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Geographical's pick of the best Environmental Science degree courses

Geographical's pick of the best Environmental Science degree courses
19 Nov
Environmental science is a broad subject area, incorporating aspects of both physical geography and human geography. Here's our pick of some of the best courses in a rapidly growing subject choice

What is Environmental Science?

Environmental science is an interdisciplinary subject, and will draw on different fields to develop your understanding of the processes that shape our earth and environment. Core elements involve studying atmospheric sciences, ecology, environmental chemistry and geosciences. It pulls together elements of physical geography and human geography (which we've also put together degree recommendations for).

What specialisms can I choose with Environmental Science?

There are many sub-disciplines in Environmental Science. Atmospheric sciences will build your understanding of the chemistry and physics of our atmosphere and the impact changes can have on ecosystems around the world. Meteorology focuses on how our atmosphere can cause changes in weather conditions, and in turn shape ecosystems and the environment. Ecology focuses on the interactions between organisms and the environment, connecting social sciences and biology. Environmental chemistry centres around the impact humans have on the environment and how contamination happens; its consequences and prevention approaches. Lastly, geoscience is a broad field that focuses on the natural processes that have shaped the physical earth.

How is Environmental Science studied?

Environmental Science pulls together many different academic approaches to studying the environment. Remote sensing and Geographic Information Science will be a key feature, as will field work and laboratory work.

Environmental Science develops a wide range of transferable skills that are useful in the job market. Many universities register a high employment rate for environmental science – a field that is rapidly growing.

Geographical's pick of the courses

The courses below are listed in order of entry requirements, highest to lowest:

Environment and Development BSc (3 years) – London School of Economics

The facts:

  • 80 per cent of students were satisfied with the quality of the Environment and Development BSc course at LSE (National Student Survey)

  • 91 per cent of students go on to work and study (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

  • 75 per cent of students find their current work meaningful (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

The breakdown:

Unlike many environmental courses, LSE focus on the subject of environment and sustainable development from a social sciences perspective, rather than a natural science perspective. You will explore the nature, drivers and politics of sustainable and unsustainable development, building critical understanding of environmental change and the relation with human wellbeing and development.

In your first year, you will take two courses which deal with the natural environment and with global issues relating to environmental change and sustainable development, and a third course on contemporary geographical issues. You can then choose an additional course from within the department, or an approved option from another subject.

In your second year, you take an international development course, an environment course and an environmental economics course. You will also take another course from an approved list of geography and environment and outside options.

In your third year you can choose a broad range of geography and environmental options. Like other environmental science courses you’ll completea dissertation on a subject of your choice.

The place:

The environmental science course is based at LSE’s central London campus. Many of the streets around campus are pedestrianised to give a localised community feel. The broader city is vibrant, needless to say. It’s also an academic city, with more than 400,000 university students.


A Level: AAB

Open days: For more information on open days click here

Environmental Science BSc (3 years) – Exeter University

The facts:

  • 79 per cent of students were satisfied with the quality of the Environmental Science BSc course at Exeter University (National Students Survey)

  • Average earnings of £24,000 15 months after graduating (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

  • 80 per cent of graduates go on to work and or study within 15 months (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

  • 76 go on to highly skilled work 15 months after the course (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

  • Exeter ranks 7th in the UK for Geography and Environmental Science (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide)

The breakdown:

Exeter’s Environmental Science BSc degree will give you the skills you need to address the world’s greatest challenges in climate change, such as biodiversity, sustainability and environmental decision-making.

Your first year will provide you with scientific grounding in themes of integrated environmental science. Core modules in subjects from earth systems, to environmental data will prepare you for research. Optional modules include genetics, ecology and conservation. On the more geographical side, there’s the ‘Geography of Cornwall’ course, or ‘Society, Environment and Energy’.

Year two brings more flexibility to explore your interests. Core modules focus on analytical and research skills in environmental science, while optional modules allow you to hone in on the subjects that you are interested in.

There’s an option to do a placement year, studying abroad or a professional placement. This can be a vital time to broaden your horizons and build key employability skills.

In your final year, you will gain specialist training in the skills necessary to acquire jobs in the environmental sector. You will have an opportunity to specialise in your preferred subjects through an independent research dissertation and a choice of optional modules. Another highlight is the residential field course, where you will be immersed in a new environment and taught how to understand its environmental and cultural challenges from multiple geographical perspectives.

The place:

Exeter’s Environmental Science course is based at the Penryn campus in Falmouth, Cornwall. Four beaches sit on your doorstep, with surfing, paddleboarding and sailing hotspots close by. Few universities in the UK offer as much natural space for you to clear your head and relax.


