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 Study at Iowa

The sustainability science major at Iowa offers an academically rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum with course work focusing on the environment, analytical skills, and communication. The program offers 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

Course Work

Students can choose to specialize in human, natural, analytical, or science issues in sustainability. Course work will focus on social and urban systems, agriculture, and the 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. 

This degree requires a minimum of 120 s.h., including at least 68-71 s.h. of work for the major. Students also must complete the requirements of the CLAS Core General Education Program. Transfer students must earn a minimum of 40 s.h. for this major in residence at the University of Iowa. 

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

See Sustainability Science BS in the UI General Catalog or the Sustainability Science website for more information about course requirements and graduating with honors. 

Research/Internship Experience

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

Admission Requirements

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

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to having more than 600 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Study Abroad Programs and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.


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 between 2014 and 2024, faster than the national average. 

Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study, and our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.


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

Application Process

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Sustainability Science BS
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan