The National Academy of Science defines sustainability sciences as "an emerging field dealing with the interactions between natural and social systems and how those interactions affect the challenge of sustainability: meeting the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet's life support systems."

Challenges associated with water quality, a changing climate, air quality, habitat diversity, and struggling rural communities exist worldwide. There are significant opportunities to positively impact social, economic, and environmental goals through renewable energy, development of more sustainable urban infrastructure, and reconnection of the farm with the community, but a knowledgeable workforce is needed to address such complex issues and implement change. 

Why Iowa?

The sustainability science major offers an academically rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum focusing on the environment, analytical skills, and communication, along with relevant real-world experiences such as study abroad, undergraduate research, and community outreach. 

Sustainability science graduates will be trained to:

  • Understand the complex processes that connect humans to natural systems
  • Analyze the potential impact of decisions, given competing information, perceptions, and goals
  • Communicate the importance of sustainability science and management to leaders and the public
Admission Requirements

Students interested in this major must meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Sustainability Science
  Honors Courses
  Four-Year Graduation Plan
Admission Process

Careers and Outcomes

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. 

This degree provides a solid foundation for entry into careers such as conservation, urban and regional planning, and geospatial technologies. Graduates are well-prepared to continue their studies in graduate or professional programs.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for individuals with environmental training is projected to grow by 11 percent by 2024, faster than the national average. 

Student Opportunities

In addition to having more than 500 student organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple study abroad programs and undergraduate research opportunities.


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. 

The Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid are great resources for students seeking scholarships.


Sustainability majors can specialize in human, natural, analytical, or science issues. Course work will focus on social and urban systems, agriculture, and interactions of humans with the environment around them. Issues addressed include climate change, access to sufficient food, clean water, healthy air, safe and reliable energy, conflict over limited resources, and responsibility to other species. 

Students also must complete the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences GE CLAS Core

Sustainability science majors may earn a second major or minor in environmental policy and planning, environmental sciences, or geography, but they may not earn the Sustainability Certificate.

See Sustainability Science in the UI General Catalog to learn about required course work for the major and graduating with honors.

Research/Internship Experience

Students must complete a minimum of 3 s.h. for the research/internship experience through active participation in research with faculty, an internship at a public or private agency, or an honors thesis. An additional 3 s.h. of research experience may be applied to their Electives requirement.