The realities of climate change become more apparent every year, and many young people are passionate about doing their part to slow or reverse its effects. The work done in the next few decades can have a massive impact on the health of our planet, so if you’re interested in environmental science or sustainability, you have a bright future ahead of you. There are so many college degrees that can contribute to the fight against climate change, and you can find one that best matches your talents and interests. Here are 10 of the best majors for stopping climate change:
1. Environmental Engineering
Environmental engineering is one of the most important fields for protecting the environment and stopping climate change. This degree equips you to find practical, actionable, and hands-on solutions to environmental issues, and it can open the doors for a wide variety of well-paying jobs.
During a typical bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering, you’ll take a number of STEM classes. Most schools require students to take calculus, physics, chemistry, and a variety of courses directly related to environmental and civil engineering. Project planning is another important component of the environmental engineering field, so most schools require at least one or two project planning courses. As you progress through the program, the courses will become more specific to the tasks and projects that environmental engineers handle day-to-day.
Environmental engineering is a broad field. Because there are so many different facets to the environment that are within human control, you’ll learn about a wide variety of topics to prepare you to work in different sectors. For example, you might learn about air quality control, waste management, hydraulics, thermodynamics, and many other subjects.
Career Opportunities in Environmental Engineering
A degree in environmental engineering can lead you to a number of jobs related to climate change. Many environmental engineers have careers that allow them to create sustainable solutions to environmental problems and to improve services like recycling, public health, and waste disposal.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 27 percent of environmental engineers work in the engineering services sector. Around 26 percent work in local, state, or federal government. If you’re passionate about climate change, a government job may be the best way to promote sustainability in specific and measurable ways, especially at the local level.
Many environmental engineers eventually specialize in a certain topic. For example, if you’re especially concerned about the effects of pollution on the environment, you could look for a position as an air quality specialist.
2. Sustainable Agriculture
Although agriculture is necessary for our survival as a species, it also is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. The current agricultural system has a number of flaws, but a degree in sustainable agriculture gives you valuable insight into how to correct these problems. Agriculture is a massive industry, so a sustainable agriculture major has many practical applications and can do a great deal to combat climate change.
Different colleges may offer sustainable agriculture degrees under different titles. However, many schools offer programs related to agriculture and environmentalism. The BLS reports that every state has at least one college with an agricultural science degree. Additionally, the USDA offers a directory of colleges with sustainable agriculture programs. Typical courses in these degrees include biology, chemistry, statistics, and environmental economics, but you’ll also take classes specific to sustainable agriculture.
Some programs focus more on food sciences, and others focus more on animal agriculture. If you’re interested in a career related to climate change, a degree program with a strong emphasis on animal agriculture may be more helpful for your goals. Some students go on to pursue a master’s degree in agriculture or another environmental topic, and some even earn a Ph.D in animal science. However, an advanced degree is not necessary for many jobs related to sustainability.
Career Opportunities in Sustainable Agriculture
The day-to-day responsibilities of someone who works in sustainable agriculture vary depending on the work environment. Many professionals are heavily involved in research, so they study current agricultural systems and conduct experiments to improve the sustainability of crops and animals. Some take more of a supervisory role, so they visit facilities to ensure that they’re using correct practices. Others are involved in the packaging and transportation of food, which is another area that contributes to climate change.
3. Marine Biology
Ocean life has a significant impact on the overall environment and climate. In the last few decades, there have been some serious concerns for marine life, and these issues could lead to drastic environmental problems. Marine biologists specialize in life in the ocean, so they’re equipped to find solutions for protecting and sustaining the ocean’s complex ecosystem.
The level of degree you need to become a marine biologist depends on the type of career you’d like to pursue. A bachelor’s degree in marine biology involves a variety of science courses. Most importantly, you’ll study biology, chemistry, statistics, and research methods. Many schools allow marine biology majors to select their courses from a wide array of options, so you can focus on your specialized interests while in school.
Many marine biologists have a master’s degree or a PhD in the subject. The course content of an advanced degree is highly dependent on the school you choose, but many are focused mainly on research. If you’re interested in pursuing an advanced degree in marine biology, you have plenty of options for your undergraduate degree. You could get a bachelor’s degree in marine biology, or you could major in a related topic, such as biology, zoology, or ecology.
Career Opportunities in Marine Biology
One of the most common places for marine biologists to work is a research lab. Research is an especially valuable field to enter if you’re interested in fighting climate change. You could research the ways that ocean life is currently affected by environmental issues, and you can search for ways to reverse or prevent environmental damage.
Many marine biologists have jobs in state or federal government. The work you would do with a government job is similar to what you’d do if you worked in a private lab. Government jobs tend to pay well and offer good benefits, especially if you have an advanced degree.
4. Wildlife Management
The way that certain species of animals interact with each other and with the environment can have a major impact on the overall ecosystem. Climate change causes some species to multiply greatly while others struggle to survive. A degree in wildlife management teaches you how to analyze current animal populations and find solutions that will help species increase their numbers.
You can pursue a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in wildlife management, but a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for many jobs in the field. Most programs focus heavily on ecology and biology, but you can expect to take a number of other animal science courses, too. If you’re particularly interested in learning about or working with animals, this major is a great option. Many courses revolve around animal physiology and animal behavior.
Career Opportunities in Wildlife Management
Wildlife management is a great career option if you’re searching for a job that involves hands-on work. While some other career paths are heavy on lab research, many people in the wildlife management sphere spend much of their time out in the field.
This is one of the most popular college majors for prospective game wardens and park rangers. These careers may not seem directly related to climate change, but they provide a direct opportunity for you to do your part to protect the environment. You can enforce the critical rules that exist to protect wildlife, which is essential for your local community to thrive.
Some wildlife management professionals are involved in research. You might work in a lab to analyze data and develop solutions for environmental problems, or you might work directly in the field collecting data and tracking animal populations. This is also a great college major if you want to become a public advocate for environmental causes as it gives you a broad amount of knowledge on the issues that wildlife are facing.
If you’re interested in the weather-related effects of climate change, meteorology may be an excellent degree option for you. Meteorologists don’t just report on the weather. They do important work into collecting data, researching and analyzing weather patterns, and educating others on climate change.
You can enter the field of meteorology with a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree can be beneficial if you’re interested in research. Some schools offer a degree in atmospheric science, which is very similar to a meteorology degree.
During your course of study, you’ll most likely take several physics courses as well as classes related specifically to meteorology. This degree relies heavily on math, so it’s a good option for people who are skilled in mathematics. Multiple levels of calculus, geometry, and statistics are required for most meteorology degree programs.
Career Opportunities in Meteorology
The National Weather Service reports that meteorology is becoming a more competitive field as the number of people with meteorology degrees increases. Technological advancements have reduced the need for certain jobs in the sphere, too. However, this is still an incredibly valuable career, especially if you’re interested in a job in climate change.
There are many jobs in the private sector that involve researching weather patterns and examining how the effects of climate change are currently affecting the world. Meteorologists who work in research often experience a great combination of work in the lab and work in the field as data collection requires you to travel and observe weather events up-close. Some meteorologists work as consultants for other industries, so they provide recommendations for how businesses can prepare for and withstand weather events.
6. Environmental Economics
You don’t need to go into a highly technical STEM field to fight climate change. Environmental economics is an excellent college major that teaches you how to address climate change and environmental issues from an economic perspective. The economy and climate change are two closely linked issues as profits drive many of the decisions that have been harmful to the environment. With an environmental economics degree, you can advocate for change that benefits both the environment and the economy.
If you want to work in politics or government, an advanced degree in environmental economics may be necessary. To work for a private company, though, a bachelor’s degree might be all you need. Because it’s an economics degree, most programs require a number of math classes. You’ll take statistics, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and several courses related specifically to environmental economics. If you’re passionate about climate change but would rather work in the business or policy sphere than in the sciences, an economics degree may be the right choice.
Career Opportunities in Environmental Economics
With a degree in environmental economics, you can pursue a number of private and government jobs. Many environmental economists work for research or consulting firms. You could analyze the effects of current economic models on the environment and discover ways to make business practices more environmentally friendly while preserving the economy. If you’re interested in a government job, you could pursue a career with the EPA or with your local or state government.
7. Urban Planning
When you envision jobs that fight climate change, you probably think of careers that take you out in nature. However, urban planning is one of the best career choices for minimizing climate change. Towns and cities have a significant impact on the environment, and urban planners can use their skills to create projects that improve communities while also reducing their environmental footprint.
Most urban planning jobs require a master’s degree. You can enter a master’s program with one of many relevant bachelor’s degrees, including economics, geography, or political science. The master’s program will cover the specific information and skills you need to become an urban planner, so your bachelor’s degree should just give you a foundation on environmental or political topics.
