If you’re passionate about nature, you might be considering college degrees and career paths that allow you to spend time in the great outdoors. There are a wide variety of careers that protect the environment and benefit the community, and nature lovers will find these jobs very enjoyable.
Whether your strengths are in the sciences, arts, business, or any other area, you can find a degree program and a career path that bring you out in nature. Here are 10 of the best college majors for nature lovers:
1. Environmental Science
Environmental science is one of the most popular majors for nature lovers. The degree provides a great foundation for a wide variety of careers involving nature, and it’s a desirable undergraduate degree for many graduate programs.
A bachelor’s degree in environmental science is typically an integrated degree that covers a broad range of topics. You can expect to take classes on biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and animal sciences. The goal of the degree program is to provide you with an overall understanding of our natural world and how so many different factors all interact to affect the environment.
Often times, environmental science majors complete a minor in another field of study, but the best option for you depends on your career goals. A major in environmental science with a minor in public policy, for instance, is a great combination for someone interested in advocating for environmental policy change.
What You Can Do With an Environmental Science Degree
Because the degree is so broad, a major in environmental science opens up many opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that environmental scientists are experiencing average job growth and have a median salary of about $73,000 per year. However, it can be difficult to offer specific information about your career prospects because there are so many different jobs within this field.
Some environmental scientists work out in nature every day, and others spend more time at a desk. Many people with this degree work in research, so they spend some time out in the field and some time in the lab. Others work for local or state governments to ensure public health and safety.
Environmental science is a popular undergraduate major for students who plan to receive a graduate degree in a more specified field. For example, if you’re interested in earning a master’s degree in wildlife biology, engineering, agriculture, or another nature-related field, a bachelor’s degree in environmental science can be a great foundation.
2. Wildlife Management
If you’re particularly interested in wild animals, a degree in wildlife management may be your best choice. As a wildlife management major, you’ll learn all about various wildlife populations and how to protect them. This can lead you to a very interesting, rewarding career that involves working directly in nature.
Some schools offer an associate’s degree in wildlife management, but for certain careers, a bachelor’s degree will make you a more well-rounded candidate. Over the course of the program, you’ll learn about how wild animals function in their natural habitats, how their populations change over time, and what practices are necessary to maintain a balanced and safe ecosystem.
Many wildlife management programs focus heavily on biology, but other science courses are required as well. Some wildlife management jobs involve research, so you may take research methods and statistics classes during your degree program.
What You Can Do With a Wildlife Management Degree
A wildlife management degree can lead you to a career as a game warden, which is one of the most desired jobs for many nature lovers. As a game warden or conservation officer, you get to spend most of your days out in nature, and you play a vital role in protecting wildlife. You could also pursue a career in local or state government with a wildlife management degree. Although you might not spend as much time outdoors with a government job, it can be a valuable opportunity to create meaningful change in your community.
Some people with wildlife management degrees work for wildlife refuges, which is incredibly rewarding work. Others work for research labs and help to understand and address the issues that put wildlife at risk.
Botany is the study of plants and their importance to the ecosystem. If your love of nature is centered around plants, flowers, or trees, you’ll likely find that botany is a fascinating field of study. Without plants, humans and other organisms would not be able to survive on Earth. Studying botany equips you with the knowledge and skills to protect the natural world.
You can receive a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in botany. Some schools offer a degree in plant biology or plant sciences, which are virtually the same. Botany programs are grounded in the sciences, so students will take courses on biology, chemistry, math, and environmental science. If you’re interested in pursuing a graduate degree in plant sciences, an undergraduate program that has a heavy focus on research is probably your best option.
What You Can Do With a Botany Degree
A degree in botany can lead you to many different careers. Like with other nature-related degrees, you could become a researcher. Many botanists work in the field to collect data on plants and implement solutions to the problems affecting plant species. If you want to share your passion for plants with others, you could pursue a career at a museum, arboretum, or botanical garden. Some government departments, such as the USDA and the National Forest Service, also employ botanists.
If you’re interested in working in environmental conservation or sustainability, a degree in forestry can be an excellent stepping stone. Forests are a valuable resource for production, but they also must be protected. Many private companies and government bodies employ forestry experts to ensure that the nation’s forests are safe and healthy.
