What to Expect
While environmental science students do spend a fair amount of time in
the lab and in the field, they should also be prepared to do some writing.
Students working towards an environment-related career should be good at
multi-tasking. Their post-secondary program will have them working in the
lab and field, and writing a fair share of papers. Since the required studies
are multidisciplinary, students will be taking classes from departments all
Environmental science students usually take a combination of the earth
sciences: physics, geology, geography, meteorology, mathematics, chemistry
and biology. Computer science classes are also common. In the larger picture,
a diverse range of courses gives students the tools to develop scientific
solutions to the earth's problems.
Environmental studies programs, on the other hand, look at ways humans
interact with the environment. Students concentrate on political, social,
economic, legal, cultural and ethical factors related to the environment.
They also learn about the scientific basics of environmental issues.
Derreck Seidler is an environmental studies student. After graduation,
he hopes to become a policy advisor in the government or a green consultant
in the private sector. His ambition is to help develop a more sustainable
way of building our homes and cities.
Seidler enjoys the interdisciplinary approach of the environment program. "It
pulls courses from different departments, allowing for a very unique experience
in education not common in other faculties," he says.
Arushi Sharma is an environmental studies student at the University of
Pennsylvania. She wants to pursue public policy and law. "I'd like to work
for international agencies dealing in environmental policymaking, human rights
and development," she says.
As a student of environmental studies, Sharma is majoring in economics
and international relations and minoring in organizations and environmental
management. "I think about the same issue from three different angles, all
of which are equally relevant," she says.
Financial, human and environmental impacts all factor into her education.
"This minor really helps me understand the triple bottom line -- humans, the
environment, and interactions between them."
Sharma's classes range from environmental risk analysis in engineering
to environmental politics and law. Taking such varied classes means a lot
of study time. Seidler studies about three to six hours a week for each course.
"Outside of classes, I spend about five to 11 hours per day [studying].
That's actually much less than the time spent by many of my peers," Sharma
Textbooks can be expensive, especially for science classes. You
can save a lot of money by buying books used or from online bookstores.
How to Prepare
Sharma advises that fundamental skills will help you out in college more
than subject knowledge in a specific field.
"Take part in classes that involve analytical thinking, math, voicing different
opinions, dealing with heavy material in short amounts of time, writing research
papers. In activities, look for things where you have leadership, not just
a member role," she advises.
There may be science prerequisites necessary to enter programs, so check
admission requirements carefully.
"Almost any interest can be developed [in] the environmental faculty, so
bring what interests you the most and find your niche in the program," says