A Level: AAB–ABB

Open days: For more information on open days click here

If you're more into the physical geography side of things, click here to see our selection of courses. If human geography is your thing, we've got a selection of courses here.

Environmental Sciences MSci (4 years) – University of East Anglia

The facts:

  • University of East Anglia (UEA) was awarded Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 2017–21

  • 90 per cent of students were satisfied with the teaching quality of the Environmental Sciences MSci course at UEA (National Student Survey)

  • £23,000 average earnings 15 months after the course for Environmental Science MSci graduates (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

  • 95 per cent of students graduating the course go on to work and or study within 15 months (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

The breakdown:

In year one you’ll be taught a range of compulsory modules that will set the groundwork for your degree. Research and field skills; sustainability, society and biodiversity; global environmental challenges; and understanding the dynamic planet all form part of the first year. You’ll also be able to choose two optional modules in mathematics and quantitation, as well as atmosphere and oceans.

From year two you can really tailor your choices in one of the most flexible environmental science courses out there. Optional modules are broad ranging, from subjects like field ecology, applied geophysics to weather applications – there’s lots to choose from.

In year three you’ll undertake your independent research project using the skills you’ve picked up. There’s many further options for optional modules, as well as a Spain field trip in either geosciences or sustainable development. In year four, you’ll use the skills from your independent research project for an expanded research training project, which you will use to demonstrate your preparedness for a career in environmental science.

The place:

University of East Anglia has acres of parkland, distinctive architecture and a vibrant, welcoming culture. For sports fans, there’s a £30 million Sportspark, a 24/7 library, an arts and music scene, and plenty of green space on campus. Nearby Norwich is rich in culture, history and heritage, while the Norfolk Broads have some beautiful beaches to visit.


A Level: AAB–ABB

Open days: For more information on open days click here

Environmental Science BSc (3 years) – University of Hull

The facts:

  • University of Hull ranked in the top three UK universities for research impact (REF 2014)

  • 93 per cent of students were satisfied with the quality of the Environmental Science BSc course at University of Hull (National Student Survey)

  • Average earnings of £20,000 15 months after the course (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

  • 88 per cent go on to work and or study within 15 months after the course (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

  • 63 per cent are in highly skilled work 15 months after the course (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

The breakdown:

Your first year will give you a complete overview of Environmental Science subjects. You’ll study ‘Diversity of Life’, ‘Exploring the Worlds Around Us’, ‘Practical Ecology’, ‘Interpreting Environments’, with options to undergo scuba diving training as part of your degree.

Second year has compulsory modules in Geographic Information Systems and key aspects of ecology and life in the Anthropocene. You’ll be able to select from a diverse range of optional courses to suit your interests in environmental science, ranging from geomorphology, to environmental change, sustainable futures and more.

An environmental science dissertation comes in your final year. You’ll also study environmental impact assessments and monitoring approaches, with a range of optional modules in environmental science. You have the option to take field trips to Malaysia and Brazil, to do a teaching or environmental consultancy project.

The place:

Hull is part of the East Riding of Yorkshire, meaning the bustling city is a stone’s throw from the Yorkshire Dales. A marina and fruit market have become the cultural heart of a city rich and varied in heritage. Hull is voted the UK’s second friendliest city – the perfect backdrop to make new friends and launch your career.

Open days: Next virtual open days will take place on 27 and 28 November. Click here for more information on open days.


A Level: BBB

Environmental Science BSc (3 years) – Aberystwyth University

The facts: 

  • 92 per cent student satisfaction from students at the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University (National Students Survey)

  • Top 10 in the UK for Geography and Environmental Science subjects (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019)

  • 97 per cent of Environmental Science BSc graduates were in work or further study within 6 months (HESA)

The breakdown:

The Environmental Science course at Aberystwyth gives you a detailed insight into geography, biology and the environment. You’ll develop a deeper understanding of environmental challenges, including climate change and biodiversity loss.

Compulsory modules in year one place a focus on fieldwork and research skills, as well as foundational knowledge of earth systems, biogeography, and environmental pressures. Optional modules range from ecology to microbial diversity. In year two, a greater range of optional modules are available; from geohazards, the frozen planet, to freshwater biology, to wildlife management.

In year three you’ll conduct your dissertation on a subject of your choice. You can choose to compliment your dissertation subject choice with optional modules, or diversify your pathway into environmental science.

The place:

Aberyswyth University is set on the coast of Cardigan Bay, surrounded by beautiful marine, moorland and mountain environments. Perfectly suited then, for one of the UK’s best geography and earth science departments.


A Level: BBB­–CCC

Open day: An online open day will run on Wednesday 25th November. Further information can be found here.

Find more great advice for aspiring geography students in our full 2020 guide:  Study Geography

Check out our complete University Directory including every UK university offering geography as a degree, full list of available courses, UCAS requirements and university rankings.

