Frequently Asked Questions

In terms of lower-division (1st and 2nd year requirements) the major curricular differences is in the amount of chemistry, calculus, biology and physics that are required.

At the upper-division level (3rd and 4th years) there are core Environmental Studies courses both majors must take. The difference is in the upper-division electives and outside concentration requirements. The B.A. major can take any 28 units of Environmental Studies electives they wish to pursue (all courses numbered 100-199). The B.S. major must take a total of 32 units, 20 of which must be taken from a list of electives that have a physical and natural science emphasis. The remaining 12 units can be taken from any of the upper-division Environmental Studies electives just like the B.A. major. The outside concentration for the B.A. major can be fulfilled by courses from any department or program at UCSB. The B.S. major is restricted to just those in the natural or physical sciences (i.e. biology, earth sciences, math, chemistry, geography, statistics, physics, biopsychology, etc.). 

For more information on the difference between the B.A. and the B.S. in Environmental Studies, please click here.

Employment varies widely depending on individual course work taken by each student. However, given that some career fields are heavily dependent on a strong scientific background, those who pursue the B.S. degree tend to be more qualified for certain scientific/technical opportunities. B.S. majors tend to enter fields where the use of science is instrumental and experience with basic laboratory techniques is preferred. B.A. majors often pursue opportunities that deal largely with interdisciplinary social, political, and economic issues such as planning and law. These students often develop a higher degree of writing proficiency and general communication skills. When thinking about jobs, remember many B.A. majors have secured “science” jobs and B.S. grads have become lawyers, politicians, businesswomen/businessmen  The above description is a generalization; your degree and experiences at UCSB depend on what you make of them.

Math 3A-B (2A-B) is for students in the physical sciences and engineering, or those who wish to study math beyond the first year. Math 2A-B is a 5 unit class because it includes pre-calculus concepts. To enroll in Math 2A or 3A, a passing score on the Math Placement Exam (MPE) is required.

Math 34A-B is a social science calculus series designed for students whose majors require a basic understanding of calculus and its applications in the social and biological sciences. The MPE is not required for students who intend to take Math 34A.

A student who is undecided between the B.A. and B.S. should begin with the 3A-B (2A-B) series as this series is required for the B.S. major. If a student were to take the 34A-B series and then decide they want to pursue the B.S. degree, those courses would be inapplicable towards the B.S., and therefore they would have to start again and take Math 3A-B (2A-B). However, if a student were to take Math 3A-B (2A-B) and then choose to pursue the B.A. degree, these courses would be accepted for the calculus requirement, as both the Math 34A-B and 3A-B (2A-B) series are permissible for the B.A.

The main focus of the hydrologic sciences and policy major is to provide students with the scientific training needed to understand and solve complex hydrologic problems at local, regional, and global levels. The goal of the hydrologic sciences curriculum is to provide a rigorous framework for students to examine the hydrologic process in our environment. Although the program is housed within Environmental Studies, the curriculum for this degree is offered cooperatively by the departments of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology; Chemistry and Biochemistry; Geography; and Earth Science.  Lower-division courses concentrate on the physical and natural sciences and unlike the B.A. and B.S. degrees in Environmental Studies you are not required to complete the introductory course series (ENV S 1,2, & 3). In the upper division, students complete a core group of hydrology courses and then select one of the following three emphases: biology and ecology, physical and chemical sciences, or policy.

A student hoping to fulfill pre-requisites with courses taken at a different institution must fill out a “Request to Petition Degree Requirements." Be sure to include the full course number and title, and provide a thoughtful justification.  Additionally, it is to your advantage to include any available catalog course descriptions for courses taken at the prior or host institution. If the course title is different from the course a student is hoping to apply it towards, these materials could be the difference between denial and approval.

You can view and submit this petition on our Petition Degree Requirements webpage.

