2019 Best Online Master's in Environmental Science Programs

Environmental Science-Top Online Colleges-2019-Badge

Ranked according to affordability and average alumni salaries, these colleges and universities offer the best online master’s in environmental science degrees. Of the 24 schools, 16 of them offer an annual tuition below $15,000. University of Houston-Clear Lake ranks #1 overall, with an average alumni salary of $130,956 and a tuition of $16,956 per year.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about SR Education Group.

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Rank School Annual Tuition Median Salary
#1 #1 University of Houston-Clear Lake $16,956 $130,956
#2 #2 University of Idaho $9,352 $125,060
#3 #3 Oregon State University $16,678 $121,445
#4 #4 Texas A & M University-College Station $14,922 $120,800
#5 #5 University of Washington - Seattle $14,872 $116,630
#6 #6 Auburn University $6,525 $114,475
#7 #7 Johns Hopkins University $19,290 $115,654
#8 #8 North Carolina State University $22,410 $115,423
#9 #9 Texas Tech University $10,515 $113,771
#10 #10 Colorado State University-Fort Collins $10,575 $113,234
#11 #11 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University $13,500 $113,576
#12 #12 University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign $10,800 $110,304
#13 #13 Montana State University $6,400 $105,100
#14 #14 University of Denver $16,464 $103,250
#15 #15 University of Illinois at Springfield $7,245 $98,360
#16 #16 University of Maryland University College $11,862 $98,492
#17 #17 University of Missouri $6,312 $96,232
#18 #18 Southern Methodist University $20,250 $94,023
#19 #19 Utah State University $8,034 $90,908
#20 #20 University of South Florida - Main Campus $15,864 $89,758
#21 #21 Duke University $39,975 $92,798
#22 #22 Webster University $14,040 $86,777
#23 #23 Mississippi State University $8,541 $84,600
#24 #24 Nova Southeastern University $10,530 $79,814
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo. Updated 2018.
  • Annual Tuition: $16,956
  • Median Salary: $130,956
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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University of Houston-Clear Lake has conferred 75,000 degrees since it began teaching in 1974. In addition to traditional on-campus degrees, it offers online degrees to distance students. Its Master of Environmental Science online degree requires 36 credits for graduation and offers special value by allowing students to take three courses per semester year-round and graduate in a short 16 months. It is a multi-disciplinary degree that prepares students for entry into the petroleum, medicine, consulting and government industries. UHCL offers distance students assistance that is designed specifically for them, including access to advisors, and career and counseling services.

Online Master's Degrees (1)

  • Annual Tuition: $9,352
  • Median Salary: $125,060
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NWCCU
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University of Idaho was founded in 1889 and offers students low tuition for quality education. Its accredited, online MS of Environmental Science offers concentrations in physical, biological, and social science. The non-thesis option for this degree requires 26 units of course work and four credits in non-thesis research, while the thesis option requires 26 credits of course work and 6 credits of thesis research. A thesis is usually between 40 and 70 1.5-spaced pages in length, involves original research and may be published. A non-thesis paper requires about 160 hours of work over 1 to 2 semesters and does not involve original research. Another non-thesis option is planning, implementing and completing a community project based upon the course curriculum.

  • Annual Tuition: $16,678
  • Median Salary: $121,445
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NWCCU
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Oregon State University has a long history of excellence. It opened its doors in 1868, and is carrying its academic prowess forward into the 21st Century with an Ecampus that offers sought-after online degrees, including 12 environmental science degrees, in over 100 subjects. Its Master of Environmental Sciences degree is a 45-unit degree with four start dates annually and seven different specializations, including natural resources, social science and biogeochemistry. The online Ecampus format allows students and faculty to interact through a number of different electronic platforms, including email, discussion boards, Skype and Webex. It also offers an online course demo. Online student resources include tech support and disability services.

  • Annual Tuition: $14,922
  • Median Salary: $120,800
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Texas A & M University-College Station offers six different online graduate Master of Environmental Science degrees. These include master's degrees in agricultural development, natural resource development and wildlife science. The master's of agriculture in agricultural development is a non-thesis program requiring 36 credit hours and an internship. Students apply online and are encouraged to submit transcripts electronically. They have access to traditional student support services, disability services and counseling. Texas A & M faculty receive assistance from The Center for Teaching Excellence when designing online courses, so as to maintain the university's standards of excellence.

