Environmental Science Major

Sustainable land management, hydrologic resources, and water quality are critical for human populations globally. Learning to manage, use and sustain natural resources through sound ecological and economic principles is the focus of the environmental science program. If you are interested in understanding ecosystems, reducing environmental pollution, educating the general public about these topics, or advising government leaders on how to shape environmental policy, then consider an interdisciplinary degree in environmental science.

Environmental Science

Career Opportunities

A Bachelor of Science degree in Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences from the School of Natural Resources (SNR) at the University of Missouri will provide you with the skills you’ll need to succeed in a wide variety of environmental science careers.

You can individualize your degree program by choosing between three tracks: Hydrology, Water Quality, and Land Management. The Land Management track focuses on terrestrial environments; the Water Quality track focuses on the chemical and biological characteristics of water; the Hydrology track focuses on the movement, distribution and management of water. The Environmental Science curriculum was developed in partnership with private firms and government agencies to meet their future personnel needs in environmental management.

Students in any of the three tracks take a mix of natural and applied science classes, such as ecology, soil science, forestry, atmospheric science, hydrology, and fisheries and wildlife. Other required classes provide students with technical and outreach skills, such as geographical information systems (GIS), knowledge of technologies and methods for remediation of degraded environments, and environmental monitoring techniques and instrumentation.

Graduates with broad technical knowledge and experience in environmental issues are in demand. Environmental professionals have a wide range of career opportunities, including working in environmental management and monitoring, land-use planning and assessment, teaching, and conducting research for private and government institutions. Typical positions include environmental specialist, hydrologist, water quality specialist, and environmental educator.

State and federal government agencies that employ environmental professionals include the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the U.S. Department of Defense. Opportunities in private groups include working for environmental consulting firms, industry and environmental advocacy groups.

Environmental Science Track Options

Hydrology

The Hydrology track focuses on the movement, distribution and management of water in all its phases (gas, liquid, solid) from the atmosphere to surface and groundwater. Knowledge of hydrology is one of the key components in decision making processes where water is involved because water is central to many planning problems concerned with natural and altered environments. There is often a need for interdisciplinary analysis and planning that brings together hydrologists, plant ecologists, foresters, soil scientists, and/or geomorphologists and specialists in urban design. Therefore, students can navigate the Hydrology track in Environmental Science meeting Federal Requirements for professional hydrologist positions while simultaneously gaining an appreciation for interdisciplinary hydrology that is often necessary to solve contemporary water resource problems.

Water Quality

The Water Quality track focuses on the chemical and biological indicators of water quality, water quality modeling, hydrology, hydrologic transport of water contaminants, and land management practices that impact surface water and groundwater quality. Preserving and improving water quality is essential for maintaining human health and the health of aquatic ecosystems. Thus, water quality specialists require interdisciplinary training to understand multiple factors influencing water quality, methods used to identify changes in water quality, and the ability to work with hydrologists, aquatic ecologists, land managers, engineers, and health professionals to address water quality issues.

Land Management

The Land Management track focuses on understanding biological, chemical, and physical properties and processes of soil landscapes, which culminate into properly managing land resources. Proper land management is essential for sustaining soil resources, maintaining and enhancing biodiversity, protecting water quality, remediating polluted sites, disposing of wastes, and providing recreational opportunities. Therefore, land managers must have interdisciplinary training in soil science, conservation biology, forestry, agriculture, hydrology, and environmental chemistry, and be able to work with professionals in these fields to solve 21st Century challenges.

Advising/Mentoring

Your college career will be full of choices. You must decide which classes to take, which scholarships to apply for and which internships to accept. But you won’t have to make those decisions alone.

You will be assigned a full-time faculty member in the Environmental Science emphasis area who will serve as your academic advisor and mentor, providing you with guidance and advice to develop a course of study that addresses your career interests. Your advisor will get to know you and your career ambitions and will help you tailor your college experience accordingly.

This personalized approach to student advising is just one reason that SNR is consistently a leader in student retention and graduation rates on the MU campus.

Research/Internship Opportunities

As an environmental science student, opportunities to gain real-world experience through research and internships are almost limitless. You can work side-by-side in the field or lab with environmental science faculty and obtain hands-on experience with research in environmental monitoring, hydrology, water quality analysis or land management. Opportunities exist for on-campus internships and part-time employment as technicians, which provide valuable experience to prepare students for a professional career in environmental science.

Students are required to complete a three credit hour practical internship in environmental science. Among the state and federal agencies that recruit environmental science interns are the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Private groups, such as environmental consulting firms, a diverse selection of industries and environmental advocacy groups, may also provide internship opportunities.

Get Involved on Campus

Want to have fun and develop your leadership skills and professional contacts at the same time? Then join one or more of the College’s student clubs and organizations. There are more than 30 to choose from, and each gives you the opportunity to apply what you’re learning in the classroom while making lifelong friends.

There are numerous student organizations in the School of Natural Resources, including: the Environmental Science Club, Sustain Mizzou, the Student Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, the Meteorology Club, the Forestry Club, the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Society, The Wildlife Society, and the Student Parks, Recreation and Tourism Association. Club meetings include scientific presentations as well as visits describing employment opportunities in natural resources and environmental sectors.

International Opportunities

See the world from a fresh, new perspective while adding an invaluable international dimension to your environmental science program. The College’s Study Abroad office offers a variety of study abroad programs around the globe, providing you the opportunity to explore some of the most pressing international issues affecting your career field.

Scholarships/Financial Assistance

Your college education will be one of the most important financial investments you ever make. Scholarships are one way to pay for college, and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) offers one of the strongest scholarship programs at MU.

Each year, the College awards over $1 million in scholarships, more than half of which are awarded to incoming freshmen. CAFNR scholarships also are available to transfer and continuing students and many departments have scholarships specifically for their students. An in-house student loan program available only to the College’s students provides additional financial support.

The Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences Department awards three undergraduate scholarships based on academic achievement: the Charles Edmund Marshall Scholarship, the George E. Smith Scholarship and the Byron A. Barnes Scholarship.

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