Bachelor of Arts

Environmental Studies

On this page: Major Description | Requirements | Learning Objectives

The Environmental Studies Major

The Environmental Studies major is designed for students who want to act critically and creatively in response to the environmental challenges facing the world today. 

Environmental Studies teaches students to integrate environmental knowledge across the natural and social sciences, as well as the arts and humanities. Hands-on learning, field experiences, and problem-based instruction focus on finding answers to complex problems that include scientific, social, political, cultural, and ethical dimensions. 

Career Focus

Graduating Environmental Studies students develop careers in management, planning, advocacy, communications, and policy-making across a wide array of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. They also pursue disciplinary and interdisciplinary graduate education in environmental fields that range across the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences. Here is more information about career possibilities or pursuing graduate school.

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Environmental Studies Major Requirements

Recommended Preparation

Interested in exploring this major, but not ready to commit? Consider taking one of the below courses! Any of these selections will help familiarize you with the academic program and prepare you for advanced coursework in the major.

  • BEARTH 154 Introduction to Oceanography
  • BIS 240 Introduction to Sustainable Practices               
  • BIS 243 Introduction to Environmental Issues            
  • BIS 244 Wetlands Discovery     
  • BIS 245 Environment and Humanities       
  • BIS 246 Introduction to Sustainability        
  • BIS 252 Politics of Science    


  • One introductory-level course in environmental studies (5 credits) :
    • BEARTH 154 Introduction to Oceanography
    • ​BIS 240 Introduction to Sustainable Practices 
    • BIS 242 Environmental Geography 
    • BIS 243 Introduction to Environmental Issues 
    • BIS 246 Introduction to Sustainability 
  • Prerequisites can also be completed with an equivalent course that transfers to the UW as one of the following:
    • ESRM 100 Introduction to Environmental Science
    • ESRM 101 Forests and Society
    • ESRM 150 Wildlife in the Modern World
    • ENVIR 100 Introduction to Environmental Studies
    • ENVIR 239 Sustainability: Personal Choices, Broad Impacts
    • OCEAN 102 The Changing Oceans
    • FISH 230 Economics of Fisheries and Oceans
    • GEOG 205 Our Global Environment: Physical and Human Dimensions
    • GEOG 270 Geographies of International Development and Environmental Change
    • GEOG 272 Geographies of Environmental Justice 

Degree Requirements

Environmental Studies Core Requirements (ENV STUDIES:CORE)

  • BIS 300 Interdisciplinary Inquiry* - min. 2.0 grade (5 credits)
  • BIS 499 Portfolio Capstone - min. 2.5 grade (5 credits)
  • One core course in Philosophical Foundations (5 credits) **
    • BIS 245 Environment and Humanities 
    • BIS 345 American Environmental Thought
    • BIS 356 Ethics and the Environment.
  • One core course in Political Economy/Environmental Justice (5 credits)**
    • BIS 307 Environmental Justice
    • BISGST 324 International Political Economy 
    • BIS 304 Political Economy and the Environment
  • One core course in Ecology or Earth Systems (5 credits)**

    • BEARTH 201 Mapping the Earth System,
    • BEARTH 202 Modeling Global Systems
    • BIS 241 Nature and the Northwest,
    • BIS 390 Ecology and the Environment or
    • BES 312 Ecology

Distribution Requirements

40 credits from the below options

TOTAL = 70 Credits

Note: Courses in this major are offered primarily during daytime hours.

*Should be taken in the first quarter of IAS enrollment.

**The course list will be maintained by School of IAS.

School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences (IAS) Requirements & Policies

Interdisciplinary Practice & Reflection (IPR)

The IPR requirement can be completed through elective credits or it can overlap with major coursework.

Areas of Knowledge

25 credits must be completed in each Area of Knowledge. The Areas of Knowledge are: Visual, Literary and Performing Arts (VLPA), Individuals and Societies (I&S), and Natural World (NW).

Multiply-designated courses may not be double-counted as fulfilling two Areas of Knowledge. Courses may apply to both an Area of Knowledge requirement and an Environmental Studies major requirement.

Upper Division Credit Policy

Of the credits applying to Environmental Studies major requirements, a minimum of 48 must be completed at the Upper Division (300-400) level.

Matriculated status

Courses taken to satisfy Environmental Studies major requirements must be completed in matriculated status.

Admitted prior to Autumn Quarter, 2020?

Students admitted to the Environmental Studies major prior to Autumn 2020 may be eligible to complete a retired set of major requirements. For more information, please check with your major advisor.

In addition to the general admission requirements, students must have completed the prerequisites to be considered for admission to Environmental Studies.

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Environmental Studies Learning Objectives

The Environmental Studies curriculum advances the five core IAS learning objectives. Students taking courses and/or majoring in Environmental Studies:

  1. Develop a broad and interdisciplinary understanding of Earth’s natural and cultural systems at both bioregional and global scales. 

  2. Engage multiple ways of knowing to develop interdisciplinary skills and approaches to environmental practice, and strengthen collective and individual leadershiptoward an environmental career.

  3. Analyze and synthesize diverse forms of knowledge to bring a holistic understanding to bear on issues of environmental policy, management, and other social and cultural forms of human-environment interactions.

  4. Explore how dominant narratives have shaped how environmental efforts are approached today, and how integration of different ways of knowing and doing can reconstruct environmental goals to be responsive to environmental justice, environmental integrity, and the rights of all species. 

  5. Learn to collaborate in creatively addressing complex real-world environmental problems through cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary approaches.

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