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Four Top Places to Study Environmental Science

With so much global attention focused on safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our air, land and water, it follows that the environmental sciences are one of today’s hottest areas of studies. If you are thinking of pursuing a degree in this versatile discipline, you have your pick of programs all over the world. So where are the best places for aspiring environmental scientists? Let’s take a closer look at four major destinations for students in this important, innovative, and interdisciplinary field.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Study Abroad
Four Top Places to Study Environmental Science

With so much global attention focused on safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our air, land and water, it follows that the environmental sciences are one of today’s hottest areas of studies. If you’re thinking of pursuing a degree in this versatile discipline, you have your pick of programs all over the world. So where are the best places for aspiring environmental scientists? Let’s take a closer look at four major destinations for students in this important, innovative, and interdisciplinary field.

1. Scandinavia

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland (the latter two 'Scandinavian' by many definitions) are among the planet’s most environmentally-minded countries in terms of everything from air and water purity to the use of renewable energy. Also a leader in greenhouse gas emission cuts, Scandinavia is home to an exceptionally environmentally aware population. How have Scandinavian countries earned their status as global leaders in environmental protection? It’s simple: their governments have been investing in environmentally progressive strategies for years, while the support of businesses further advances the cause.

2. The United States

The US is home to four of the top six best-performing universities in the Environmental Sciences, according to QS Top Universities, as well as five of the top six best global universities for Environment/Ecology, according to US News and World Report. If that doesn’t qualify as “dominating,” we don’t know what does.

What makes US institutions such standouts in the field? While QS Top Universities factors in academic reputation, employer reputation and research impact, US News and World Report goes solely on one and one thing only: academic research performance. In other words, if your goal is to study with the best and brightest visionaries in the field of environmental science, look no further than the US.

3. Switzerland

Switzerland may have few natural resources to protect, but it more than makes up for this shortfall in people invested in innovation. Thanks to its commitment to all things clean and green, Switzerland has earned itself a reputation as one of the world’s most eco-friendly destinations. And while green legislation has helped position Switzerland for environmental supremacy, public awareness -- and buy-in -- helps take its performance to the next level. A first-place finish in Columbia and Yale University's’ Environmental Performance Index (EPI) speaks for itself. Not to mention the country’s revised Swiss Federal Constitution which specifically states that it will “strive to establish a durable equilibrium between nature, and, in particular, its capacity to renew itself, and its use by man."

4. South Africa

South Africa faces more than its share of serious environmental threats, thanks to its recent and accelerated industrialization as well as the detrimental impact of the country's mining sector on the ecology. Poor and, insufficient water, radioactive industrial waste, the destruction of agricultural land and overfishing add up to a dire situation for which environmental science solutions are imperative.

Students who pursue environmental sciences studies in South Africa gain in-depth knowledge of plant evolution and systematics; inorganic chemistry, animal cell biology and histology, and society and environment -- all within a critical, real-world context. In addition to studying the overarching environmental issues threatening the world and its inhabitants, many South African programs also hone in on the issues -- both in the classroom and in the field -- as they apply directly to students’ immediate surroundings. The result? A unique opportunity to start making a difference in the communities in which they’re living and studying.

Because environmental issues are so varied, so are the programs which study them. In addition to considering location, prospective students should also consider other factors, including specialized areas of study and independent research projects. In doing so, they won’t just find excellent programs, but also the best way to fuse their personal interests with opportunities offering planet-changing potential.

Joanna Hughes

Author

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.