Most jobs in the field require at least a bachelor’s degree in forestry. A typical program will require courses in biology, ecology, botany, and chemistry. Some programs focus more heavily on the scientific aspect of forestry, and others have more emphasis on the economics and policies behind the industry. Both areas of study can equip you for meaningful and well-paying careers, but you should consider whether you value the science or the sociological and political aspects of forestry to choose the best school.
What You Can Do With a Forestry Degree
If you love the forest and are interested in a career protecting and managing it, a degree in forestry can lead you to a number of relevant jobs. Many forestry experts work with private logging companies to create sustainable land use plans. Others work for state or federal governments to manage government-owned land. According to the BLS, about 42 percent of foresters work for local, state, or federal government organizations.
If you’d prefer a job that allows you to spend more time directly in nature, you could work as a researcher or a forest surveyor. If you’re passionate about advocating for environmental changes, you could pursue a job in policy or work for a nonprofit.
Geology is the study of Earth itself. While some people love nature because of plants or animals, others are more curious about the composition and structure of the planet we live on. During a program of study in geology, you’ll learn all about the physical attributes of Earth and how humans interact with those forces.
Some schools offer a bachelor’s degree in geology, and others only offer a master’s degree in the subject. However, you can also receive a bachelor’s degree in earth science or geoscience, which are both very similar fields of study. If you’re interested in a career in research, a master’s degree may be necessary.
Geology and geoscience are highly scientific fields, so they’re best suited to people who enjoy math and science. You’ll take several courses on mathematics, data science, biology, physics, chemistry, and research methods. Many bachelor’s degrees in geology require a research, fieldwork, or lab experience at the end of the program, which can be a great introduction to a career in the field.
What You Can Do With a Geology Degree
As a geologist, you could work with private oil, mining, or engineering companies to plan projects and ensure safety measures. Some geologists work as planners for local or state governments, and some work as surveyors for entities like the National Park Service or the Environmental Protection Agency. Practically any company or organization that utilizes the earth’s resources needs expert input from geoscientists.
Geologists and geoscientists are seeing good job growth and can make competitive salaries. The BLS reports that the highest-paid experts in the field work in the mining and oil industries, but government jobs can also pay very well. Most jobs involve a combination of work in the field and time in the lab or office.
Archaeology is a good college major for people who are interested in the ancient history of the world. A degree in archaeology teaches you about human cultures over time, how those cultures influence humanity today, and how you can use modern technology and resources to make new discoveries about the past.
Some schools offer archaeology as a Bachelor of Arts (BA), and some offer it as a Bachelor of Science (BS). In general, a BA in archaeology focuses more on the sociological and anthropological aspects of the field. You’ll take a number of classes on history, culture, language, and anthropology. BS degrees include some courses on these topics, but they emphasize the scientific aspects of archaeology. For example, you might take physics, chemistry, and biology courses in addition to classes on the humanities.
Most stable and well-paying jobs in the field require a master’s degree in archaeology. Many students receive a bachelor’s degree in anthropology before studying archaeology at the graduate level. A bachelor’s degree in geology, environmental science, history, or sociology can all be a good foundation for archaeology, too.
What You Can Do With an Archaeology Degree
Many archaeologists work out in the field. They live near the research site, excavate the area, and examine and document their findings. If you enjoy traveling and are comfortable living away from home for long periods of time, you could have an exciting and rewarding career as an archaeological researcher.
A degree in archaeology can also qualify you to work in cultural resource management, a field dedicated to historic and cultural preservation. This career involves a combination of fieldwork and in-office work. You could pursue a career with the government, too, as state and federal government organizations often need cultural and historical experts. Archaeologists can work in museums collecting and preserving artifacts, too.
If you feel a calling to protect the environment and the natural world that you love, you could pursue a degree in sustainability. Many colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in sustainability or conservation, and these programs are an excellent way to learn more about the issues affecting the environment and the possible solutions.
Sustainability is a broad topic, so different schools may have different course requirements. You should expect to take a variety of courses on environmental science, biology, and ecology. Some of your courses will be specific to sustainability, too, so they may cover topics such as pollution, climate change, environmental ethics, and the economics of sustainability.
Many students use a degree in sustainability as a stepping stone toward a graduate degree. If you’re interested in choosing a more specific field of study for a master’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in sustainability could be a great way to get the foundational knowledge you need. For example, some students with an undergraduate degree in sustainability go on to receive advanced degrees in law, policy, biology, or ecology.
