For our 2016 Online Bachelor’s in Environmental Science and Sustainability award winners, we selected online programs from accredited, nonprofit colleges and universities offering online or hybrid programs of study leading to a master’s degree in environmental sciences, or related fields and have ranked these programs according to their affordability.
Environmental Science programs typically draw on multiple integrated academic disciplines and explore how the parts of nature and human societies operate and interact. They are devoted to the preservation of natural resources and biodiversity for sustainable development, and the control of biological, chemical and physical agents in the environment (air, water, soil, and groundwater) to prevent adverse effects on human and other living organisms. Graduates of these programs will be prepared for a variety of emerging opportunities in government and the private sector as “greening” the economy becomes increasingly important to the public.
The work of environmental scientists and other environmental management professionals will continue to grow in value. The demand for stricter governmental environmental policies and regulations of company procedures will continue to open doors for scientists working in this field. Thus, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted in 2014, that the number of jobs for environmental scientists and specialists will grow by 15 percent through 2022. A Bachelor’s degree in this field will provide a solid basis of knowledge, skills, and credentials to gain entry level positions in this growing job market.
Though this ranking is primarily concerned with the affordability of the programs, many programs here have consistently been ranked among the top of their kind by other national publications and we believe they deserve to be considered among the best online bachelor’s in environmental science programs available.
Note that tuition rates listed below are based on cost per credit and individual programs may have additional fees.
#1. Southern New Hampshire University
Founded in 1933 as the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Secretarial Service, Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit university located between Manchester and Hookset, New Hampshire. The state granted the college its charter in 1963, and the first baccalaureate degrees were awarded in 1966. Its online campus boasts over 200 regionally accredited undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs, and also has specialized accreditation for some of its degrees and programs.
Southern New Hampshire University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science designed to provide students with a strong foundation in natural and physical sciences. Students select a concentration in either Natural Resources and Conservation or Geospatial Technologies. In the natural resources and conservation concentration, students focus on the conservation and management of natural resources and remediation of natural and human hazards. They develop a broad-based interdisciplinary skill set that companies and organizations are looking for to solve complex environmental problems like climate change, alternative energy, and sustainability. The geospatial technologies concentration gives students practical, real-world experience in geographic information systems (GIS) technology, including spatial awareness, remote sensing and imagery analysis. These technologies are an essential planning, analytic and management tool used in the field of environmental sciences to help GIS professionals visualize data in a geographic model. In SNHU’s online geospatial technologies degree, you’ll explore the acquisition, integration and analysis of geospatial data that’s applicable to a wide array of environmental issues. A minimum of 120 credits are required for completion of the degree which includes 29 free elective credits.
Accreditation: Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 60%
#2. University of Alabama
Located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the University of Alabama is the flagship university of the University of Alabama System. Established in 1831 and enrolling over 36,100 students, UA is the oldest and largest university in the state. As one of the first universities established in the early 19th century southwestern frontier of the United States, UA has made a great impact on the region and the nation. The school was a center of activity during the US Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. UA offers degree programs in 13 academic divisions leading to bachelor’s, master’s, Education Specialist, and doctoral degrees.
The Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Sciences offered through the University of Alabama is available through online delivery. The program features a high degree of flexibility so students can design a program of study that matches their unique interests and goals. The purpose of this program is to give the student with specific career goals an opportunity to develop an innovative program of study with a focus on at least one area within the College. A minimum of 120 credits are required for completion of the degree.
Accreditation: The University of Alabama is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 67%
#3. Liberty University
Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University was founded as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971 by the Reverend Jerry Falwell. It has long been considered a Christian academic community, the institution’s stated intention being the development of both the intellectual and spiritual nature. Enrolling well over 100,000 students, the majority of which are enrolled online, LU is the largest Evangelical Christian University in the world and the largest private nonprofit university in the nation. Liberty University ranks #80 by U.S. News in best Regional Universities (South).
The Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Green and Sustainable Management program offered through Liberty University Online is designed to help students master the skills necessary to succeed in today’s business environment with a special emphasis on understanding the ever changing world of environmental sustainability. Students will improve their knowledge and understanding of management principles and environmental resources. The program requires a minimum of 120 credits for completion of the degree.
Accreditation: Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 46.2%
#4. University of Massachusetts—Amherst
A public research and land-grant university, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the flagship of the University of Massachusetts system and is the largest university in New England. The university is ranked among the top thirty public universities in the United States and is situated on almost 1,500 acres in Amherst, a renowned college town. UMass Amherst was founded in 1863 as an agricultural, mechanical, and military school and gained university status in 1947.
The University of Massachusetts—Amherst offers an online degree completion program leading to a Bachelor’s in Sustainability Studies through its University Without Walls program. The program is designed to develop individuals who can implement sustainable ideas and practices throughout all sectors of the economy. Admission into the program requires a minimum of 12 prior college-level credits. A minimum of 120 credits are required for completion of the degree. Students may transfer in up to 75 credits from prior college-level coursework 45 credits need to be earned through UMass residency and up to 30 credits for work & life experience which count toward residency credits.
