Degree and Courses

Environmental Sciences Degree

Step 1: Choose ES as a Major

The ES major requires 120 credit hours of General Education Program requirements and ES core courses, an External Learning Experience, a Focal area, and advised and free electives.

View course plan

Step 2: Choose a Minor or Focal Area

One of the great aspects of an Environmental Sciences major is selecting a focal area or minor of your choice. With so many options, it’s up to you to choose your own adventure. In addition to our program, all colleges at NC State offer environmental academic and research resources.  Our  Environmental Portal page lists helpful academic, research, and engagement links that can help you learn more about these resources.

Option 1: Minor (Choose an existing minor from this sample list).

  • Agroecology
  • Biotechnology
  • Business Administration
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Crop Science
  • Economics
  • Entomology
  • Environmental Technology
  • Forest Management
  • Geology
  • Graphic Communications
  • Health
  • International Studies
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Meteorology
  • Microbiology
  • Science, Technology, and Society
  • Soil Science
  • Statistics
  • Technology, Engineering and Design Education
  • Wildlife Sciences

Option 2: Propose a Focal Area

Focal areas (15 credit hours) form a cohesive body of study around a student’s tailored interests and must be proposed by the Fall of the student’s junior year. Proposal should provide the rationale for the area of study and an implementation plan to ensure plausibility to their advisor. Examples include

  • Renewable Energy
  • Bio-fuels
  • Sustainable Forestry
  • Energy Conservation
  • Environmental Modeling
  • Environmental Engineering and Design
  • Environmental Communication and Media

External Learning Experience

External learning experiences (3 credit hours) engage students outside the classroom, and are a degree requirement.  Examples include an internship, undergraduate research, undergraduate thesis, or a professional development project.

Advised Electives

Advised electives (9-credit hours) support each student’s focal area and enhance the Environmental Sciences program of study.

Environmental Science Courses

ES 100 – INTRODUCTION TO ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES

The course explains the relationships between human populations and the natural environment with a focus on social science issues like economic factors, laws politics, political behavior, and ethics. Topics include human population trends, agriculture, air and water pollution, biological diversity, forest and land use, energy and mineral resources, and toxic substances.

ES 150 – WATER AND THE ENVIRONMENT

ES 200 – CLIMATE CHANGE AND SUSTAINABILITY

The course explores the relationships between human activities, climate change and sustainability in an interdisciplinary context. Discussions focus on past impacts of climate change, the evolution of the relationship between humans and climate and envisioning a sustainable future. The course is open to all students, and is listed in the General Education Program as an Interdisciplinary Course and a Global Knowledge Course.

ES 295 – SPECIAL TOPICS IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The course focuses on rapidly emerging issues in environmental science.

ES 300 – ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The course explores the relationships between humans, energy and the environment, and the social and environmental impacts of energy consumption, including greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, and effects of energy infrastructure such as roads, gas lines, dams, and the electrical grid. The course is open to all students and is listed in the General Education Program as an Interdisciplinary Course and a Global Knowledge Course. Prerequisites include a course in either chemistry or physics.

ES 400 – ANALYSIS OF ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

The course is a capstone for students in the Environmental Science Academic Program and related majors. Students learn to use analytical approaches for solving environmental problems and enhance skills in communicating results in a report and seminar. The course emphasizes development of student projects that lead to environmental decision-making, such as devising resource management plan, developing a predictive model, prioritizing risk, identifying tipping points, designing new software or technologies, or predicting outcomes of environmental policies. Prerequisites include ES 100, 200 and 300.

ES 495 – SPECIAL TOPICS IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The course explores rapidly emerging issues in environmental science.

ES 496 – ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE INTERNSHIP

Students earn 1-3 credits (50 hours per credit) for completing internships in public or private sectors. Students must submit a proposal prior to enrolling. ES 496 – Internship Packets are required.

ES 497 – PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The course provides 1-3 credits (50 hours per credit) for students who develop skills necessary to organize, promote, and participate in an events such as a workshops, conferences, or seminars. Activities may include organizing a panel of speakers on a specific topic, a career fair, or a workshop. Formats and topics of events are determined by the organizing student(s), who must submit an ES 497 – Professional Development Proposal for a professional development activity prior to enrolling.

ES 498 – RESEARCH IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

Students earn 1-3 credits (50 hours per credit) for environmental research, which may include traditional laboratory, fieldwork, or other creative activity at NC State or another facility. Students complete a final report or product to be evaluated and must submit an ES 498 – Research Proposal for research prior to enrolling.

ES 499 – THESIS IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The course provides 3 credit hours for undergraduate students who complete a thesis, which reports original, inquiry-based learning and discovery in environmental sciences. This course may follow ES 498, creating a two-semester research experience. Students must submit an ES 499 – Thesis Proposal before enrolling and present the thesis to a community of peers and experts for evaluation once complete.

Environmental Sciences Minor and Courses

The Environmental Sciences minor connects topics from a student’s major to the compelling, contemporary issues that create an analysis of environmental issues. Students interested in an ES minor must complete a Declaration of Minor Form and submit it to the Office of Registration and Records and complete the three of the ES core courses (ES 100, 200, 300 and 400) and two recommended electives in a group below. Once complete, the Environmental Sciences Committee will review the student’s record and certify that he or she has completed the minor. All paperwork for the ES minor should be completed no later than the registration period for the student’s final semester at NC State. Please note that students may not both major and minor in Environmental Sciences.

View course plan
Application for Minor form

Group 1 – Biological Science

  • MEA (BIO) 220 Marine Biology * This course has a prerequisite.
  • FW (BIO) 221 Conservation of Natural Resources
  • PB/BIO 360 Ecology * This course has a prerequisite.
  • BIO 181 Introductory Biology: Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity
  • FOR 252 Introduction to Forest Science

Group 2 – Physical Science

  • MEA 101 Geology I: Physical and MEA 110 Geology I: Laboratory
  • MEA 130 Introduction to Weather and Climate and MEA 135 Introduction to Weather and Climate Laboratory
  • MEA 140 Natural Hazards and Global Change
  • SSC 200 Soil Science (4 cr) *This course has a prerequisite.
  • MEA 200 Introduction to Oceanography
  • CE 373 Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering

Group 3 – Social Science

  • IDS 201 Environmental Ethics
  • NR/IDS 303 Humans and the Environment
  • STS 322 Technological Catastrophes
  • PHI 422 Philosophical Issues in Environmental Ethics
  • PS 320 U.S. Environmental Law and Politics
  • PS 336 Global Environmental Politics
  • LAR 221 Introduction to Environment and Behavior for Designers

Group 4 – Advanced Courses

  • MEA 300 Environmental Geology *This course has a prerequisite.
  • SSC 361 Role of Soils in Environmental Management
  • NR 460 Renewable Natural Resource Management and Policy
  • ET 410 Toxic Substances and Society (formerly MDS 410)
  • EC 436 Environmental Economics
  • FW (BIO) 430 Fisheries and Wildlife Administration
  • BIO 402 Invertebrate Zoology
  • HI 440 American Environmental History *This course has a prerequisite.
  • NR 406 Conservation of Biological Diversity *This course has a prerequisite.
  • SOC 450 Environmental Sociology *This course has a prerequisite.