Best Environmental Science Schools

Updated on April 8, 2024

Environmental science is a multidisciplinary field that examines the interactions between physical, chemical, and biological components of the environment and how human activities impact them. Studying environmental science equips students with the knowledge and skills to address pressing environmental challenges like climate change, pollution, conservation, and sustainability.

The most reputable environmental science degree programs combine rigorous scientific training with policy, law, economics, and other disciplines to prepare students to develop innovative solutions. Here are 10 of the best environmental science schools based on factors like research output, student satisfaction, and career outcomes.

Yale University

Location: New Haven, CT

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Average SAT Score: 1510

Tuition: $59,950 per year


Yale’s environmental studies program is one of the first and most prestigious, allowing students to focus on sciences, social sciences or humanities. Undergraduates conduct original research across disciplines, aided by Yale’s extensive professional network and research facilities. Over 90 courses are offered, taught by field-leading faculty.

Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Average SAT Score: 1515

Tuition: $57,701 per year


Stanford Earth offers an undergraduate major and minor focusing on the interactions between biological, geological and social systems. Students have access to Stanford’s renowned research facilities including advanced computing, ecosystems modeling and isotope geochemistry labs. Graduates pursue diverse impactful careers worldwide thanks to Stanford’s prime Silicon Valley location.

University of California, Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 16%

Average SAT Score: 1425

Tuition: $44,007 per year (in-state), $64,356 per year (out-of-state)


UC Berkeley provides world-class training in environmental sciences and related policy through its top-ranked College of Natural Resources. Undergraduates can tailor studies from 60+ environmental courses drawing faculty from ecosystems, agroecology, climate, law, engineering, economics and more. Research and field opportunities abound at UC’s reserves, field stations and partnerships.

Duke University

Location: Durham, NC

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Average SAT Score: 1510

Tuition: $60,966 per year


Undergraduates in Duke’s interdisciplinary Nicholas School of the Environment become environmental problem-solvers via research, fieldwork, policy projects and internships. While customized studies are possible, students often major in Environmental Sciences and Policy which stresses intersections between ecosystem health, economics and human behavior.

Cornell University

Location: Ithaca, NY

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 11%

Average SAT Score: 1495

Tuition: $59,316 per year


Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management offers highly interdisciplinary Programming in Environmental and Resource Economics. Housed jointly in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Human Ecology, undergraduates combine earth science, policy and more for a well-rounded skillset.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 26%

Average SAT Score: 1465

Tuition: $17,522 per year (in-state), $53,890 per year (out-of-state)


Through the top-ranked School for Environment and Sustainability, Michigan undergraduates earn a Bachelor of Science studying complex socio-environmental challenges like sustainable engineering, environmental justice and conservation biology. Students benefit from UMichigan’s leading research facilities and location near the Great Lakes.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 13%

Average SAT Score: 1325-1570

Tuition: $13,239 per year (in-state), $46,005 per year (out-of-state)


Through the Institute of Environment and Sustainability, UCLA offers over 175 sustainability-focused courses plus hands-on research for undergraduates. Students can tailor studies blending environmental science with policy, urban planning, public health, law and more, aided by cross-campus partnerships and Los Angeles’ diversity.

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Location: Madison, WI

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 55%

Average SAT Score: 1390

Tuition: $10,725 per year (in-state), $39,610 per year (out-of-state)


Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies takes an integrated approach training undergraduates to tackle sustainability challenges. The Environmental Sciences major combines geoscience, chemistry, ecology, climate, policy and more for versatile environmental careers. Research and internships opportunities abound nearby including with government agencies.

University of Washington, Seattle

Location: Seattle, WA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 53%

Average SAT Score: 1325-1520

Tuition: $11,839 per year (in-state), $40,726 per year (out-of-state)


Leveraging its Pacific Northwest location, UW-Seattle steeps students in complex, real-world environmental problem-solving. The interdisciplinary Environmental Studies program offers diverse natural sciences and policy curriculum as well as abundant research and fieldwork opportunities nearby including the Cascade Mountains.

Colorado College

Location: Colorado Springs, CO

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 13%

Average SAT Score: 1355

Tuition: $59,552 per year


This liberal arts college pioneered one of the country’s first environmental science programs. Colorado College offers specialized majors in environmental policy, Southwest studies and sustainability, enhanced by block scheduling to facilitate field trips, internships and research. Small class sizes ensure personalized faculty mentorship.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What core skills will I gain studying environmental science?

Studying environmental science equips you with versatile technical and soft skills like research methods, geospatial analysis, computer modeling, scientific writing, critical thinking, project management, policy analysis, and more – applicable across sectors. You’ll also build environmental domain expertise in ecology, earth systems, sustainability etc.

What careers are available with an environmental science degree?

In demand, well-paying careers include environmental consultant, conservation scientist, ecologist, environmental analyst, GIS specialist, marine biologist, park ranger, policy advisor, professor, sustainability manager, and more. Government agencies and companies across industries hire environmental graduates.

How competitive is undergraduate admission for top environmental programs?

Admission at highly ranked like Yale, Stanford and UCLA is extremely selective with low acceptance rates because of many applicants. Strong grades, test scores, recommendations and demonstrated interest in environmental or sustainability causes via clubs, internships etc. boost prospects.

Can I specialize within environmental science?

Yes, many programs offer concentrations, electives or even majors allowing specialization in areas like geoscience, ecology, environmental policy, sustainability, conservation biology and more. Some colleges also facilitate creating a specialized curriculum drawing faculty from multiple departments.

How much does an environmental science degree cost?

Annual tuition and fees for an environmental science bachelor’s degree spans from about $12,000 for in-state public schools up to $60,000+ for private universities per year. Savings via financial aid varies greatly. Research schools offering merit and need-based assistance to maximize affordability.

Should I earn a combined bachelor’s/master’s environmental science degree?

Combined B.S./M.S. accelerated programs allowing undergraduates to gain a master’s degree 1-2 semesters early are great options if available and affordable. They signal advanced skills to employers. However bachelor’s degrees still qualify graduates for most entry-level careers.

What math and science pre-requisites are required?

Typical requirements are 3-4 years of math (algebra, calculus) and 2-3 years of core sciences like biology, chemistry and physics. Some environmental policy programs are less science-heavy. Review program details and prepare accordingly while still in high school.

How extensive are research opportunities in undergraduate programs?

Research chances distinguishing graduates widely across schools from little to abundant. More resources fostering undergrad research appear at R1 universities and programs located in biodiverse areas aiding field studies. Extent of opportunities is an important factor in choosing colleges.

How can I stand out in the admissions process?

Success with challenging high school STEM coursework is key. Environmental and leadership extracurriculars like Eco clubs demonstrate passion to admission staff. Science fair successes, published writing samples, and sustainability volunteering also make applicants memorable.

Are internships and study abroad opportunities common environmental majors?

Absolutely! Connecting classroom learning with world experiences via labs, field studies, global programs and internships with companies, non-profits and government is a hallmark of top-tier environmental studies degrees. These opportunities prime students for careers delivering impact.

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