Environmental Studies Major

The Environmental Studies Program offers two degrees, bachelor of arts (B.A.) and bachelor of science (B.S.) in environmental studies. While both environmental studies majors are similar in that they stress the importance of understanding the interrelationships between the humanities, social sciences, and natural science disciplines, two degree options allows a student the opportunity to choose a major that will most appropriately fit their environmental interests and goals. 

The bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree in environmental studies addresses interdisciplinary relationships by providing maximum flexibility necessary for students to explore the social, cultural, and scientific issues pertaining to the environment. For their major preparation (lower-division), students enroll in a variety of introductory social science, humanities, and natural science courses. At the upper-division level, depending on their own area of interest, students may pursue either a specific or multidisciplinary environmental emphasis by choosing a combination of elective courses from within the Environmental Studies Program. The last part of the major is a 20-unit upper-division outside concentration where students complete courses from one or more UCSB departments or programs relating to their emphasis. Approximately one-third of all environmental studies B.A. majors elect to use this section to complete either a double major or minor, or to participate in a field studies or study abroad program. 

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The goal of the bachelor of science (B.S.) degree is to train students to become proficient in the natural and physical sciences, as well as to be aware of social and cultural influences upon environmental problems facing society today. The B.S. degree follows a curriculum design similar to the B.A. degree. However, in addition to introductory social science courses, the bachelor of science preparation requires a full year of introductory biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus to develop a student’s technical, quantitative, ecological, and analytical skills. The upper-division and outside concentration, while still interdisciplinary and flexible, limit the number of social science and humanities courses a student may take. The majority of environmental studies electives, as well as the outside concentration, are restricted to physical and natural science disciplines to enhance one's understanding of earth system sciences and the role they play in environmental problems.

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Regardless of which degree one pursues, the Environmental Studies Program strongly encourages its students to participate in experiential elective courses such as the ES Internship Program (ES 192), study abroad programs, or any other academic opportunities which enhance their environmental education. The environmental studies curriculum has a number of special courses which allow students to conduct independent research projects (ES 199), work as a research assistant for one of its faculty members (ES 199RA), or pursue a senior thesis on a topic of their choice (ES 197). Approximately one-half to two-thirds of all environmental studies majors complete at least one environmental field studies or study abroad program before graduating. Additional information about these opportunities and affiliated environmental field studies programs and study abroad programs is available from the Student Info page of this website.

Upon completion of their undergraduate degree, over one half of all environmental studies graduates go on to conduct research or attend graduate school for further study of the environment. The range of programs attended varies widely depending on a student's choice of degree and emphasis, but students are often qualified to pursue disciplines such as public policy/administration, city or regional planning, Geographic Information Systems (GIs), environmental health, environmental engineering, waste management, environmental law, education, natural resource management, forestry, or physical, chemical and biological sciences. 

A degree in environmental studies has prepared graduates for positions in diverse career occupations including: environmental consulting and impact analysis, "green" business, toxicology, public-interest lobbying, water conservation, outdoor recreation, environmental education, mineral and resource management, and recycling, hazardous waste management, and local and federal government agencies such as the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Peace Corps, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

» More on the B.A. vs. B.S. degree requirements