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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Environmental Science

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Editor's Picks: Online Schools for Environmental Science


Oregon State University is ranked 202 by, which reports that Oregon State University offers an 8.9% return on investment without financial aid and a 10.2% return on investment with financial aid. Oregon State University also provides financial aid for e-campus degree students on a need-basis, as well as scholarship opportunities for online students, which are posted online. Oregon State University wins best online master's degree program in environmental science for value.

Featured Online Programs

Career Support

The University of Illinois wins best online master's degree program in environmental science for career support. Career services at the University of Illinois' College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences provides career resources, interviewing preparation, and resume and cover letter advice for environmental science students. The University of Illinois also provides a job shadow program to help students learn about professional opportunities within their discipline.

Financial Support

The University of Idaho wins best online environmental science master's degree program for financial support. The University of Idaho provides multiple opportunities for financial aid, including scholarships, grants, and federal loans to help pay for the cost of online education. Students may find financial planning worksheets and other financial aid information on the University of Idaho Financial Aid website.

Technology Support

Montana State University wins best online environmental science master's degree program for technology support. The University of Montana's web-based courses require either a Mac or PC with Internet access and a CD-ROM drive. Montana State University delivers its courseware through the Desire2Learn learning management system where students may access course materials and online discussion tools. Students may contact customer service with technical support questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mountain Time.

Disability Support

University of Illinois wins best online master's degree program in environmental science for disability support. The University of Illinois' Division of Disability Resources & Educational Services provides note taking, interpreting, registration, testing, text conversion, and video captioning services for students that require disability accommodations. The University of Illinois may also develop strategies and provide tutoring schedules and assistive technologies to students who request services through a letter of accommodation.

Library Support

The University of Illinois wins best online master's degree program in environmental science for library support. The university library provides online and continuing education students with articles, books, videos, journals, and other research materials, as well as video tutorials and FAQs for utilizing the virtual library effectively. Students may also chat with a librarian on the virtual library website, and request articles not available in an electronic journal to be scanned for electronic viewing.

Learning Support

Oregon State University wins best online master's degree program in environmental science for learning support. Oregon State University provides discussion boards, forums, virtual classrooms, chat, and e-mail communication between faculty and students to ensure classroom understanding. Students may access syllabus, homework, projects, reading assignments, and other course materials through the Blackboard learning management system, as well as their grades and course calendar.

Faculty Credentials

The University of Houston — Clear Lake wins best online environmental science master's degree program for faculty credentials. The faculty at the University of Houston — Clear Lake require online instruction training to teach, which is financed by the school. In addition, the faculty have an average of three years of online teaching experience according to U.S. & World Report.

Faculty Accessibility and Involvement

The University of Illinois wins best online master's degree program in environmental science for faculty accessibility and involvement. Students may expect faculty response to e-mails within 24 hours. Some courses in the University of Illinois environmental science online master's degree program offer online class meetings and field trips and laboratory experience, giving students the opportunity to interact with faculty and other students.

Alumni Engagement

The University of Idaho provides its alumni with career center resources, including cover letter, interview, and resume advice, networking opportunities, and career information resources. The University of Idaho Alumni Association consists of 25 chapters and clubs around the nation offering opportunities to stay connected through events at the local and national level. The University of Idaho wins best online master's degree program in environmental science for alumni engagement.

Prior Learning Options

University of Illinois wins best online environmental science master's degree program for prior learning options. The University of Illinois allows no more than 16 hours of transfer credit per semester from online and off-campus credit. The graduate college allows up to 12 hours of course work outside of a graduate program to be applied toward a graduate program within the University of Illinois. The University also grants credit for certain training and experience in the armed forces of the United States.

New Online Student Orientation

Oregon State University wins best online master's degree program in environmental science for new online student orientation. Oregon State University provides nine sections to introduce students to online learning at OSU. The orientation consists of degree planning, tuition and billing, online services, registering, online course, online resources, and adviser introduction information. The online orientation takes about 30 to 45 minutes to complete with written instructions and video tutorials relevant to the online degree process.

Explore a Master's Degree in Environmental Science

A Master of Arts (M.A.), or a Master of Science (M.S.), in Environmental Science is a solid degree choice for individuals with an undergraduate background in the sciences who have a passion for solving environmental problems through research. Environmental science is also a good choice for students who wish to advance in an environmental career, such as natural resource management or pollution control. Students will gain an in-depth knowledge of the environmental systems innate to nature along with the skills to study and analyze those systems. Degree plans typically require two years of full-time study. However, program length is dependent on a number of factors, including student's undergraduate degree, whether a student transfers in any credits from graduate work completed at other universities, and if a student chooses to pursue his or her degree part time.

Class Curriculum

Course curriculum enables students to develop their scientific research techniques and gain practical environmental knowledge. In their core courses, students will learn about the environmental science field throughout history so that they can develop a foundational, contextual knowledge. They will also be taught about past inquiry theories, methods, and ethical dilemmas. Additionally, they will learn about the various facets of the natural world, such as oceans and forests, so that they can analyze them and develop conservation plans. Common courses students may take are:

  • Environmental Geology. In this course, students learn geological principles as they relate to environmental science and conservation. They will also learn the structure and material make-up of the earth, and about geological environments and processes.
  • Environmental Policy and Law. Students will be introduced to the policies and laws that control and manage the environment. This course will cover environmental issues such as pollution and energy sources, their effects, and the agencies that govern environmental procedures.
  • Ecology. In an ecology course, students learn about the relationships organisms share with each other and their environment. Within this study, population distributions, numbers, biomasses, and characteristics are examined. Students will also be taught how human activity affects these organisms, their populations, and their environment.

Students will be assigned complex scientific readings, and may be required to participate in class discussions over their reading assignments. Exams, projects, and homework assignments are common ways for teachers to determine how well students are understanding material, as well as whether they are able to apply that understanding in a variety of situations. Programs vary in their requirements; some require the completion of a thesis, while others require a capstone project, or both. Thesis work is usually the route students choose if they think they will pursue a doctorate in the future.

Building a Career

In pursuing their degrees, students develop pertinent research, analysis, and conservation skills. With these skills, they are prepared for careers as environmental scientists, geoscientists, and hydrologists. Using their sophisticated knowledge of the environment, environmental scientists set out to identify environmental threats and develop action plans for mitigating situations in which the environment is being harmed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median yearly salary for environmental scientists was $62,920; the BLS also estimated employment for environmental scientists to grow by 19% between 2010 and 2020.

Geoscientists, on the other hand, study the Earth's structure in order to better understand the past and present, and predict the earth's future. They do their jobs by conducting research, such as surveys and aerial pictures, and tests, analyzing their findings, and producing reports; they also attempt to find new supplies of natural resources. According to BLS statistics, the average geoscientist earned $82,500; the agency expects employment to increase by 21% over the next decade.

Hydrology is another career field graduates seek. Becoming a hydrologist entails at least a master's degree. Hydrologists primarily study and conduct research on bodies of water and the water cycle. Their goals are to discover and solve issues concerning water quality, conservation, and availability; these issues range from pollution to erosion. The BLS reported $75,690 as the median salary for hydrologists; it also projected that this career would see an 18% increase in employment between 2010 and 2020.

While salary and job descriptions are based on national data, they are only estimations. They cannot be guaranteed in individual cases as both depend on specific conditions, such as career experience, a given company, and the state of the economy.