Online Environmental Science Degrees

Public concern for the environment is at an all-time high, and employment in the field of environmental science is expected to grow by 15% through 2022. Environmental scientists and specialists are instrumental in cleaning up polluted areas, working with businesses and industries to reduce waste, and serving as advisers to legislators. Most of the growth in the field comes from private consulting firms, but an increasing number of environmental scientists are being hired by government agencies.

Environmental scientists and specialists demonstrate strong communication, problem solving, and analytical skills. They should be able to work well with others and work alone without supervision. Many students who join this burgeoning field opt to get their environmental science degree online.

Online Environmental Science Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $8,706 14.32% 2 years $39,700 $57,300 N/A
Bachelor's $17,870 11.01% 4 years $42,100 $73,500 4%
Master's $17,709 7.87% 2+ years $50,400 $84,700 2.8%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

A bachelor’s degree in environmental science or other science-related fields such as biology, chemistry, or engineering is the preferred minimum requirement in this career path. Professionals entering the field often take positions as field analysts, research assistants, technicians, or faculty at colleges and universities, and can advance to become project leaders, program managers, or research managers. A higher degree level results in higher ROI, and master’s and doctorate students who earn their environmental science degree online will find more job opportunities and higher salaries.

Choosing Your Environmental Science Career

Average Environmental Science Salaries

$58,270
$83,360
$63,570
$66,250
$72,050

Wildlife Biologist

Salary: $58,270
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
4% 21,300 Bachelor's CWB (optional)

Wildlife biologists study animals’ characteristics, behaviors, and the impact that humans have on their habitats. They collect biological data and specimens for analysis, research animal interaction and reproduction, and develop breeding and conservation programs for endangered species. While a bachelor’s degree is required to enter this field, professionals often earn an advanced environmental science online degree to take part in investigative or scientific work. A PhD is necessary for independent research and for university research positions. Professionals in this field should have good communication skills, the ability to withstand long periods without human interaction, interpersonal skills to work in teams, the ability to withstand the elements, and problem-solving skills.

Environmental Engineer

Salary: $83,360
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
12% 55,100 Bachelor's None

Environmental engineers use knowledge of engineering, biology, chemistry, and other natural sciences to solve environmental problems. They are involved in the development of waste disposal methods and solutions to climate change, pollution, and a sustainable environment. These engineers prepare reports of their investigations, design projects to protect the environment, and provide technical support for environmental projects and legal cases. A bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering, civil, chemical, or general engineering is required to enter this field. Essential traits for this position include the ability to design systems, interpersonal skills, the ability to identify and anticipate problems, and excellent reading and writing skills.

Environmental Chemist

Salary: $63,570
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
10% 94,600 Masters None

Environmental chemists study how chemicals, waste, and pollution affect humans, plants, and animals. They research ways to reduce and prevent hazards by collecting samples of water, soil, and air for testing, and are highly skilled in data analysis and integration, digital mapping, and geographic information systems. To enter this field, applicants must have a master’s degree and undergraduate work in chemistry, environmental science, or a related natural science. Professionals can fulfill these requirements by earning an online environmental science degree. For research and academic jobs in the field, a PhD is necessary.

Environmental Health Specialist

Salary: $66,250
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
9% 88,740 Bachelor's None

Environmental specialists collect data for research projects, surveys, and scientific analysis, and assess threats to people and the environment. These specialists also advise policymakers, businesses, and industries on what can be done to address environmental concerns. To enter this field, professionals must hold a bachelor’s degree in environmental science or in a related natural science. They must also be computer-savvy, have skills in data analysis and integration, digital mapping, and geographic information systems, all of which can be learned while earning an environmental science online degree. Higher pay is commensurate with higher qualifications and responsibilities.

Climate Change Analyst

Salary: $72,050
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
11% 94,600 Bachelor's None

Climate change analysts collect data on atmospheric temperatures, ocean conditions, and greenhouse gases to forecast the effects of climate change on sea and land. They are key in giving policy makers, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders the empirical scientific evidence needed to inform policy making and educate the public. A bachelor’s degree in environmental science or related fields is the minimum requirement to become a climate change analyst. Students who earn an advanced environmental science degree online will be more heavily involved with scientific aspects of climate change, such as the development of mathematical models.

