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Degree Overview: Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Environmental Protection and Conservation

Majors Overview April 2, 2015

Get information about bachelor’s degree programs in environmental protection and conservation and their educational requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education and certification choices.

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Programs in Environmental Protection and Conservation

Problems related to land degradation, environmental policy, and loss of biodiversity arise from the interaction between humans and environmental systems, and the resolution of these problems is the focus of environmental protection and conservation.

While coursework covering similar topic areas varies by school and eventually results in a B.S. degree, schools may offer the program under different names. For instance, schools offer B.S. in Agriculture in Environmental Protection, B.S. in Natural Resources, B.S. in Environmental Conservation Studies, and B.S. in Environmental Health Science and Protection.

All the programs in these disciplines are devised to arm students with a strong grasp of the functions, properties, and interrelations between humans and ecological systems, apart from policies and methods related to management of resources, assessment of risk, and pursuit of environmentally sustainable practices.

Students enrolled in many programs are also required to select an area of specialization or emphasis, from a broad array of subject areas. These include international environmental policy, wilderness fire management, urban forestry and arboriculture, ecohydrology and watershed science, fishery management and conservation, rangeland ecology and management, conservation biology, landscape analysis and assessment, soil and water conservation, and pest management.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma. Additionally, standardized test scores may have to be submitted by incoming students. Before they begin core coursework, students may need to complete a certain number of high school-level science courses; prospective students may remedy deficiencies through college coursework or exceptional SAT or ACT scores.


Courses in environmental protection and conservation program comprise of a common foundational curriculum completed across specializations in the field covering subject areas such as ecology, chemistry, biology, and mathematics, apart from any general education courses the school may require.

Students enrolled in most programs are also required to choose a concentration to gain knowledge they can apply to a specific career objective. Consequently, higher-level courses are taken in various subject areas, including the following:

•Sustainable living
•Geographic information skills
•Risk assessment and management
•Environmental health and safety regulations
•Environmental policy and law
•Freshwater resources

Additionally, an internship, thesis, final project, or some combination of the three may mark the culmination of many programs, aimed at developing professional skills that find usage in the workplace.

Career Choices

Those armed with a B.S. degree can seek entry-level careers in many environmental fields (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), with various employers, such as not-for-profit organizations, consulting firms, private businesses, and government agencies. Moderate on-the-job training may be a requirement for some positions. Graduates may seek jobs in fields such as:

•Wildlife and conservation biology
•Watershed, resource, or waste management
•Policy-making, law, administration, and regulation
•Parks and recreation management
•Education, public health, and communications

Private landowners, social advocacy organizations, and governments are common employers of conservation scientists.

Job and Wage Outlook

In May 2012, conservation scientists brought in an average annual wage of $59,060 (BLS). In February 2014, parks and recreation directors earned an average annual wage of $51,573.

Continuing Education and Certification Choices

Those who complete bachelor’s degree programs in environmental protection fields can seek graduate-level degrees in numerous disciplines, including resource management, education, conservation biology, and environmental science and law, among others. For instance, schools offer master’s degrees in recreation management, resource economics, and natural resources; they also offer doctoral programs in forestry, earth system science, and natural resources.

Specialized knowledge can be gained by graduates through enrollment in certificate programs in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) sciences and technologies or in wildlife management. After completion of programs with a primary focus on environmental issues related to soil and agriculture, interested individuals may seek certification through the USDA in soil conservation or soil science. Students at some schools can also gain federal qualification as a wildlife biologist or certification by the Wildlife Society after they complete the program with a focus on wildlife ecology.

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