University of South Carolina


Environmental Sciences: What to Expect

The Environmental Sciences major was launched at the University of South Carolina in fall 2009 and is designed to give students a strong scientific background while allowing them the flexibility to choose courses that address their specific interests. As an Environmental Science major, you will be provided with personal, hands-on learning experiences that allow you to participate in interactive classroom settings and become involved with numerous research experiences – some spanning the globe! You can emphasize course work in a variety of areas including natural systems, water resources, weather and climate, energy, or humans and the environment. You will learn how to conduct hypothesis driven research and communicate your knowledge both orally and in writing. As an Environmental Science major, you will benefit from activities such as our Environment & Sustainability  Program Seminars and recruiting visits by industry leaders and the government.

The following courses fulfill some of the course requirements for a Bachelor of Science with a major in Environmental Science:

  • Environmental Issues Seminar
  • Ecology and Evolution (and laboratory)
  • Surface and Near Surface Processes
  • Weather and Climate
  • Concepts of Environmental Health Science

There is a 25 to 1 student-faculty ratio in upper division courses. A detailed list of degree requirements can be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin.

Enhancing your Experience

Study Abroad allows you to earn academic credits toward your USC degree while seeing the world! Overseas study can complement any academic program or major. Environmental Science majors have participated in study abroad programs throughout the world from Madagascar to Alaska.  While abroad, you will learn how to interact across diverse cultures and conduct science under a range of conditions. You will also have the opportunity to learn from internationally renowned scientists from across the world. You are encouraged to visit the Study Abroad Web site for more information on opportunities to broaden and extend your knowledge and perspectives.
Student Organizations can be instrumental in helping you adjust to life on campus and network within your field. The University of South Carolina has a family of nearly 300 student organizations. As an Environmental Science major, you may wish to join Students Advocating for a Greener Environment (SAGE). You will be able to get involved with environmental issues at a local, community, and even national level. SAGE has been active in coordinating Earth Day activities for more than 15 years, works closely with the Green Quad Living Learning Center, and trains its members to be environmental leaders in the community through workshops and leadership positions. You can also get involved in annual competitions such as USC Discovery Day, Outstanding Student in Environmental Science, Bruce C. Coull Outstanding Student in Environmental Studies, and the Rising Senior Award. You can also seek out volunteer opportunities that relate to your major. Find a student organization on campus that interests you!
Graduate School is one of many possibilities following graduation. Graduates often attend graduate schools offering programs in environmental science, environmental policy, or USC’s earth and environmental resources management. Many also go on to pursue degrees in law and medicine.
Distinguished Faculty can help enhance your overall academic experience while at the University. The Environment and Sustainability Program has countless distinguished faculty with diverse backgrounds in numerous areas of the environmental issues. Many have won research and teaching awards and share their commitment to outstanding science and education with their students.
Departmental Scholarships: Each year, the Environment and Sustainability Program offers several scholarships.

Internship and Research Opportunities

Internships can be an important asset to your overall educational experience. Internship experiences often help you confirm your career interests, give you hands-on experience in a professional setting, help build your resume, reinforce what you’ve learned in class and can often lead to full-time employment. Likewise, pursuing professional research opportunities as an undergraduate student can also help enrich your academic experience while at the University. As an undergraduate student, you can work closely with faculty research mentors and explore a discipline that interests you. Both internship and research opportunities help you build a competitive edge in the job market.

As a USC student you will have numerous resources at your disposal to assist you with locating internship and research opportunities. The USC Career Center is the central location at USC for assisting students with internship preparation and finding an internship. In addition, be sure to visit your academic department as many programs offer supplemental internship guidance specific to your major. The Environmental & Sustainability Program at USC offers internships for its students. The Office of Undergraduate Research assists all USC undergraduates by providing research and scholarly experiences in their chosen fields.

Even though the Environmental Science major is a new degree program, students have already experienced a diverse range of internships from field research in Madagascar on deforestation effects on tree species and Lemurs to studying veterinary science in South Africa to research in Alaska. Others are exploring options in South Carolina at Congaree National Park, Green Farming, and USC’s Sustainable Communities.

Student Spotlight

Every morning around 5:30, Environmental Science major Tamra Stanish would head outside to the fragmented forests of Antsolipa in Northern Madagascar to assist with morning point-count bird surveys. Tamra would conduct three to four surveys in various habitats such as grassland, recovering, and forest. She would count and identify any birds that came within an approximate 50m range of the survey site in a five-minute time span. She also spent time each day conducting Sherman trap up keep. She would check every Sherman trap for small mammals such as the mouse lemur. If they caught a specimen, she would assist in processing and marking the specimen and recording the data. Each night, Tamra would also assist in conducting lemur vocalization surveys. “With all of the surveying, I spent a lot of my time hiking through the forest of Antsolipa,” she said. “We would hike several miles a day, up and down mountainsides and through small streams. It was quite the adventure and I was so glad I was in great shape before I went. Boy, was it exhausting!” Her favorite part of the experience was being immersed in a different culture. “The Malagasy people were so incredibly hospitable and such a joy to be around,” she said. “The biggest adrenaline rush I got in Madagascar was when I was given the opportunity to learn how to catch and handle wild snakes.”

During her research experience in Madagascar, Tamra learned a lot about the field of environmental science and Madagascar. “I learned a lot about the difficulty and complexity of doing conservation and research in a very poor, developing country,” she said. “Madagascar is both breathtakingly beautiful and devastatingly sad. The biggest battle we faced as conservationists in Madagascar was the poverty and lack of education of the locals. The locals depend on the forest for their very livelihood, but for the most part, don’t realize the damage and destruction they and big logging companies are doing.” While abroad, Tamra developed a variety of skills that she was able to bring back to the classroom. “I learned how to plan, conduct, and report various vegetation, mammal, bird, and reptile surveys,” she said. “This is so helpful considering I want to go into conservation work. I also learned how to handle and process small mammals, reptiles, and snakes.” Tamra encourages current students to seek out internship and research experiences while at Carolina. “College is the perfect time to do an internship that will let you learn more about what you are passionate about while giving you the opportunity to travel and experience new and exciting cultures around the world!”

Career Opportunities

Environmental Science graduates are likely to seek employment at private environmental and industry firms, in government, or with national and regional non-profit organizations. Many also pursue careers as scientific researchers.

You can find more information about career options in the US Department of Laborís Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The USC Career Center offers numerous resources which provide more information about career opportunities for students in this major. Once admitted, a Career Development Coach is available to help you assess your interest areas, make decisions about your career path, and identify the experiences and skills that will help you accomplish your goals. Spur Connections will help you locate mentors from among USC alumni, employers and community members who can provide insights based on their careers and experiences. Early planning and preparation are keys to success.

About the Environmental Science Program

The Environment and Sustainability Program promotes a university-wide focus on the environment. The Environment and Sustainability Program offers a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, a Master of  Earth and Environmental Resource Management (MEERM), and a JD/MEERM dual degree program. The Program is within the School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment located in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina.

Additional Resources
Environment and Sustainability Program Website
College of Arts and Sciences Website
University Career Center
Undergraduate Bulletin