Best Environmental College Degrees for Green Collar Jobs

This is the right time to look for a green-collar job, because the world is investing heavily in environmental science. With oil prices as high as they are, governments are finally giving incentives to companies that invest in alternative energy, green packaging, recycling and other green initiatives. But getting a job in this “green” niche isn’t easy without the right kind of college degree. Here are the best college degree programs for people interested in jumping on the green train:

Degrees in Environmental Sciences

What is?

This is a large scientific field that includes some well-known areas of study such as ecology, forestry, geology, and hydrology. Over the years, this field has grown to encompass areas such as soil science, natural resource conservation, atmospheric science, and some aspects of oceanography. And, no matter which area you choose to study, conservation and sustainability is the end goal.

Course of Study and Curriculum

These degree programs provide a broad field of study in the natural and social sciences. This allows students to create their own study focus as they progress through the department. Many college programs offer an interdisciplinary curriculum that incorporates courses in the natural and social sciences, as well as technology, business, law, and other fields. Knowledge of these courses enables students to better understand issues such as pollution, human population, waste management, and wildlife conservation.

At the graduate level, a Master of Science allows students to develop a specialized field of study. This advanced degree increases the value of the job and is sometimes necessary for more advanced careers.


According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the number of jobs for environmental scientists will grow faster than average over the next 5 to 10 years.

With people focused on the environment, the work of scientists will continue to be central to sustainability and conservation goals. Scientists are needed not only as stewards of the environment, but also as consultants when it comes to community education. It takes their expertise in the areas of water quality, recycling, waste management, and various public and individual efforts to “go green.” Additionally, the continued implementation of federal and state policies and corporate regulations will continue to increase the need for skilled workers.

Most professionals in the field find work in environmental protection, research, and conservation of natural resources. And, as the need for workers increases in many job sectors, scientists now work for government entities, public and private agencies, and nonprofits, as well as in academia as teachers and professors.

Degrees in Environmental Studies

What is?

It is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the interaction of human beings and the environment, mainly the ecosystems of the planet. A wide-ranging field can include various ecosystems and habitats, such as natural and social environments, planned (urban) environments, and the interrelationships between them.

Course of Study and Curriculum

Degree programs incorporate the natural (biology, physics, geology) and social sciences (philosophy and ethics, history, sociology, anthropology) and many fields of the humanities, with a focus on learning about human beings, society and the relationships with the natural world. This is another field where students have the opportunity to develop their own course of study and academic focus.

Examples of courses offered at the University of Oregon:

– Climatology

– Physics of the Atmosphere

– Forest biology

– Ecology and wetland management

– Human ecology

– Population and Environment

– Political ecology

– Generation of ecological energy

– Environmental alteration

– Geological risks

– Human adaptation

– Human population


The job market for professionals is expected to grow. As public consideration of issues related to the environment and natural resource management increases, and as more government agencies and corporations come under pressure to comply with environmental regulations and policies, the need for trained workers will increase.

Graduates find careers in large companies and corporations, focusing primarily on policy enforcement or working for smaller companies in the field of resource conservation and management. Professionals also find work in panning, policy administration, and analysis.

Degrees in Environmental Policy and Management

What is?

This field is related to the use of natural resources and the connection with human and economic factors. It is an interdisciplinary field of study, incorporating everything from ecology-related issues and policies to sustainable development and planning. It involves the supervision and control of the environment and natural resources, optimizing sustainability and minimizing negative impacts.

Course of Study and Curriculum

The field focuses on the delicate relationship between the environment and its ecosystems and the development of business and industry. It is a broad field that can incorporate urban planning, EH&S, and even environmental science programs. Due to this wide range of studies, students in this important subject study subjects in the natural and social sciences, humanities, business, and law.


With the attention now being paid to ecological concerns, there is a growing demand for trained professionals to monitor movements to improve the quality of the environment and guide public efforts on the local, regional and national fronts.

Graduates enter careers that focus on the financial and social aspects of green and business practices. Careers are in a wide range of areas including advocacy and policy groups, and smaller commercial and nonprofit entities, and as consultants for government agencies, public and private companies, and large corporations. People dedicate their careers to ensuring that government policies and regulations are strictly enforced.

Degrees in green law

What is?

Due to the increase in federal policies and regulations (there are now over 15 federal environmental laws) that have been enacted to protect the environment from pollution and resource misuse issues, Green Law is a growing field. The field includes policy enforcement and enforcement, corporate responsibility oversight, waste treatment and sanitation industry regulation, testing and improvement of water and air quality, and manufacturing of items for the home, to name a few.

Course of Study and Curriculum

Green Law students study an interdisciplinary law and science curriculum, often including courses in economics, ethics, and urban and regional planning.

Focus Areas at Pace Law School:

– Control and application of pollution

– International and comparative environmental law

– Land use

– Energy

– Climate change

Careers offered:

– Compliance and enforcement

– Animal law

– Protection of cultural resources

– Conservation law

– Energy and natural resources

– Historic preservation

– Oceanic and Coastal Law


The growing awareness and concern for ecological issues has resulted in an evolving field of green law. Because of this, the demand for lawyers in the field is expected to increase in the coming years.

Attorneys are now found in top law firms across the country, in federal, state, and local environmental agencies, and on the staff of many non-profit green organizations (Greenpeace). These attorneys represent advocacy and public interest groups (EPAs) in compliance with federal policies.

Degrees in Environmental Engineering

What is?

This type of engineering involves the application of scientific and engineering practices to prevent environmental damage and correct existing problems. People in this field are involved in the design, construction and maintenance of structures and methods aimed at protecting the environment and sustainability. This involves air and water quality control, waste management, alternative energy research and development, pollution research, and many other environmentally-based practices.

Course of Study and Curriculum

The programs incorporate the natural, social and physical sciences to analyze, correct and improve the interactions between society, technology and the environment. While many schools are developing environmental engineering programs, most are still in the major engineering departments of US universities.

A bachelor’s degree is required for most engineering positions, however engineers often continue their education with graduate degrees and certificate programs to stay current on industry changes and achieve advanced positions.

Areas of study at the University of Connecticut:

– Water supply and resources

– Systems modeling

– Green chemistry

– Waste management (solid, sewage, hazardous waste)

– Atmospheric systems and air pollution control

– Environmental and occupational health

– Hydrology of land resources


As the shift to alternative fuels and energy sources increases and more corporate regulations and green policies are enacted, personnel are needed to build, operate and maintain technologies and machinery in accordance with the regulations. Over the next decade, the need for recent graduates in the field and transitional engineers will increase.

Ecological engineers work in the fields of wastewater treatment, hazardous materials and waste control, and air and water quality control.

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