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Earning an Environmental Science Degree in California

You don't care that much of the rest of the country thinks of Californians as environmental types; as if that's a pejorative… You've got real grit and a real commitment to smart environmental management practices; what you care about is doing meaningful work in the world. The kind of work that nets real results and brings quantifiable benefits that can be measured for generations.

There's a whole lot more going on here than tree-hugging. Some of the most cutting-edge environmental research in the world, concerning everything from oceanography to forestry, is happening right here in California.

And it's a good thing, because California stands directly in the path of some of the most severe effects of climate change. Whether it's drought touching off record-setting wildfires, ocean rise inundating Malibu, or particulate pollution reversing the hard-won improvements in LA's air quality, there's a lot of work to do on the environmental front here in the coming decades.

That kind of work requires the right kind of education, and you're in luck: the state is a behemoth in the education industry, granting more bachelor's degrees in a year than any other according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And many of those are being earned through the exceptional environmental science programs found throughout the state.

What Can I Do with an Environmental Science Degree in California

Roll up your sleeves. We've got 840 miles of gorgeous and varied Pacific coastline to protect, stands of majestic sequoia running low on water, and major fisheries on the brink of extinction.

Whether it's working as a wetlands specialist at an environmental consulting firm, or a scientist at the state or national park service, or as an environmental planning manager for one of the state's 58 counties, there is no shortage of work to be done here.

And those positions are well-paid. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a soil scientist working on crop studies in the Central Valley could make more than $78,710 a year, while conservation scientists and foresters can expect a salary over $80,000. Environmental and geoscientists do even better… both earn salaries over the $90,000 mark, and many in private industry will move well into six-figures.

2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for the professions listed reflect state data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.

Master's in Environmental Science in California

To the astonishment of absolutely no one, Stanford is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as having the #1 master's program in environmental science in the country. Admissions are tough but the quality of the education is unparalleled.

But you have plenty of other high-quality choices all over the state, and in every niche of environmental studies. USC has a globally-ranked graduate program in marine and environmental biology. Cal State LA delivers an MS in Environmental Science with either research or professional tracks to set you on the right path for your career.

Training can be more than just hands-on or academic, too. The political and policy implications are thoroughly covered by California schools as well. UC-Davis, for instance, has a highly respected program in Environmental Policy and Management, appropriately anchored in the John Muir Institute for the Environment… named after one of California's first, and most successful, environmental advocates.

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Bachelor's in Environmental Science in California

Naturally, many of the graduate programs listed above are from schools that also have excellent undergraduate degrees. And in some cases they are all on the same track… the USC Masters in Marine Environment and Biology is available as a progressive degree, allowing you to combine your bachelor and master's programs to graduate faster.

But there are other highly respected schools like UCLA, which offers a BS in Environmental Science with a multifaceted experience that considers human factors alongside environmental issues.

Or you can look to the smaller schools for more individualized, and specialized, education. Humboldt State's Forestry and Wildland Resources program will give you the ins and outs of the state's remaining stands of timber, while little Pomona College in Claremont has an Environmental Analysis major that can take you from the local Organic Farm to exotic locations in Ecuador, Tanzania, or South Africa in the course of your studies.

Online Environmental Science Degree Options from Schools in California

For a state at the forefront of the technology revolution, it can actually be tough to find online degree options in environmental science here. One school that does offer an option is Ashford University, a private school based out of San Diego. They have a rare Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies that can be completed entirely online, through asynchronous courses that are delivered one at a time. This scheduling option allows you to focus in on one topic with unbroken concentration over the course of five-week sprints, something that can help get you through the program on time and without distraction.