There is currently not an official pre-major for the Environmental Studies or Hydrological Sciences and Policy majors.  However, in order to declare one of these majors, students must demonstrate genuine interest in the major with a completion of several pre-requisites and the pursuit of more (see prior question). Once this interest is displayed, students should declare as soon as possible, as many classes are becoming more difficult to acquire, and being a declared major will generally make things easier for you.

If a student chooses to pursue a B.A. and a B.S. degree both General Education requirements must be fulfilled because the B.A. General Education (GE) requirements are slightly more extensive. Therefore, you must follow the B.A. requirements. By completing the B.A. GE's you will have automatically fulfilled the B.S. GE's since there are fewer of them.

Students who choose to double major reap all the benefits of doubling the value of their college education. Instead of graduating as an expert in one discipline, they are well versed in two. Additionally, a double major can be a great way to enhance your first major, as many disciplines are inherently connected and therefore very complementary. There is no maximum amount of lower division courses you can overlap between two majors. However, the maximum amount of upper division units you can overlap between two majors is 8.

The only disadvantage to a double major is that it is double the amount of work. It generally requires much more prior planning in order to complete both majors within four years. So, students who are interested in double majoring must consider it very seriously before making the decision to do so.

The three GPA requirements are the same as the College-wide GPA requirements. These requirements are: a 2.0 overall GPA in all courses taken, a 2.0 in all courses taken for your major, and a 2.0 in all upper-division courses taken.

All courses taken to fulfill degree requirements must be taken for a letter grade. There is one exception: on a one time only basis, a student can petition one course that was taken P/NP to apply towards their major, if they were not declared in the major at the time of taking the course.

An internship is any career-related work experience of limited duration, in which an individual takes on a position of responsibility outside of the traditional university environment. Internships can be structured or unstructured, paid or unpaid, and students may or may not receive academic credit for them. It is essential though, that there is training and supervision involved.

Since internships occur outside the classroom, it is up to the student to pursue internship opportunities. The internet and your family and friends are the best places to start. Search for organizations that spark your interest and check if they offer any internship positions, or ask any family and friends to be on the look out for any positions that may interest you. Though personal connections can be helpful, it is ultimately up to the student to stay diligent in their pursuit of an internship, and many students obtain internships by demonstrating genuine personal interest and motivation.

The senior thesis is an elective course (ENV S 197) open to all Environmental Studies and Hydrologic Sciences majors. It is a six-unit course taken during your senior year after all of your lower-division requirements have been completed.  In ENV S 197, you will focus the knowledge you have gained from a wide variety of disciplines on a specific problem or issue. The official enrollment quarter of the course is Fall, but the process generally takes about three quarters (all of senior year). We greatly encourage our students to pursue a senior thesis, as nearly all students who have completed the course consider it to be one of the “best courses ever taken.” It provides students with valuable independent academic and/or field research and often establishes important relationships with faculty members.

ENV S 199 is a course for students who wish to pursue an “Independent Studies Project,” as the title of the course suggests.  It is designed to allow students to engage in their own independent research - exploring characteristics and/or problems in the environment under the guidance of an Environmental Studies faculty member. ENV S 199RA is the “Independent Studies Research Assistant,” course, in which a student serves as a research assistant working under the direction of an Environmental Studies faculty member.   

Check out our descriptions of environmental organizations, including UCSB and student organizations as well as local community organizations by clicking here. Pay attention to what sparks your interest, then contact the organization(s) to find out how you can get involved!

Units earned from a field studies program can be used to fulfill all or part (depending on how many units were earned) of the Area C requirement – the Outside Concentration. If not enough units were taken on a field studies program to fulfill the requirement entirely, an additional course (or courses) pertaining or related to those taken on the program may be taken at UCSB in a department outside of Environmental Studies in order to fulfill the remaining units. If this is a case, students should speak with an advisor. Once all courses are completed the student must fill out and turn in a "Request to Petition Degree Requirements", which then must be approved by the department. This can be done only after all transcripts for the field studies program have been received by UCSB and appear in the student’s academic history on GOLD.