Two Majors, One Theme

ENVS students choose to pursue either a BS in Environmental Science with a focus on the natural sciences or a BA in Environmental Studies with a focus on the social sciences and humanities. Both majors provide a strong, interdisciplinary background in the environmental and social aspects of our changing world and prepare students for a wide array of job opportunities.

Two important components of the ENVS majors provide students with the experiences they need to make informed career choices and to contribute effectively to environmental problem-solving. The first is the Applied Experience which involves at least 80 hours of environmental or sustainability-related work as an intern, researcher, volunteer, or employee of an organization such as a private company, non-profit organization, university, or government agency. The goal is for students to acquire hands-on experience working in the environmental field to enhance their skill set and explore career options.

The second key requirement is the Senior Capstone which involves development of critical thinking and communication skills in the context of real-world problem solving in the fall of the senior year. That same semester, the senior class also takes a Senior Seminar in which they share their experiences and explore career pathways with guidance from faculty and a Life Design Educator from the JHU Life Design Lab.

To further enhance the students’ perspective on the global nature of environmental issues and the differences in world views of different cultures, students are encouraged to include a study abroad experience in their university education. Environmental courses taken abroad can count as electives for the majors and minor.

Program Educational Objectives
Our overall programmatic goals at ENVS have several objectives and students will encounter all of these as they progress through the major.

P1 Explain the fundamental principles and concepts of the natural, social sciences, and humanities that underlie issues of global environmental change and sustainability.
P2 Integrate learning and perspectives from multiple disciplines to address environmental issues.
P3 Investigate and solve problems through the collection and analysis of data.
P4 Develop practical, systems-oriented solutions to Earth’s most challenging
sustainability problems informed by diverse disciplinary perspectives.
P5 Critique the underlying assumptions, evidence, and arguments made by others.
P6 Communicate effectively about environmental issues visually, orally, and in writing.
P7 Work effectively as a member of a team.


Each major includes common core requirements, additional core courses unique to either environmental science or studies, and a group of electives. Detailed course listings and sample programs of study can be found in the university catalog listing for Environmental Science and Environmental Studies and are outlined below. This spreadsheet can be helpful for tracking major requirements.

Completion of the Environmental Science major typically requires 70-72 credits. Completion of the Environmental Studies major typically requires 58 credits. Both majors share a series of core courses, additional requirements in the natural or social sciences, plus electives in the student’s area(s) of interest. All courses must be taken for a letter grade, except for AS.271.509 Applied Experience which is graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Students must receive a grade of C- or better to apply courses toward the major.

Common Core (37-40 credits)

Core courses required by both the Environmental Science and Environmental Studies majors include:

  • Gateway courses (6 cr.): Introductions to global environmental change and sustainability
  • Basic science and math (11 cr.): Introductory chemistry I, calculus I, and statistics
  • Basic social science (3-6 cr.): Introductory microeconomics
  • Foundational environmental topics and skills (12 cr.): Introductory ecology, water-energy-food NEXUS, environmental policy, and geographic information systems (GIS)
  • Application and synthesis (5 cr.): An independent internship or research experience called the Applied Experience, senior capstone, and senior seminar


Environmental Science Core (16-22 credits)

Unique to the Environmental Science major are additional requirements in the natural sciences and math, including:

  • Chemistry (3-4 cr.): Introductory chemistry II
  • Calculus (4 cr.): Calculus II
  • Additional sciences (6-8 cr.): Two semesters of introductory biology, physics, or a combination of the two
  • Labs (3-6 cr.): Three hands-on laboratory courses in any natural sciences


Environmental Studies Core (6 credits)

Unique to the Environmental Studies major are additional requirements in the social sciences, including:

  • Economics (3 cr.): Introductory macroeconomics
  • Social science research methods (3 cr.): Choice of research methods courses from various social science disciplines


Electives (12-15 credits)

All ENVS students are encouraged to choose their elective courses with care in consultation with their advisor to explore particular topics or disciplinary perspectives of relevance to their career aspirations. Courses that can count as ENVS electives are indicated in the schedule of classes by a Program of Study (POS) tag labeled ENVS-MAJOR and include many courses in a wide range of disciplines. For a list of example elective courses, see the Courses page.

  • Environmental Science major (15 cr.): Typically 5 courses; at least 12 credits must be at the 300-level or above
  • Environmental Studies major (12 cr.): Typically 4 courses; at least 9 credits must be at the 300-level or above

Honors in the Major

In order to earn honors in Environmental Science or Environmental Studies, a student must meet additional criteria beyond fulfillment of the major requirements. A full description of the procedures and criteria for earning honors in the majors can be downloaded here. In summary, the requirements are:

  • Earn a cumulative GPA of 3.5 in the courses taken to fulfill the major requirements.
  • Complete AS.271.399 Research Design during the junior year to develop a senior thesis project proposal. If a student is prevented from taking the course for some reason, such as studying abroad, they must petition the DUS for a waiver.
  • Submit a senior thesis project proposal on an environmental or sustainability-related research project or other comparable scholarly endeavor no later than two weeks before the start of the fall term of the senior year. It will be reviewed by the ENVS thesis committee and must meet committee’s approval.
  • Complete 6 credits of AS.271.511 Senior Thesis under the guidance of a JHU faculty member or research affiliate.
  • Earn a rating of good or excellent on the final product of the thesis, as determined by the ENVS thesis committee and the student’s research advisor.
  • Present the results of the thesis orally in an appropriate JHU department.

A thesis project completed to earn honors in an ENVS major cannot be double-counted with an honors thesis done in another department or program for a second major.

The Office of Academic Advising has additional information about other types of honors that can be earned.