  • Annual Tuition: $14,872
  • Median Salary: $116,630
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NWCCU
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University of Washington - Seattle offers a quality, affordable online Master of Sustainable Transportation degree. This multi-disciplinary degree takes three years to complete with part-time attendance. An accelerated schedule can lead to graduation in just one or two years. Its curriculum consists of nine courses, including a year-long capstone project, that total 43 credits. Some of the classes taught include livable communities and design, climate change and energy, and health and sustainable transportation. An online video explains the program and optional career paths for graduates.

Online Master's Degrees (1)

  • Annual Tuition: $6,525
  • Median Salary: $114,475
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Auburn University was established over 150 years ago and now has an enrollment of almost 30,000 students. It is dedicated to providing working adults with access to quality, low-cost education, and offers several online environmental science degrees. Its online MS degrees in agronomy & soils, and soil, water & environmental sciences, require GREs and are 30 credit hours in length, while its Master of Agriculture degrees in crop, soil & environmental sciences, and soil, water and environmental sciences, do not require GREs and are also 30 credit hours in length. Prerequisites are required for all four degrees. Curriculum courses include advanced crop science, soil microbiology lab, and food laws and regulations.

  • Annual Tuition: $19,290
  • Median Salary: $115,654
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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With 24,000 students studying in over 260 academic programs, Johns Hopkins University is a leader in education. Its six different online environmental science degrees range from a Master of Science in environmental engineering to a Master of Environmental Health Sciences. Graduates of these programs report a median salary of $115,654. JHU's MS of Environmental Science & Policy requires 10 classes and has entry dates in fall, spring and summer. Online students have access to numerous resources, including eligibility for scholarships and grants, and assistance with obtaining financial aid.

  • Annual Tuition: $22,410
  • Median Salary: $115,423
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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North Carolina State University's high student enrollment of 33,755 and low student-faculty ratio of 13:1 make for a rich academic environment. Among the many online programs it offers are a Master of Environmental Assessment, a Master of Forest Biomaterials, and a Master of Soil Science. The Master of Environmental Assessment is thirty credit hours in length and includes lecture videos, activities and other media. Neither an entrance exam nor a thesis are required for this major. Students access it, and all online courses, through NC State’s WolfWare website. Online students either arrange to have their tests proctored, or take them online.

  • Annual Tuition: $10,515
  • Median Salary: $113,771
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Boasting 12 colleges and almost 40,000 enrolled students, Texas Tech University offers an online Master of Science in Environmental Sustainability and Natural Resource Management with a general track, and a track specializing in Ecology and Environmental Sustainability. Texas Tech also offers a Master of Science in Plant & Soil Science with specializations in crop science, soil science, crop protection, and fibers and biopolymers. The programs vary in length, as some can be customized, but most average 36 credit hours and require a bachelor's degree. Texas Tech has a reputation for treating its online military and disabled students well. It also offers a transfer scholarship to qualified community college students who wish to finish their degree at Texas Tech.

  • Annual Tuition: $10,575
  • Median Salary: $113,234
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Colorado State University-Fort Collins offers distance students a number of high-quality, regionally-accredited, undergraduate and graduate online degree programs to choose from. Among them is its Master of Natural Resource Stewardship, a 30-credit degree with three specializations. Required classes include ecology of disturbed lands, natural resources inventory and data analysis, and analysis of environmental impact. This program teaches leadership skills that can lead to careers as a forester, wildland manager, soil conservationist or environmental planner. Students can apply online and are eligible for financial aid.

  • Annual Tuition: $13,500
  • Median Salary: $113,576
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is a research university that is pioneering how education and technology work together to help serve students. It provides distance students with a host of services including tech support, advising, financial aid assistance, library and bookstore access, and career assistance. It offers a Master of Agricultural and Life Sciences degree that is 100% online and accepts students year-round. It also offers a non-thesis, online Master of Natural Resources degree that is designed for working professionals. Virginia Tech offers veterans tuition incentives and application fee waivers.

