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Environmental Science Subject Guide

Thinking about environmental science as a subject for postgraduate study? This diverse and fascinating field is increasingly relevant in today’s world, offering a chance for students to develop the knowledge and skills they need to safeguard the environment and build a better ecosystem for tomorrow. 

You might be wondering what the best route is to certain environmental science jobs, what the best environmental science university is, or what the entry requirements are for studying a master’s in the subject. 

This guide contains all the information you’ll need to make these important decisions and get on to the perfect environmental science course. 

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about studying environmental science courses, why you should do one, and where you could study. 


Why do an environmental science degree? 

Environmental science is the study of the natural environment and the way that humans interact with it. It encompasses a wide range of topics, including ecology, conservation biology, air and water pollution, climate change and natural resource management. Environmental scientists use scientific principles and methods to understand and address environmental problems and challenges. 

Environmental science is a popular choice for postgraduate students as a route to addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems. Between climate change and population growth, habitat loss and pollution, there are a lot of challenges that environmental scientists are tasked with overcoming. 

Studying environmental science is a rewarding path that could lead into a wide variety of careers, from government policymaking to monitoring industrial activity, working with environmental charities or carrying out conservation work around the world. 

What qualifications can you get? 

As an environmental science student, your choice of postgraduate qualification will vary according to the environmental science jobs that you are hoping to move into and your areas of interest. You may be looking to move into the subject from a related discipline, build research experience ahead of a professional role or doctorate, or simply become an expert in a certain area. 

Master’s degrees, such as the MSc and MRes, are popular degrees within the field. It’s also possible to do an MA if focusing more on the social and policy aspects of environmental science.  

You might choose to do a shorter PGCert or PGDip if you’re looking to quickly build expertise in a certain area, ahead of a change in career direction or as part of a professional training pathway. 

Doctoral research qualifications allow you to develop real expertise in a particular niche and conduct research that will positively impact the field. MPhil and PhD degrees are both possibilities here. 

Go to: Search for environmental science course

What jobs can you do with an environmental science degree? 

There are many career types that rely on the knowledge and skills of dedicated environmental science graduates in the modern world. You can explore a variety of environmental science jobs, each of which will help you understand, protect, manage and deliver benefits from the environment. 

Some of the roles you might consider include: 

  • Environmental consultant 
  • Environmental engineer 
  • Environmental health officer 
  • Environmental impact assessor 
  • Environmental manager 
  • Horticulturalist 
  • Nature conservation officer 
  • Policy officer 
  • Project manager 
  • Recycling officer 
  • Sustainability consultant 
  • Town planner 
  • Waste management consultant 
  • Water engineer 
  • Water quality officer 

The transferable skills and broad subject knowledge you’ll develop will allow you to provide value to organisations across the job market, even ones that don’t focus on the environment as their highest priority. 

What are the environmental science degree entry requirements? 

While each course will have its own entry requirements, environmental science master’s degrees typically ask for a minimum of 2:2 at undergraduate level, with a 2:1 or above being looked for in many cases. This will need to be in a relevant subject area, such as biology or environmental sciences, in most cases. 

Doctoral students in environmental science will need a minimum of 2:2 at undergraduate level; having a master’s degree in a relevant subject will be helpful. 

What environmental science courses are there? 

There are plenty of different course options available within this field, allowing you to tailor your learning to the environmental science jobs you’re looking to move into. They include: 

  • MSc Environmental Sciences 
  • MRes Environmental Sciences 
  • MSc Climate Science, Policy and Society 
  • MSc Conservation Science and Policy 
  • PhD Environmental Social Science 

What topics does an environmental science degree cover? 

Environmental science degrees can vary widely in their focus and content. However, you might find yourself studying modules such as: 

  • Data collection and research methods for environmental science 
  • Environmental impact assessment 
  • Global landscapes and climate change 
  • Climate change science and policy 
  • Environmental knowledge: from field to stakeholder 

What do you learn in an environmental science degree? 

Completing an environmental science degree equips you with a range of skills that will aid you in a variety of career types and sectors. Scientific literacy is one of the most important. Students will gain a deep understanding of the scientific principles behind topics like ecology, conservation biology, air and water pollution, climate change, and natural resource management. 

You'll also develop research skills; designing and conducting experiments, collecting data, and analyzing it will allow you to interrogate the natural world and human interactions with it. Being able to draw meaningful conclusions from information and communicate this in report, presentation or thesis form will be central to success during your studies and beyond. 

These critical thinking and problem-solving abilities are developed in tandem with a deep understanding of how human systems interact with, shape and rely on the natural world. Students will graduate with industry relevant knowledge and the tools to address the major challenges they face today. 

How will you be taught and assessed? 

Environmental science courses are typically taught through a combination of lectures, discussions, and hands-on activities. Typical environmental science masters will cover areas such as ecology, air and water pollution, climate change, and conservation biology.  

Practical learning through field trips to local natural areas, as well as laboratory exercises, are also common. Assessment methods used in environmental science courses may include exams, quizzes, lab reports, research papers, and group projects. These will measure your understanding of the course material, your ability to apply scientific concepts to real-world problems, and to design and carry out research. 

Internship or fieldwork may also be a part of environmental science coursework. 

How long is an environmental science degree? 

The length of your environmental science degree will depend on the type of programme you select and your level of study. 

As a master’s student, an MSc or MRes degree will be your most common choice—lasting one year in most cases. If studying part-time, this could take up to two years. It’s also possible to undertake a postgraduate certificate or diploma, lasting one or two semesters respectively. 

For doctoral students, an MPhil qualification will take two years full time or up to four years part-time. A PhD is likewise up to four years full-time, and up to eight years part-time. 

Where can you study environmental science? 

There are over 180 postgraduate programmes to explore in environmental science, across more than 50 different universities in the UK. You can use our course finder tool to browse all the options available and find the best university for environmental science. 

What similar subjects are there to environmental science? 

Environmental science is an interdisciplinary subject that overlaps with many similar and complementary academic areas. You may also consider studying a postgraduate degree in: 

  • Biology 
  • Zoology 
  • Geography 
  • Plant Science 
  • Soil Science 

Next: Search for environmental science course


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