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.

Coursework

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 an Environmental Science B.S. degree, 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 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.

Honors

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

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.

You can identify internship opportunities by working with Walter Center for Career Achievement or the Career Development Office of the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

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 70 languages.

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

Here is a partial list of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:

Overseas study

Studying environmental science in another country offers you an international perspective on the field. You are encouraged to contact the Office of Overseas Study or the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Overseas Education Program to learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations.

Many programs work well with the Environmental Science B.S. degree. Here are a few of the opportunities provided by the Office of Overseas Study:

  • 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

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

Volunteering allows you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. Some opportunities include:

To learn more, sign up to receive weekly e-mail messages from the Bloomington Volunteer Network.

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

Majoring in Environmental Science provides you with a useful set of skills and abilities that can be transferrable and practical in many different disciplines. 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

Together with your other coursework, your degree provides many opportunities to develop the following abilities, as identified by the 11 Goals of the College of Arts and Sciences:

  • Achieve the genuine literacy required to read, listen, speak, and write clearly and persuasively
  • Learn to think critically and creatively
  • Develop intellectual flexibility and breadth of mind
  • Discover ethical perspectives
  • Cultivate a critically informed appreciation of literature and the arts
  • Practice and apply scientific methods
  • Learn to reason quantitatively
  • Develop historical consciousness
  • Investigate and study the international community
  • Develop and practice communication skills in public settings and in the study of at least one foreign language
  • Pursue in-depth knowledge of at least one subject

Skills desired by employers

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

The following abilities are sought in the job market across many employment sectors:

  • Communicate effectively with persons both inside and outside the organization
  • Work in a team structure
  • Make decisions and solve problems
  • Plan, organize, and prioritize work
  • Obtain technical knowledge related to the job
  • Proficiency with computer software programs
  • Create and edit written reports
  • Ability to persuade or influence others

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 your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with the Environmental Science career coach at Walter Center for Career Achievement.

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.

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.

You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IU. College of Arts and Sciences students should consider taking ASCS-Q 296, College to Career III: Market Yourself for the Job & Internship Search. In the course, students learn how to craft a targeted resume, use their cover letter as a tool, prepare for successful interviews, locate and build a professional network, and prepare for a smooth transition from college to postgraduate life.

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.

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. Private industry, the nonprofit sector, or government work are all possibilities. 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. 

If you would like additional information, the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.

Walter Center for Career Achievement First Destination Survey Report has top-level data about College of Arts + Sciences students. It shows success rates by major, as well as the graduate schools, internships, and job offers students have reported through our survey methods.

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

Post-graduate 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 in the physical sciences 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.

Alumni connections

The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes Alumni and Friends events. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni. 

Join and use the IU Alumni Association to remain in touch, network directly, and let others know where your path takes you.


Is it for you?

Students interested in the Environmental Science B.S. degree come from many different backgrounds, but most share the following interests:

  • 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.

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.

Consult with your academic advisor or a faculty member prior to selecting your coursework for the degree. 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.

Department website
Advisor email address
jpilgrim@indiana.edu