Environmental and Sustainability Studies B.A.in

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 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 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 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 membrers and instructors across IUB work to deliver the program's sustainability courses.


Getting started

To start the degree, you take one of the following introductory courses:

  • ANTH-E 101 Sustainability and Society
  • BIOL-L 222 The City as Ecosystem
  • GEOG-G 208 Environment and Society
  • GEOL-G 105 Earth: Our Habitable Planet 
  • SPEA-E 162: Environment and People

Tracks and concentrations

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

  • The Sustainable Food Systems Concentration provides students with a focus on sustainability issues in relation to food and agriculture systems.
  • The Sustainable Energy and Resources Concentration provides students with a focus on sustainability in energy, water, and natural resource systems.
  • 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 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.

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, Biology, Psychology, Sociology, Geography, French, Spanish, and International Studies.

Examples of minors include Business, Anthropology, Folklore, History, and Public Management.

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. 

Some freshmen and sophomores may have the opportunity to be 2020 Sustainability Scholars. 2020 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 associate director.

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


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 School of Public and Environmental Affairs, students are eligible for both College and SPEA 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 SPEA Professional Development 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 School of Public and Environmental Affairs, you have access to career services through both schools.  You can learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement and the SPEA Career Development Office

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.

Geography 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 an increasingly globalized world. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversations with Geography faculty, your academic advisor, and the Office of Overseas Study.

The B.A in Environmental and Sustainability Studies is offered jointly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, giving you a wide variety of overseas study opportunities.

SPEA's popular Study Abroad in South Africa overseas program offers you a chance to learn about conservation management. Additionally, their SPEA in the Caribbean (on the island of Bonaire) focuses on field research experience by having students participate in the ongoing conservation and sustainability programs on the island. Many students participate in "Roots, Fruits and Jamaican Ecologies," an interdisciplinary service-learning course focused on the practice of permaculture. 

The Department of Biology offers several opportunities for students interested in the environment. Students can study tropical biology during the summer in Grand Cayman or during winter break in Costa Rica. Students who would like a longer experience can participate in a semester-long tropical biology program in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

You also may be interested in studying ecosystems, conservation, and public policy during the summer through the Quito and Galapagos Islands Environmental Studies Summer Program.

Other programs in which students can take environment-related coursework include Copenhagen, Cape Town, and Christchurch.

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

When pursuing an Environmental and Sustainability Studies B.A., you can expect to integrate experience in the humanities with the natural and social sciences. Through the major you will develop:

  • 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 major is a concentration representing about one quarter of your degree requirements. Together with your other coursework, it 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 and process relevant information
  • Analyze quantitative data
  • 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 career exploration starting point is an appointment with a 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.

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 299 College to Career III: Market Yourself for the Job and Internship Search. The purpose of this course is to teach the strategies and tools necessary to successfully market the qualifications gained from your Arts and Sciences education, help you achieve career-related goals, and plan for lifelong career development.

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.

Environmental and Sustainability Studies majors take their education in many directions. They are well prepared to work in education, federal and state government, research and policy, non-profit and foreign aid organizations, law, conservation, and more.

Graduates with the Environmental and Sustainability Studies B.A. have become researchers, policy advisors, educators, political activists, businesspersons, conservationists, journalists, and aid workers.

Talk with Environmental and Sustainability Studies faculty, the academic advisor and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies program, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

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

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 post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, and government organizations.

Examples of 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 programs in the health professions.

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.

You might consider these Indiana University graduate opportunities:

Alumni connections

The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes Alumni 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?

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. Detailed information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address