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. 

The major's two pathways; Sustainability & Society (S&S) and Conservation Science & Management (CSM) share a commitment to educating future practitioners who can address those challenges in their professional careers and personal lives.

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.

Back to top

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.

  • 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    


  • Two introductory lab courses in Biology, Chemistry OR Earth System Science (may be from two different areas)
  • One introductory Statistics course (BIS 232, BIS 315 or equivalent). Students can be admitted to the major without having met this requirement if they enroll in BIS 315 during their junior year.

Degree Requirements

Environmental Studies Core Requirements (ENV STUDIES:CORE)

33 credits from the below options
  • BIS 300 Interdisciplinary Inquiry* (5 credits)
  • BES 301 Science Methods & Practice OR BIS 312 Approaches to Social Research (5 credits)
  • BIS 243 Introduction to Environmental Issues (5 credits)
  • BES 312 Ecology OR BIS 390 Ecology and the Environment (5 credits)
  • BIS 200 (previously BCUSP 200), BIS 304 Introduction to Political Economy & the Environment, BIS 320 Comparative Political Economies,  BISGST 324BIS 394 Comparative Economic Development, or an equivalent economics course (Political Economy or Environmental Economics) (5 credits)
  • BIS 356 Ethics and the Environment OR BIS 345 American Environmental Thought (5 credits)
  • BIS 499  Portfolio Capstone - min. 2.5 grade (3 credits)


Pathway Requirements

Choose either (SUST) or (CSM)


Sustainability & Society (ENV STUDIES:SUST)

10 credits from the below options
  • BIS 240 Introduction to Sustainable Practices (5 credits)
  • BIS 359 Principles & Controversies of Sustainability (5 credits)
  • BIS 392 Water & Sustainability (5 credits)
  • BIS 396 Topics in Sustainability (5 credits)
  • BIS 459 Conservation & Sustainable Development (5 credits)
  • BIS 468 Human Rights and Sustainable Development (5 credits)
  • BIS 483 Community Organizing (5 credits)

Conservation Science & Management (CSM:CORE)

10 credits from the below options
  • BIS 342  Geographic Information Systems (5 credits)
  • BES 485 Conservation Biology (5 credits)

Distribution Requirements

20 credits from the below options

TOTAL = 63 Credits

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

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, 2016?

Students admitted to the Environmental Studies major prior to Autumn 2016 may be eligible to complete an older set of major requirements. For more information, please check Requirement Changes Autumn 2016 page.

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

Back to top

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 systems and the ways in which humans interact with those systems, at both global and bioregional scales. 
  2. Acquire a depth of understanding of one of two major knowledge areas of environmental studies – sustainability or conservation – in their theoretical and applied dimensions.
  3. Analyze and synthesize diverse forms of knowledge, including scientific and quantitative, bringing a holistic understanding to bear on issues of environmental policy, management, and other social and cultural forms of human-environment interactions.
  4. Understand and create sophisticated arguments supported by quantitative and qualitative evidence.
  5. Learn specific techniques and practices needed to effectively investigate environmental issues and contribute to solutions. 
  6. Learn to work effectively with others, including those from other fields of knowledge, to creatively address complex real-world environmental problems in a collaborative fashion.
  7. Develop the ability to communicate effectively both to peers within the field of environmental studies and to audiences outside the field.

Back to top