Accreditation: The University of Massachusetts Amherst is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Schools.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 70%
* Tuition may be significantly lower depending on the student’s prior college, work, and life experiences.
#5. University of Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin System is a university system of public universities in the state of Wisconsin. Founded in 1848, it is one of the largest public higher education systems in the country, enrolling more than 182,000 students each year and employing more than 32,000 faculty and staff statewide. The University of Wisconsin System comprises two doctoral research universities, eleven comprehensive universities, thirteen freshman-sophomore colleges, and the statewide University of Wisconsin–Extension.
The University of Wisconsin System offers a degree completion program leading to a Bachelor’s in Sustainable Management through four University of Wisconsin Campuses: UW—Parkside, UW—River Falls, UW—Stout, and UW—Superior. This program is designed to develop an understanding of how individual things and events influence the whole and to increase students value with new or existing employers as sustainability becomes increasingly important in today’s economy. The program is open to individuals who have completed the first two years of a bachelor’s degree or those who have at least 60 credits of transferable coursework. Students who do not have the necessary transfer credits may apply to the UW System’s Online Associate Degree Programs. A minimum of 120 credits are required for completion of the bachelor’s degree including 21 required online courses in the major.
Accreditation: The University of Wisconsin is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 45%
#6. University of Illinois—Urbana Champaign
Founded in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the second oldest public university in the state of Illinois. The university is a research-intensive university, designated as an institution with Very High Research Activity by the Carnegie Foundation, and is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois System. U of I enrolls over 44,500 students and has been named as one of the “Public Ivies,” a public university offering a quality of education commensurate with the private Ivy Leagues. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is regarded as a world leading magnet for engineering and sciences, applied and basic.
The University of Illinois—Urbana Champaign offers an online Bachelor’s of Science in Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability program designed to develop an understanding of the complex interactions between the environment, society, and economy. Students can enter this program with one prior semester of college-level coursework. Students choose from specializations in environmental informatics, sustainable business, sustainability policy, and more. A minimum of 120 credits are required for completion of the bachelor’s degree which include 49-59 credits taken in the major.
Accreditation: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
#7. Oregon State University
Founded in 1856 as Corvallis Academy – a primary and preparatory school – and then later Corvallis College, Oregon State University quickly became an agricultural school, going through various incarnations before obtaining university status in 1961. OSU has been ranked highly by Washington Monthly, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, QS World University Rankings, and Academic Ranking of World Universities; the school is considered a “selective” university. Oregon State University boasts a number of notable alumni across various fields and disciplines; these include Nobel prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling; Donald Kerr, wildlife biologist and founder of the High Desert Museum; computer scientist credited with the invention of the computer mouse and the concept of e-mail, Douglas Engelbart; many local and national politicians; numerous founders and CEO’s of major corporations; Pulitzer Prize-winning poet George Oppen, and more.
Oregon State University offers an online degree program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences featuring an interdisciplinary approach to environmental problem solving. This degree program offers a diverse selection of specialization areas for students to focus their study toward career goals. Specialization areas can be completed through an approved option or certificate. Students work with an academic advisor to determine which area best meets their career goals. Current specialization areas available to Ecampus students include a GIScience certificate or one of these options: Applied ecology, Aquatic biology
Conservation, resources and sustainability, Earth systems, Environmental agriculture, Environmental policy and economics, Environmental water resources. A minimum of 180 credits are required for completion of the degree.
Accreditation: Oregon State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 61%
#8. Arizona State University
Founded in 1885 and located on several campus across Phoenix, Arizona, Arizona State University is a national space-grant institution and the largest public university in the country by enrollment. Arizona State University’s online campus was ranked #1 in online Student Services and Technology by U.S. News & World Report and offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
The online Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability offered at Arizona State University is designed to provide students with the skills to rethink and reinvent a world at risk and help to create an improved quality of life for future generations. Students will look at ways to solve challenges of sustainability related to the environment, economy, and society and gain skills through experiential learning, research community engagement, study abroad and leadership development. A minimum of 120 credits are required for completion of the degree.
Accreditation: Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 56.8%
#9. Excelsior College
Founded in 1971, Excelsior College is a private nonprofit college in Albany, New York. Excelsior College is known for being very liberal in its acceptance of transfer credit, essentially accepting any credit from regionally accredited institions if the course falls under one of Excelsior’s degree programs. EC is also well known for its flexible, distance learning degree programs.
Excelsior College’s online Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences with Environmental Studies concentration is designed for working adults who wish to build up marketable skills for entry into a variety of sectors of employment such as public and nonprofit conservation agencies, resource managers, ecotourism firms, schools, and environmental service companies. The program requires a minimum of 120 credits for completion of the bachelor’s degree.
Accreditation: Excelsior College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education
6 Year Graduation Rate: Data not available
#10. University of Maryland—University College
University of Maryland University College is a development of the University of Maryland’s evening program for adults that began in the 1920’s. UMUC is an open university and one of the largest distance learning institutions in the world. The school serves over 90,000 students worldwide in a combination of on-campus courses and online courses and has campuses located all over the world. UMUC offers face-to-face courses to deployed military at bases in Afghanistan and Djibouti, Africa.
