Environmental sciences is an interdisciplinary major that focuses on scientific study of the environment and understanding of the earth as a complex network of interacting organic and inorganic systems.
Iowa’s Environmental Sciences Program offers rigorous training and a comprehensive approach, with four diverse environmental tracks: biosciences, chemical sciences, geosciences, and hydrosciences. Hands-on field experience is a crucial component of the program, and students are strongly encouraged to study abroad.
The major is truly interdisciplinary. Students will study and do supervised research with faculty members from the program’s four sponsoring departments—biology, chemistry, geography, and geoscience—as well as participating faculty from chemical and biochemical engineering, anthropology, and civil and environmental engineering.
Some of your degree requirements will overlap with those for degrees in related fields, so you may decide to earn a second major or a minor outside of environmental sciences. Or you might complete one of the university’s interdisciplinary certificate programs.
Students in this major need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Iowa graduates have a 95 percent job/grad school placement rate within six months of graduation. Our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.
Environmental sciences graduates are well-prepared for careers in conservation, environmental assessment, hazardous waste management, park inspection and compliance, or pollution control and monitoring.
The undergraduate program also prepares you for graduate study in biology, chemistry, ecosystem sciences, environmental engineering, environmental law, environmental science, environmental sustainability, geoscience, hydrologic sciences, natural resource management, remote sensing and landscape modeling, renewable energy, and urban and regional planning.
The University of Iowa provides a variety of scholarships to eligible undergraduate students through the Iowa Scholarship Portal. Scholarships are available to first-year, transfer, and currently enrolled students. For additional details on scholarships for your program of study, check directly with the department or college.
Students majoring in environmental sciences earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. Both programs require course work in biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics, calculus, statistics, and ecology.
Students also must complete the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences GE CLAS Core program.
The BS degree program requires more intensive study in one of four tracks:
- Biosciences—studies biotic systems and the ability to inventory biologic resources, preparing students for graduate or professional training in ecology, wildlife management, and natural resource management
- Chemical Sciences—develops an understanding of chemical principles and a working knowledge of basic chemical concepts as applied to the environment. It provides a foundation for advanced study in environmental chemistry
- Geosciences—provides a basic understanding of geological principles and a working knowledge of geologic principles applied in the environmental industry, providing a strong foundation for graduate study in environmental geology, engineering geology, and natural hazards assessment
- Hydrosciences—students acquire an understanding of geological principles and a working knowledge of hydrogeology and hydrogeochemistry, preparing students for graduate study in hydrogeology, hydrology, geochemistry, aqueous chemistry, and environmental engineering
See Environmental Sciences in the UI General Catalog to learn more about required course work for the major or minor and graduating with honors.
B.A. or B.S. with Teacher Licensure
Students interested in teaching at the elementary or secondary school level need to apply to the College of Education's Teacher Education Program (TEP). Environmental sciences majors who want to teach in elementary and/or secondary schools must complete the TEP in addition to the requirements for the major and all requirements for graduation. The TEP requires several College of Education courses and student teaching.
Joint B.A./M.A.T. with Science Education Subtrack
B.A. students majoring in environmental sciences who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in teaching may apply to the joint Bachelor of Arts/Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program offered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Education. Designed for undergraduates majoring in biology, chemistry, environmental sciences, or physics, the joint program enables students to earn a B.A. and a M.A.T. in five years by beginning to earn graduate credit during their fourth year of undergraduate study and by counting up to 18 semester hours of qualifying credit toward both degrees. For more information, see Combined B.A./M.A.T. with Science Education in the Teaching and Learning (College of Education) section of the UI General Catalog. Interested students should consult an adviser.
Related Programs and Courses
The University offers numerous programs and courses related to environmental sciences. Because the environmental sciences major is so strongly interdisciplinary, you’ll find that many of your courses overlap with requirements for other programs, offering you the opportunity to earn a second major or a minor in other disciplines, such as anthropology, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, civil and environmental engineering, geoscience, geography, physics, and psychology. This major also pairs well with the Certificate in Sustainability.
The degree program in Geography offers an environmental studies track that emphasizes human-environmental interactions, in contrast to the Environmental Sciences Program’s focus on the natural environment.