Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science

The Environmental Science B.S. degree, a joint degree program between the College of Arts and Sciences and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, gives students access to many different courses on a wide range of environmental topics. The interdisciplinary curriculum draws on traditional programs in biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and other sciences. More than 40 faculty and instructors across IU teach the environmental science courses taken by BSES students.

A major in Environmental Science positions you to contribute to the critical work of changing the future and protecting our planet. A wide array of courses are available to you in the Integrated Program in the Environment, and you have many opportunities to take field and laboratory courses. This balance of coursework and hands-on learning experiences prepares you to develop solutions to environmental problems you may work on in the future.


Getting started

Your starting point for this degree is Foundations of Biology: Diversity, Evolution, and Ecology (BIOL-L 111) and Calculus I (MATH-M 211).

You will also want to think about taking Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry I (CHEM-C 117) and Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry I Laboratory (CHEM-C 127) in your freshman year. These will prepare you for subsequent required chemistry courses in future semesters.

The Integrated Program in the Environment offers a flexible curriculum.  Many courses offer lectures, laboratory opportunities, and/or field experiences. Environmental Science majors enjoy a wide selection of courses and departments to work with throughout the four year experience. You can review the Environmental Science curriculum in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin and in the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Undergraduate Bulletin

Tracks and concentrations

The BSES major does not have any official tracks or concentrations, but students often choose courses based on a specific focus or interest. Students can select among a wide range of courses to complete required environmental science hours. Some examples of possible areas of study include:

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Ecosystem Science
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Hydrology and Water Resources
  • Mathematical Modeling
  • Pollution Control Technologies and Remediation
  • Surficial Processes

Upper level coursework

The Environmental Science B.S. degree includes many upper level courses focused on environmental science, chemistry, and at least one field experience. Students are encouraged to take EAS-X 429 at the Judson Mead Geologic Field Station in order to complete the field experience.

All Environmental Science majors are encouraged to become involved in research during their undergraduate career, working with a faculty member during the academic year. Students can enroll in a research course (SPEA-E 490, BIOL-X 490, GEOG-X 490, or EAS-X 498) or work with a faculty member independent of a course.

Students with senior standing who are pursuing departmental honors typically enroll in SPEA- E 490, BIOL-X 490, GEOG-X 490, or EAS-X 498. In these courses, they prepare a written thesis under the supervision of a faculty supervisor.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Your major represents about one half of your degree requirements. With the help of your academic advisor, you may be able to combine several areas of interest with additional majors, minors, or certificates.

Environmental Science majors often pursue minors or dual degrees in Anthropology, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and Physics. Check your bulletin for more information about these departments.

You may want to pursue minors in other disciplines within the College of Arts and Sciences or the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Explore your options with the help of your advisor, and find course listings within the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Undergraduate Bulletin.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing a degree in Environmental Science, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in many fields. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of readings and assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.

Environmental Science entails a certain amount of focus on research, and all Environmental Science majors are encouraged to become involved in a research project during their undergraduate career.

You can get involved in research as early as your freshman year. Many incoming freshmen apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker. 

You could work part-time during the academic year with a faculty member, either as an hourly worker or for academic credit (SPEA-E 490, BIOL-X 490, GEOG-X 490, or EAS-X 498).

Environmental Science majors should plan to spend at least one summer at field camp taking Field Geology in the Rocky Mountains (EAS-X 429) at Judson Mead Geologic Field Station. If time and opportunity allow, additional field experiences should be considered. For more information about this and other opportunities, review the courses available at Judson Mead Geologic Field Station.


The Environmental Science Honors Program recognizes excellence in coursework and the importance of early participation in research. The honors program is strongly recommended for students intending to enroll in graduate school.

The key component of the honors program is an independent research project, carried out under the supervision of a faculty member. This work culminates before the end of the senior year with the writing of a research thesis. Students should identify a research topic and a faculty member prior to the end of their junior year. When complete, they deliver an oral presentation of the thesis work at the IU Undergraduate Research Symposium.

To graduate with honors, students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.300 with a 3.500 in environmental science coursework. Interested students should consult their academic advisor for details.

High achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

Students majoring in Environmental Science may be interested in applying for one or more of the scholarships and awards offered by the College of Arts and Sciences. Because the requirements and conditions for these vary, it is recommended that you work with the Environmental Science academic advisor before applying to these programs. Options include:

The O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs also offers many scholarship opportunities for students studying environmental science. You may contact an academic advisor in O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at the Undergraduate Programs and Advising Office for more information.


Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their freshman year.

Internships offer you a chance to develop and practice skills learned in the classroom, as well as to develop professional relationships with others in the field by spending a summer working in a professional setting.

Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through The Walter Center for Career Achievement and the Career Development Office of the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, where you’ll find many resources for both domestic and international internships. 

If you secure your own internship and would like to earn credit for it, you should consider taking ASCS-X 373 through the Walter Center for Career Achievement. The Career Development Office of the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs also offers internship courses (SPEA-H 466, SPEA-V 380, and SPEA-V 381).

Foreign language study

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages.

The Environmental Science B.S. degree requires second semester proficiency in a foreign language.

Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington.

Overseas study

Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world. Studying environmental science in another country offers you an international perspective on the field. Environmental Science students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following exchange programs:

  • Adelaide, Australia
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Canberra, Australia
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Madrid, IU
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Oxford-St. Anne's, England
  • Perth, Australia
  • Wollongong, Australia

The College of Arts and Sciences directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with Intergrated Program in the Environment faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study or the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Overseas Education Program.

Student groups

Since the Environmental Science B.S. degree is interdisciplinary, you have many options for involvement with various student groups on campus. The following are just a few that are relevant to the degree:

Many other student groups on the Bloomington campus may also be of interest to Environmental Science majors. 

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

The following are just a few of the professional organizations you may be interested in as an Environmental Scientist.

Use the Indiana University Library system to search for Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, non-profit organizations, and much more.

Build your skills

Through the major

The major in Environmental Science provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Understanding the interconnected nature of the chemical, physical, and biological aspects of the environment
  • Approaching environmental problems quantitatively and with critical thinking
  • Being able to graphically and statistically analyze environmental data
  • Understanding mass-balance and thermodynamics and the relevance of these principles to environmental problems
  • Communicating the major environmental issues facing society to both technical and nontechnical audiences

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:  

  • Question critically
  • Think logically
  • Communicate clearly
  • Act creatively
  • Live ethically

These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what key skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical and quantitative skills
  • Ability to take Initiative
  • Being detail oriented
  • Demonstrating adaptability
  • Technical skills relevant to the field
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Computer skills
  • Organizational ability

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after College.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with your career coach.

Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too. As an Environmental Science major, you may also choose to take advantage of services offered through the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Career Development Center.

Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.

Maximize your career preparation with a career course. Environmental Science majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Natural and Mathematical Sciences provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter or personal statement, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!

The job market

Environmental Science has a very strong employment outlook in the foreseeable future. Climate changes, energy transitions, and the need for the development of green infrastructure in the near future are some of the reasons why the employment outlook is so positive.

An Environmental Science B.S. degree offers multiple career paths, each dependent upon your focus of study. Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: private industry, the nonprofit sector, and government work. Here are some potential Environmental Science careers you might choose to pursue:

  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Biologist
  • Environmental Chemist
  • Hydrologist
  • Seismologist

Talk to the Environmental Science faculty, the academic advisor, career coach, and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of Environmental Science. Many former Indiana University Environmental Science graduates have made it to high levels of industry and government, as well as academia. 

Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!

Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

The beginning of your post-graduate career might be an ideal time to explore an international internship or other short-term experience through organizations such as these:

Using these and other resources, your career coach can help you craft a unique post-graduate short-term experience, whether in the United States or abroad.

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.

 Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

Students who pursue graduate studies in Environmental Science often find themselves in supervisory positions in industry or teaching and researching in academia.

An Environmental Sciences B.S. degree will prepare you for entry into many science graduate degree programs or multiple career opportunities in the world of the sciences. A unique opportunity exists through O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs to pursue an accelerated Master's Degree along with a B.S. in Environmental Science.

Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:

With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other professional programs.

Alumni connections

The IU College of Arts + Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts +Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.

Is it for you?

The Intergrated Program in the Environment attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:

  • Ability to think broadly about the relationships among science, policy, and management
  • Concern for the environment and sustainability
  • Excitement about working in a laboratory setting
  • Interest in collecting and analyzing data
  • Passion for the outdoors
  • Strong analytical and mathematical skills

Learn more

In addition to the Environmental Science B.S. degree, the College of Arts and Sciences and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs offer a minor in Environmental Science.

Contact the College of Arts and Sciences Environmental Science academic advisor or the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Undergraduate Programs and Advising Office to schedule an appointment to explore your options. Consult with your academic advisor or a faculty member prior to selecting your coursework for the degree.

Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin and in the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Undergraduate Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address