Online Environmental Science Degrees

Associate

An associate degree in environmental science will qualify professionals for some technician jobs in the field, such as a laboratory assistant. An associate degree can be a stepping stone toward a bachelor's degree, which will open up further job opportunities and higher salary. This online environmental science degree will take about two years of full-time study.

Sample Courses
Social Sciences Coursework, Resource Management, Environmental History, Environmental Compliance, and Environmental Sampling
Common Majors
Biology and Chemistry
Potential Jobs
Technician, i.e. laboratory assistant
Average Income
$42,190 per year
Employment Prospects
9% growth from 2014 to 2024

Bachelor’s

Careers for bachelor's degree-holders involve protecting the environment and human health, cleaning up polluted areas, working with businesses and industries to reduce waste, and informing policymakers about the threats of climate change. Demand for professionals with bachelor's degrees in the field is rising as the demand for stricter environmental policies and regulations grows. More colleges and universities are now offering four-year online environmental science degree programs, and this trend is expected to continue.

Sample Courses
Hydrology, Waste Management, Environmental Policy And Regulation, and Environmental Technology
Common Majors
Environmental Science
Potential Jobs
Environmental Scientist, Environmental Science Manager, Geoscientist, Oceanographer, Environmental Consultant
Average Income
$66,250 per year
Employment Prospects
15% growth through 2022

Master’s

The advanced level of scientific knowledge that comes with a master's degree is required for many environmental science occupations. Professionals at this degree level combine academic proficiency, research methodology, and application of their research findings to solve problems and articulate their work to stakeholders. A master's degree is a stepping stone to a PhD, which provides even more advantages in terms of job opportunities. Many professionals choose to earn an environmental science online degree at this level.

Sample Courses
Environmental Scientist, Environmental Science Manager, Geoscientist, Oceanographer, and Environmental Consultant
Common Majors
Fire Science And Emergency Management, Disaster Preparedness, Environmental Science, and Wildlife and Forestry
Potential Jobs
Environmental Scientist, Environmental Science Manager, Geoscientist, Oceanographer, and Environmental Consultant
Average Income
$76,260 for Physical Scientists, $66,250 for environmental scientists and specialists
Employment Prospects
15% growth through 2022

Doctorate

A doctorate degree-holder in environmental science has an expert understanding of environmental issues, is well-versed in research methodologies, has conducted extensive research, and is able to teach, consult and/or create policies instrumental in effecting environmental change. This degree takes a significant time commitment, but an online environmental science degree gives students the flexibility to continue working while earning an advanced degree.

Sample Courses
Transportation Of Hazardous Materials, Environmental Resource Management, Deforestation, and Land-Use Waste Management
Common Majors
Environmental Science, Education, Environmental Education, and Environmental Psychology
Potential Jobs
Geoscientist, Atmospheric Scientists, Soil And Plant Scientist, Marine Scientist, and Environmental Educator
Average Income
$76,260 for physical scientists, $90,890 for geoscientists, $89,260 for atmospheric scientists, and $59,920 for soil and plant scientists
Employment Prospects
15% growth through 2022

Professional Requirements

Certified Environmental Professional

This certification is awarded to senior managers and other professionals in the field who demonstrate high standards of professional conduct. Professionals must have more than 10 years of experience to qualify for this certification. The candidate must take an exam or write an essay on one of six functional areas, must submit references, and is evaluated by a review board.

Is it required?

Often required

How long will it take?

Varies

Certified Environmental Scientist

This credential establishes a professional’s understanding of environmental science, including the areas of chemistry, physics, earth science, and environmental health. An exam is necessary as is a bachelor’s degree in an environmentally related discipline. However, work experience may be substituted for each year of an academic degree program.

Is it required?

Often required

How long will it take?

Varies

Board Certified Environmental Scientist

This credential is aimed towards professionals who have earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, or a related science degree. The candidate must be professionally engaged in the field of environmental science on a full-time basis. The candidate must take a combination of oral and written examinations, and an assessment of their work experience and credentials. Note that an exam waiver is available for those with a BA and 16 years of work experience in environmental science.

Is it required?

Often required

How long will it take?

Varies