Environmental Studies

What is Environmental Studies?

Environmental Studies is the systematic study of human interaction with the natural environment. UCSB’s Environmental Studies Program was established more than 40 years ago and is one of the oldest and best known in the country. The department, field, and job outlook are growing rapidly, opening up more and more opportunities for student research. UCSB’s program explores environmental issues pertaining to: The social and human environment, such as urban and regional planning, ethical and values systems, economics, environmental law and policy, and environmental impact analysis. The physical environment, including the hydrologic cycle, waste management, coastal processes, energy production technologies, soil preservation, and air pollution. The biological environment, such as the structure and function of ecosystems, population dynamics, and toxicology.

UCSB offers the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Environmental Studies which emphasizes the social sciences and humanities, and the Bachelor of Science (BS) degree focusing on the natural and physical sciences. Both degrees recognize and address the important interrelationship between the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences and require students to take classes in a variety of departments. Students in the major are also able to create their own emphasis or outside concentration. The Environmental Science department also offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Hydrologic Sciences and Policy (see separate major page).

General Major Information

How Can I Tell If I Would Like Environmental Studies?

Environmental Studies is a good fit for people who not only care about the environment, but who also are interested in developing the skills and knowledge to analyze and address complicated environmental issues. This major is good for students who enjoy variety and are seeking an interdisciplinary approach, as it combines humanities, social science, and natural science. Many ES majors like applied learning and problem solving and take advantage of opportunities to conduct field research or intern.

What Are Potential Topics Within This Major?

Although the following list can provide students with topics that may be covered in this major, look at the UCSB catalog and consult with the Undergraduate Department Advisor for more detailed information about requirements and course offerings.

Social and Human Environment: urban and regional planning, ethical and values systems, environmental law and policy, indigenous and religious beliefs, historical environmental impacts, and environmental impact analysis

Physical Environment: the hydrologic cycle, waste management, coastal processes, energy production technologies, soil preservation, geography, and air/ water pollution Biological

Biological Environment: the function of ecosystems, population dynamics, and toxicology

To learn more about whether you might enjoy this major, check with a peer in the Career Resource Room for details on:

- Focus 2 to explore college majors and careers.

- The Strong Interest Inventory®, an assessment that compares your interests against six broad categories of work. This assessment helps match your interests and suggests potential careers to explore.

What Can I Do To Make My Major More Marketable?

  • Pursue relevant work, internship, volunteer, and/or research experience.
  • Choose a complementary minor.
  • Specialize in an area; take courses in related fields.
  • Develop your computer skills.
  • Learn a foreign language.
  • Study abroad.
  • Join professional associations.
  • Get involved in student clubs.
  • Participate in community organizations.
  • Seek out leadership positions.
  • Research specific prerequisites for different positions.
  • Network with others in fields that interest you.

General Career Information

What Are Some Possible Career Options?

Note: On its own, your major does not dictate what your job will be. The following list provides only a handful of possibilities. Environmental Science and Hydrologic Sciences majors with a strong liberal arts background may pursue career options in hundreds of fields. Depending on experience, specialized coursework, and possible graduate study, options include:

Aquatic Resource Management Specialist
City/Regional/Environmental Planner
Environmental Consultant
Environmental Impact Analyst
Forest Ranger/Official
Government Service
Hazardous Waste or Waste Water
Management Specialist
Management Consultant
Pollution Consultant
Professor or Teacher
Public Interest Lobbyist
Technical Writer
To learn more about these and other occupations, please visit:
O*Net Online
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Come visit the Career Resource Room to see our vast collection of career books and resources.
See what other UCSB alumni are doing with their major on LinkedIn

Graduate and Professional Schools

Environmental Science & Policy
Graduate Programs in Environmental Studies & Related Programs

This is a comprehensive website that provides information about where graduate programs are offered throughout the nation.

This is a database to help find where graduate programs are offered throughout the U.S.

Come to the Career Resources Room to view the CHOICES lab version of graduate schools.

Experience Search Strategies

Our focus is helping quality job candidates looking for green jobs connect with eco-employers who care about the environment and have green jobs to fill.

Environmental Jobs
List of job openings by area of environmental studies, including policy, education and conservation.

Listing of jobs in the government and at non-profits as well as tips for effective resumes.

The Nature Conservancy
Whether you are an experienced professional or a recent graduate, The Nature Conservancy's compelling mission and clear vision for success through Conservation by Design create the foundation for a rewarding and challenging career.

Environmental Career Center
The Environmental Career Center (ECC), has been helping people work for a better environment since 1980. ECC assists individuals and employers alike, in matching top candidates with today’s top green employers.

Conservation Job Board
Environmental career website that lists the latest jobs in forestry, wildlife, fisheries, ecology and other fields related to conservation.

UCSB Career Services “Job Links” section
Check out job links in the following categories: Local/CA, National, International, Industry Specific, UCSB Careers By Majors and Diversity.

When you join LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, you get access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do.

Professional Associations

Ecological Society of America
Nonprofit organization of scientists promoting public awareness and resources for ecologists.

Environmental Careers Organization
A network for helping people become environmental scientists through internships and job networks.

National Association of Environmental Professionals
Includes members from diverse fields, including academia, government work, industry, and abroad.

Association of Environmental Professionals
AEP is a non-profit organization of professionals working to improve their skills as environmental and resource managers

California Association of Environmental Professionals
We are a non-profit association of public and private sector professionals with a common interest in serving the principles underlying the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which include environmental assessment, analysis, public disclosure, and reporting.

UCSB Resources