What You Can Do With a Sustainability Degree
Sustainability majors are qualified to fill many roles. If you want to work directly in nature, you could work for a local park service or as a project manager for a private company. If advocating for sustainability and environmental protection is your passion, you could work for a number of different companies or organizations as a supervisor or a sustainability director.
8. Landscape Architecture
Some people love simply being out in nature, but others are more interested in creating natural sites for people to enjoy. If you love the idea of building a park, conservatory, or other outdoor space, you could major in landscape architecture. The field involves a unique combination of science, math, management, and creativity, and it’s a challenging but rewarding career path.
Landscape architects need at least a bachelor’s degree to become licensed. Some students obtain an undergraduate degree in another field and then get a master’s degree in architecture to fulfill the educational requirements. However, if you’re certain that you want to be an architect, receiving a bachelor’s degree is the most straightforward way to enter the profession.
An architecture degree requires a mix of math, science, and design courses. For landscape architecture, you’ll also take environmental science courses to learn how to design effectively in the natural world. Your program may require you to take courses on the history of design and architecture, and you might take business or economics classes as well.
What You Can Do With a Landscape Architecture Degree
Landscape architecture is a specialized college major that equips you to work as a landscape architect. You must become licensed by your state by passing an exam, and you may need to complete an internship before licensure.
According to the BLS, 55 percent of landscape architects work for architectural or engineering companies. Others are self-employed and provide services on a contract basis, and some hold government jobs. As an architect, you’ll probably spend most of your time in an office. However, the work you do directly involves nature, and you get to create beautiful spaces in nature that your community will enjoy.
9. Outdoor Recreation
Outdoor recreation is the perfect college major for students who love outdoor activities and want to share that passion with others as a career. With this degree, you can pursue exciting and engaging jobs that get you out in nature on almost a daily basis. This is an especially great path for those with strong leadership, communication, and teaching skills.
Outdoor recreation programs can vary considerably from school to school. Some colleges offer recreation management or outdoor leadership degrees, which are very similar to an outdoor recreation degree. You should expect to take some environmental science and sustainability classes so that you gain a strong understanding of the natural world. Most programs also require outdoor education, leadership, and business courses. You might take classes on specific types of outdoor recreation, such as climbing, backpacking, or winter sports.
What You Can Do With an Outdoor Recreation Degree
With an outdoor recreation degree, you gain the leadership skills needed to create meaningful recreational experiences for other people. If you’re especially interested in a particular activity, such as rafting, diving, or caving, you could work as a guide or instructor. Outdoor recreation majors also pursue jobs as camp directors and as park rangers. You have many options with this degree, but most careers in this field are very high-energy and extroverted.
If you’re a creative and artistic person, you could combine your talent and your love of nature by earning a photography degree. Photographers work in many different settings, but one option is to become a nature photographer. This career can bring you to interesting destinations and provide you with opportunities to see some of the most beautiful sites in the world.
Although some photographers gain success in the field without higher education, a bachelor’s degree in photography is a great way to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge you need to excel at the craft. During the program, you’ll take several classes on various photography techniques, so you’ll get plenty of hands-on learning experiences. Most programs require courses on art history, too.
What You Can Do With a Photography Degree
A career as a photographer may not always be consistent, but it offers a lot of flexibility. Many nature photographers work as freelancers or as contractors with companies or publications. For example, you could work with a nature or travel blog to showcase popular destinations, or you could take photos that outdoor recreation companies use on their website. Nature photography is an excellent career choice for those who want to travel and value variety in their work life.
If you want total control over your creative work, you could pursue your own photography projects and then sell the photos to stock image companies or nature publications. You could also start your own photography blog or website, but you may need to supplement your income with other photography jobs. Photography is a competitive field, but it’s one of the most enjoyable careers for artistic nature lovers.
Your program of study in college and your future career will be much less strenuous if you truly enjoy what you do. If you love spending time in nature, look for college majors that give you opportunities to get outdoors and learn about the earth. Many nature-related college majors involve the sciences, but even if your strengths lie elsewhere, you can find interesting, enriching, and practical college majors that involve nature. What’s most important is that you consider your skills and your passions to find the best path forward.