opportunities Are Available for Those with an Environmental Science Degree?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, public awareness of environmental threats is predicted to increase demand for environmental scientists and professionals. From 2021 to 2031, for example, approximately 7,800 new job openings in environmental science are expected every year.

Here are some environmental scientist careers you can pursue and their annual average salaries in the US, Brazil, China, and India:

Environmental specialist

Average salary in the US


Average salary in Brazil


Average salary in China


Average salary in India



Average salary in the US


Average salary in Brazil


Average salary in China


Average salary in India



Average salary in the US


Average salary in Brazil


Average salary in China


Average salary in India


Marine biologist

Average salary in the US


Average salary in Brazil


Average salary in China


Average salary in India


Source: SalaryExpert, 2022

Shorelight universities offer environmental science programs that can be tailored to your specific interests and career ambitions. For example, if you want to be an environmental scientist focusing on marine life, you could enroll in programs involving the study of oceans. If you are unsure about a specialization, your degree program will equip you with a number of transferable skills and a solid understanding of environmental science so you can explore the right field for your future career. 

What Environmental Science Programs Does Shorelight Offer?

Environmental scientists and related professions usually require a bachelor’s degree in environmental science or a related field. Environmental science programs at Shorelight universities are intended to support you in finding answers to pressing and emerging environmental problems with dedicated support every step of the way.

Adelphi University

Ranked among the top 200 National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, Adelphi University offers a STEM-designated Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science degree through their College of Arts and Sciences. Tailor your program to meet your professional goals, learn from world-class faculty, and immerse yourself in real-world work through experiential opportunities on campus or even abroad.

Cleveland State University

The College of Sciences and Health Professions at Cleveland State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science focusing on the fundamental areas of modern environmental science and environmental policy. Expect to learn about ecosystem management, the effects of pollutants on ecosystems, and ways to restore polluted environments to their natural state through hands-on learning in the university’s state-of-the-art laboratories. 

Edgewood College

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science offered at Edgewood College’s School of Liberal Arts, Education, and the Sciences, dives into a broad interdisciplinary view of environmental issues affecting the world on a daily basis. In addition to what you will learn through the program, you can also put your classroom knowledge to the test when you explore the extensive natural areas surrounding the university.

UMass Boston

UMass Boston provides a nationally recognized Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science through their School for the Environment. The program is designed to help students understand environmental challenges and sustainability strategies, apply scientific methods and design experiments to answer environmental science questions, analyze environmental data, and more. You can also benefit from training for entry-level positions in the environmental science industry. 

A bachelor’s degree in environmental science can be your first step toward many career opportunities as you can learn key skills and knowledge you need to become a professional in your chosen career. If you plan to further advance your career or expand your knowledge into what is environmental science after achieving your bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree can be a great next step.

American University 

American University, ranked among the top 100 National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, offers undergraduate and graduate STEM-designated degrees in environmental science through its College of Arts and Sciences. Students pursuing a bachelor’s will study core science and statistics subjects alongside complementary environmental policy courses. In the graduate program, students can collaborate on thesis research projects with department faculty, AU associated and affiliated faculty, or researchers at one of the many research institutions in the Washington, DC, area.

Environmental science degrees frequently include internships enabling students to gain practical experience during their studies. After graduation, you may volunteer or participate in internships to gain the necessary skills needed for an environmental science career and prepare to provide solutions for complex environmental problems. As you contribute to new learnings and shape the environmental science definition over the course of your degree, you can stand out to employers hiring for related roles, or connect with professors to seek research opportunities to further your knowledge and make the next great breakthrough.

If you need support deciding which program to choose, Shorelight has the necessary resources to find the program best for you. Your Shorelight advisor is ready to assist with choosing the best college for your degree, visa support, post-graduation Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment, and more. With the support of your Shorelight advisor, you can work toward a career in environmental science where you can contribute to a solution that, in the future, might just save the world.

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