Environmental Science BSc (3 years) – University of Plymouth

The facts:

  • 98 per cent of students were satisfied with the teaching quality of the Environmental Science BSc at University of Plymouth (National Students Survey)

  • £20,000 average earnings 15 months after completing the course (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

  • 80 per cent of graduates enter employment or study within 15 months (Grauet Outcomes Survey)

The breakdown:

The Environmental Science BSc course at Plymouth is designed to build your understanding of climate change, biodiversity, conservation and sustainability in marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

In your first year you’ll establish the foundations across a range of scientific, legal and economic subject areas. Field and laboratory work are key, and a residential field course allows you to learn and exercise your research and team skills.

Year two covers core themes including economics and resources, sustainable development, environmental law and policy. A field trip to Malaysia, Malta or Cornwall will develop your research skills. You’ll also be able to select modules, allowing you to study: biodiversity and conservation; climate change; marine conservation; environmental management and more.

There is an optional placement year for your to gain workplace experience from research institutes. Previous placements include the Marine Biological Association (marine ecology), Pell Frischmann (environmental consultancy), the National Trust and Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.

In the final year, you will develop an understanding of concepts and practice of environmental impact assessment. You’ll learn how to debate and evaluate contemporary environmental issues, and your research project will see you working alongside world-leading scientists in state-of-the-art facilities. A choice of modules across four pathways allows you to pursue interests within the areas of climate change, environmental management and sustainability, biodiversity and conservation, and marine conservation.

The place:

Plymouth is a rich setting for study, work, play and discovery. The location is hard to beat for outstanding natural beauty. A waterfront city on the South Devon coastline boasts pristine seas, beaches and walking, giving you the freedom to explore the UK’s beautiful coast.


A Level: BBC

Environmental Science BSc (3 years) – University of Greenwich

The facts:

  • £21,000 average earnings 3 years after the environmental sciences course at University of Greenwich (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

  • £28,500 average earnings 5 years after the environmental sciences course (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

  • 95 per cent of students are in full time work 6 months after finishing the Environmental Science BSc course (UNISTATS)

The breakdown:

You’ll study foundational subjects in environmental science in your first year. These include Basic Chemistry for Life Science, Earth’s Dynamic Systems, Science & the Environment, as well as field and professional skills.

Your second year will place higher focus on environmental management and monitoring, sustainability and environmental change, as well as introducing you to the world of Geographic Information Systems. Optional modules will allow you to choose your path: you can study Environmental Archaeology, Meteorology, Biogeography or even Forensic Geoscience.

In year three you’ll complete a dissertation on a researched subject of your choosing; you’ll develop your skills in remote sensing and environmental monitoring; and you’ll build your personal professional skills for a career in environmental science. More optional modules will allow you to specialise in an environmental field of your choosing.

The place:

Greenwich’s Natural Resource Institute is a specialist research, development and education organisation of the University of Greenwich that focuses on food, agriculture, environment and sustainable livelihoods. Environmental Science at Greenwich is taught on the Kent campus, where there's plenty of scenic and coastal views along the River Medway. With London a short train rise away, there’s lots to keep you entertained.


A Level: BCC

Open days: For more information on open days click here

Environmental Science BSc (4 years) – Kingston University

The facts:

  • 92 per cent of students were satisfied with the quality of the Environmental Science BSc course at Kingston University (National Student Survey)

  • £23,000 average graduate earnings 15 months after the course (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

  • 95 per cent of graduates go on to work and or study within 15 months after the course (Graduate Outcomes Survey)

The breakdown:

Year one introduces key environmental science concepts and methods of scientific investigation. Compulsory modules will give you fundamental fieldwork and laboratory skills you need. You’ll cover physical geography and environmental hazards, digital earth and spatial analysis, understanding the environment, as well as research and fieldwork methods.

Year two builds knowledge of environmental systems, and develops your analytical science skills through the collection, analysis and interpretation of environmental data. Core modules include: cartography, remote sensing and spatial analysis; land,water and the environment; ecology and conservation; and design and management of environmental projects. After year two, you have the option for a sandwich year where you can go on work placement of international exchange.

Your final year will build on your environmental science skills, allowing you to apply knowledge to investigate contemporary environmental science challenges. An independent research project will reflect your personal environmental interests, helping you develop employability skills. You can also choose to work in South Africa as part of your final year.

The place:

Kingston upon Thames offers the bustle of city life without the hustle. It’s right on the doorstop of the capital. The university’s four campuses are found in around the town centre. The lively student-friendly location is right on the Thames, neighbouring historic Hampton Court Palace and two royal parks.

Entry: CCC

Open day: For more information on open days click here

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