Environmental and Sustainability Studies B.A.

The Environmental and Sustainability Studies B.A. is part of the Integrated Program in the Environment. It is offered jointly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The study of sustainability bridges the arts and humanities, social sciences, and the physical and life sciences. It complements traditional disciplines by offering an opportunity for education that couples natural and human systems in order to encompass the study of the environment, society, economy, and the arts.

The Environmental and Sustainability Studies B.A. program will provide you with a broad introduction to the complex system-scale challenges of sustainability, as well as the tools needed to address problems that transcend solely social or environmental domains.

The Minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies allows you to integrate sustainability studies into other degrees.

Because the major and minor are jointly offered by the College of Arts and Sciences and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, you will have access to a large selection of courses on a wide range of topics. More than ninety faculty members and instructors across IUB work to deliver the program's sustainability courses.


Getting started

Your starting point with the Environmental and Sustainability Studies major is one of the following introductory courses:

  • ANTH-E 101 Sustainability and Society
  • GEOG-G 185 Environmental Change: The End of the World as We Know It?
  • GEOG-G 208 Environment and Society
  • SPEA-E 183 Environment and People

Tracks and concentrations

Students majoring in Environmental and Sustainability Studies choose one of four concentration areas:

  • The Biodiversity and Sustainability Concentration integrates the humanities, arts, and sciences to explore the variety of life and the role of biodiversity in sustaining the symbiosis between humans and nature.
  • The Environmental Ethics and Justice Concentration emphasizes the role of the environmental humanities and social sciences in understanding and analyzing the relationships between humans and the environments of which we are a part.
  • The Sustainable Energy, Resources and Climate Concentration provides students with a focus on sustainability in energy, water, and natural resource systems.
  • The Sustainable Food Systems Concentration provides students with a focus on sustainability issues in relation to food and agriculture systems.

In some cases, students may elect to study new and innovative sustainability dimensions that do not fit the existing concentration areas. To accommodate these cases, students may choose to develop an individualized concentration area to match their particular academic interests. Students interested in this option should consult the academic advisor.

Upper level coursework

As an Environmental and Sustainability Studies major, you choose at least one course from a varied list in each of the following areas: 

  • Human-environment systems
  • Communication and creative expression
  • Data collection and analysis 
  • Environmental science
  • Economics

You also select upper level coursework from your chosen concentration. You may have the opportunity to pursue an independent study, readings, research, or practicum experience in your concentration area.

The academic advisor will help you select courses and experiences that best suit your interests.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

You may wish to complement your Environmental and Sustainability Studies coursework with a second major or minor. Talk with an academic advisor to consider your options.

Examples of second majors include Anthropology, BiologyEarth and Atmospheric SciencesGeography, International Studies, Media, Sociology, and Spanish.

Examples of minors include Business, Anthropology, Folklore, History, and Nonprofit Management. Check your bulletin for more information about these minors.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

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

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. 

Some freshmen and sophomores may have the opportunity to be Sustainability Scholars. Sustainability Scholars receive a scholarship, take a sustainability research methods course and work one-on-one with faculty. Students at any level may have the opportunity to assist in faculty research labs. 

The Integrated Program in the Environment has ties to many departments and faculty across campus, including the IU Research and Teaching Preserve. You can discuss research opportunities with the academic advisor or IPE Director.

Underrepresented high school students may have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with science through the Holland Summer Science Programs.


Environmental and Sustainability Studies students must maintain a minimum overall grade point average of 3.300 and a 3.500 grade point average in the major to be eligible for departmental honors. Further information regarding this distinction may be obtained from the academic advisor.

High achieving students may also 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

Because the Environmental and Sustainability Studies B.A. is offered jointly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, students are eligible for both College and O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs scholarships and awards. Research funding is also available through the IU Research and Teaching Preserve.


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 of particular interest to Environmental and Sustainability Studies B.A. majors include the Office of Sustainability Internship Program, the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Greater Good Internship Program, and opportunities through the Research and Teaching Preserve.

Because this degree is offered jointly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, you have access to career services through both schools.

Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you'll find many resources for both domestic and international internships.

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.

Environmental and Sustainability Studies majors often select a language to broaden the locations they can choose from to study abroad and to enhance their options for global careers.

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. Environmental and Sustainability Studies students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following programs:

The College of Arts + Sciences also 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 conversations with Environmental and Sustainability Studies faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Joining student groups is one way to make the most of your college years. The following student groups may be of particular interest to Environmental and Sustainability Studies students.

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

Students who wish to get involved with a professional organization may be interested in the following:

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 and Sustainability Studies provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • A broad knowledge of the complex system-scale challenges of sustainability and the tools needed to address problems that transcend solely social or environmental domains
  • Knowledge and skills in environmental science
  • In depth knowledge in a chosen concentration area
  • Skills in data collection and analysis
  • Skills in economics
  • Experience in communication and creative expression

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 your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

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

The 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 résumé, 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.

Maximize your career preparation with a career course. Environmental and Sustainability Studies majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Social and Historical Studies 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

Human and environment interaction is a key skill needed to understand the changing world today. Knowledge of these interactions can be applied to many different career fields, with excellent prospects for considerable job growth for the future.

Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: education, federal and state government, research and policy, non-profit and foreign aid organizations, law, conservation, and more.

Environmental and Sustainability Studies majors take their education in many directions. Graduates with the Environmental and Sustainability Studies B.A. have become researchers, policy advisors, educators, political activists, businesspersons, conservationists, journalists, and aid workers.

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.

Talk with Environmental and Sustainability Studies faculty, the academic advisor, career coach, and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates with this degree.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with your career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your edcuation. 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.

An Environmental and Sustainability Studies B.A. will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as area studies, conservation, environmental policy, sustainability, biodiversity, public affairs, non-profit management, international relations, business, and more.

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.

Students who pursue graduate studies related to Environmental and Sustainability Studies have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, federal and state government, conservation agencies, non-profit organizations, business, and entrepreneurship.

Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:

Alumni connections

Talk with Environmental and Sustainability Studies faculty, the academic advisorcareer coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of this degree.

The College of Arts and 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 Environmental and Sustainability Studies B.A. attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:

  • Interest in sustainability, human-environment interaction, sustainable food systems, and/or environmental ethics
  • Desire to take courses from and that bridge the arts and humanities, social sciences, and physical and life sciences
  • Interest in a career in areas such as environmental planning and coordination, environmental education and communications, sustainability coordination or consulting in the private or public sector, green design, environmental law or public affairs, or graduate study
  • Desire to help make the world a better place

Learn more

Contact the Environmental and Sustainability Studies academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address