The University of Maryland—University College offers an online Bachelor’s in Environmental Management degree program designed to impart the knowledge and skills necessary to mitigate environmental management issues including air pollution, water pollution, solid waste, and hazardous waste. Students will also have the chance to use software tools and practice key technologies related to risk management, geographic information systems, and environmental economics. The curriculum provides an interdisciplinary approach that includes air, land, and water environmental management, pollution control, policies, regulations, and environmental health and safety. A minimum of 120 credits are required for completion of the degree.
Accreditation: The University of Maryland University College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 10%
#11. University of Florida
The University of Florida is a major research institution located in the north Florida college town of Gainesville. This school is the oldest public university in the state and has a ranking of 17 on the U.S. News and World Report list of the top twenty national public universities. The Princeton Review finds the school the seventh best value in public education. With over 50,000 students, the campus is quite impressive in size and scope. There are 16 different colleges set on the main campus. Students can choose from a wide selection of online degree programs ranging from Bachelors to Doctorates.
The University of Florida offers an online Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in Environmental Management with an emphasis on Agriculture and Natural Resources. The program is designed to give students a solid grounding in the areas of hydrology, soil science, pest management, water resources, and agricultural ecology so that graduates can find jobs with agricultural producers, consulting companies and government agencies involved in maintaining a sustainable environment. A minimum of 120 credits are required for completion of the degree.
Accreditation: The University of Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 85.1%
#12. Northeastern University
Northeastern University was founded in 1898 as the “Evening Institute for Younger Men” at a YMCA in Boston, Massachusetts. It is now an increasingly competitive and esteemed private research university. Northeastern University’s online school offers over 70 certificates and degree programs that adhere to the rigorous academic standards of the on-ground campus.
Theinterdisciplinary, online Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies offered by Northeastern University is designed to train students to investigate and develop technical, economic, institutional, and behavioral solutions for a variety of environmental problems- from air and water pollution to energy conservation and urban development The program’s carefully composed online curriculum includes courses in biology, statistics, economics, environmental science, geology, microeconomics, chemical principles, geographic information systems, and research methods. In addition to these core areas of study, electives in urban ecology, health issues, physical anthropology, disasters, and wetlands and coastal ecology allow students to focus their studies in a specific area of interest. The program requires a minimum of 160 quarter hours for completion of the degree.
Accreditation: Northeastern University is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 78.6%
#13. University of Nebraska—Lincoln
Founded in 1869 the University of Nebraska in Lincoln is the oldest university in Nebraska and is the flagship university of the University of Nebraska System. UNL is recognized for having produced significant, groundbreaking research in the agricultural sciences and ecological studies. The university enrolls over 24,600 students.
The University of Nebraska—Lincoln’s online Bachelor of Science in Applied Science with emphasis on Agricultural and Environmental Sciences features a very flexible curriculum that allows students to tailor their studies to match career interests and is ideal for individuals looking to enter the fields of Food, Animal, and Plant Science, Genetics, Biotechnology, and Processing, Ecology, or Entrepreneurship Economics, and Policy. A minimum of 120 credits are required for completion of the bachelor’s degree.
Accreditation: The University of Nebraska—Lincoln is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 67%
#14. Pennsylvania State University
Established in 1855, Pennsylvania State University is a state-related research university with 24 statewide campuses. In 2010, the university’s enrollment, including online learners, totaled 94,300 students. Pennsylvania State University World Campus is often referred to as “Penn State Online” and is the virtual campus of Pennsylvania State University. The World Campus was founded in 1998, but Pennsylvania State University has been offering distance education courses since 1892, when it developed one of the nation’s pioneer correspondence study programs for statewide farmers.
Pennsylvania State University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Energy and Sustainability Policy is designed to prepare students for success in energy careers related to foreign and domestic policy analysis, legislative or regulatory affairs, sales engineering and post-sales account management, permitting and compliance, purchasing, and public relations in energy-related government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, public utilities, regulatory bodies, energy trade organizations, and businesses. Students will gain the knowledge and skills necessary to gather, analyze, synthesize, and communicate diverse information about emerging global trends in energy policy, technologies, and economics. A minimum of 121 credits are required for completion of the degree.
Accreditation: Pennsylvania State University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 85.6%
#15. University of Denver
The University of Denver is a private nonprofit university founded in 1863 and is the oldest private university in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. The school was founded as Colorado Seminary by John Evans, a former governor of the Colorado Territory who also established the noteworthy Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. DU enrolls over 11,800 students.
The University of Denver’s University College offers a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies available through online delivery. The program provides an interdisciplinary approach to over serving, understanding and reacting to environmental issues and prepares students to thoroughly understand the environmental systems and meet the demands of this rapidly changing industry, as well as assess, analyze, summarize, and transform data into useful information and knowledge to be applied to real-world environmental problems. The program requires a minimum of 180 quarter credits.
Accreditation: The University of Denver is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
6 Year Graduation Rate: 76.2%