If you’re certain of your future as an urban planner, though, you can receive a bachelor’s degree in urban planning before pursuing your graduate degree. Urban planners possess a wide variety of skills, so your bachelor’s degree will cover topics such as design, economics, communications, and geometry.
Career Opportunities in Urban Planning
The BLS reports that environmental changes will be a driving factor for job growth in the urban planning field. While not all urban planning jobs are strictly related to the environment, you can apply your passion for environmentalism to your work. Most urban planners work in local government, so the career gives you an opportunity to directly impact your community.
Urban planners have many job responsibilities. They consult with officials and developers on the feasibility of building projects, and they collect and analyze data to prepare for projects. If problems arise during a building project, urban planners may suggest the changes needed for the project to succeed.
8. Political Science
When it comes to environmental issues, most broad changes that are needed will happen through policy. If there aren’t laws in place to prevent big corporations from exploiting the environment, they will continue to use harmful and unsustainable business practices. A degree in political science is a stepping stone toward a career in politics, which can help you advocate for the changes you know are necessary for the world.
Political science is a good choice of major if you are drawn more toward liberal arts and social sciences than STEM. The degree is great for people who are good writers, readers, and public speakers. Much of the degree involves understanding and communicating complex social ideas. You’ll take classes on government, justice, public policy, international relations, literature, and many other topics.
In most cases, students choose a political science major to lay the groundwork for a graduate degree. While a bachelor’s in political science can lead you to some good career paths, many people go on to receive advanced degrees in public policy, public administration, or law.
Career Opportunities in Political Science
With a degree in political science, you’ll gain the skills and knowledge needed to advocate for laws that will protect the environment. You could work for an environmental nonprofit to promote policy change, or you could pursue a career as a politician or political strategist. These fields are competitive, and it can take many years to gain experience and make connections that will allow your ideas to be heard on a large scale. However, if you’re passionate about your environmental platform, this is one of the most powerful ways to make a change.
Fighting climate change and protecting the environment are not black-and-white issues. Everything in the environment is interconnected, and it’s important to evaluate how certain changes could impact the world overall. There are so many ethical dilemmas when it comes to climate change, and majoring in bioethics gives you a chance to explore these questions.
If you’re interested in a career in the social sciences and enjoy philosophy, bioethics could be a good option for you. Most bioethics programs are master’s degrees. You can earn a bachelor’s degree in public health, political science, biology, or other related fields to prepare for a master’s degree in bioethics. Some universities do offer bioethics as an undergraduate major, too.
A bioethics degree covers a vast range of philosophical and practical topics. You’ll learn about ethical concerns and conflicts in the fields of environmentalism, medicine, technology, public policy, and other areas. The degree teaches you how to evaluate difficult ethical questions and make the best decision with the given information.
Career Opportunities in Bioethics
Some people major in bioethics with the plan to pursue another degree afterward. For example, students may earn a degree in bioethics before pursuing a JD and becoming an environmental lawyer. If you want to pursue a career directly related to bioethics, you could work for an environmental nonprofit or become involved in government or politics.
10. Environmental Law
Becoming an environmental lawyer is not easy, but it’s a meaningful way to create lasting change and protect the environment. If you earn a law degree and practice environmental law, you can directly fight the corporations and government entities that are harming the planet.
To become an environmental lawyer, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor, or JD. You don’t need a specific type of bachelor’s degree to be accepted to law school, but many law students majored in political science, philosophy, English, or history as undergraduates. A bachelor’s degree in environmental science or another environmental topic can also be very helpful for your career as an environmental lawyer.
In law school, you’ll take a variety of courses on many areas of the law. While a JD qualifies you to practice in any area of the law, you can specialize in your area of interest during your degree program. Therefore, it’s important to look for schools that have a strong environmental law program. This will equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to become an effective environmental lawyer.
Career Opportunities in Environmental Law
Not all environmental lawyers are actively fighting climate change. Some work as consultants for businesses, and some protect the corporations that make questionable environmental decisions. However, if you want to fight climate change as an environmental lawyer, you could work with a private firm or nonprofit dedicated to changing policies or business practices. By fighting court cases against the entities that are causing environmental damage, you can make a significant impact.
If you feel drawn to a career that fights climate change, you have many options for college majors. You could work in the private or the public sector, and you could pursue a job in the sciences or in the humanities. Whatever your individual strengths and interests are, you can find a college major that will equip you to serve in an environmental field.