  • Annual Tuition: $10,800
  • Median Salary: $110,304
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign provides online students with the same quality education that it gives on-campus students. Online options include a 32-unit Master of Science in Crop Sciences that has rolling admission and takes two to five years to complete, and a 32-unit, cohort-based Master of Science in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences with three yearly start dates. The Illinois online website provides distance students with all the information they will need for their online studies, including information about textbooks, exams, distance library services, and writing support.

  • Annual Tuition: $6,400
  • Median Salary: $105,100
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NWCCU
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Montana State University's offers an online Master of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences degree. This accredited program requires a minimum of 30 credits and generally takes two years to complete. Prerequisites include a bachelor's degree in a similar field and a combined GRE score of over 300. Classes cover toxicology, herbicide physiology, and insect ecology, and the degree requires a 3-unit professional paper. Online students have access to the MSU library and technical support, as well as a host of additional services. Tuition is priced at $326.35 per credit for resident students, and $460.30 for non-residents.

  • Annual Tuition: $16,464
  • Median Salary: $103,250
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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University of Denver offers over 300 academic programs, including many that are completely online. Online classes are asynchronous, meaning that though they have hard due dates for assignments and tests, students have the freedom to access them 24/7 and study coursework at their convenience. There are no additional fees for online classes. The online Master of Environmental Policy and Management degree has six tracks, including energy and sustainability, natural resource management, and environmental analytics and reporting. No GREs or GMATs are required for admission, and the degree can be obtained in as few as 18 months.

  • Annual Tuition: $7,245
  • Median Salary: $98,360
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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University of Illinois at Springfield assists distance students with their decision-making process by providing them with an online self-assessment test and orientation. Its online environmental sciences programs include a Master of Environmental Studies and a Master of Environmental Science. The MS in Environmental Sciences is a 40-unit degree with the option of a thesis or graduate project, while the 40-unit MA in Environmental Studies also allows for a capstone project. UIS has partner agreements with numerous schools across the state of Illinois, allowing students to transfer in with ease.

  • Annual Tuition: $11,862
  • Median Salary: $98,492
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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A merit-based admissions system that does not require the SAT, GRE, or GMAT, coupled with a rolling admission policy and multiple yearly start dates, puts University of Maryland University College at the forefront of education and innovation. Online students receive access to the university's online library system, employer alliances, career counseling and academic advisors, tutors, and mentors. Its Master of Science in Environmental Management degree requires 36 credits, and allows up to six transfer units. It requires an introductory class, numerous core classes, and a capstone study course. UMUC assists students economically by offering innovative options such as an interest-free monthly payment plan and free textbooks for most classes.

  • Annual Tuition: $6,312
  • Median Salary: $96,232
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Ninety of University of Missouri's 300 degree programs are online, making it a powerhouse for working adults and distance learners. Its web-based Master of Science in Natural Resources has a general track, and a track in agroforestry. Both are accredited, 30-credit-hour programs. The agroforestry track's course curriculum covers agroforestry economics and policy, watershed restoration, and natural resource policy and administration. An online orientation insures that distance students are familiar with the services they have access to, as well as the technical requirements of their classes.

  • Annual Tuition: $20,250
  • Median Salary: $94,023
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Southern Methodist University offers over 120 master's degrees, including an MA with a Major in Sustainability and Development. This 100% online, project-based program is 30 credit hours in length and is affiliated with the Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity. After students fulfill the core requirements and the specialization requirements in either sustainable global development & design or sustainable management, they customize their degree to reflect their research objectives. Applicants must have an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  • Annual Tuition: $8,034
  • Median Salary: $90,908
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NWCCU
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Working adults seeking an affordable master's degree in environmental science may wish to consider Utah State University's Master of Natural Resources. An online cost calculator helps make the decision-making process simple, as does the online enrollment process. The program itself is an interdisciplinary degree that covers seven core areas. It is recommended that all applicants have at least three years of work experience in natural resources. USU online student resources include e-tutoring, academic advising, career services, and software discounts. 

Online Master's Degrees (1)

  • Annual Tuition: $15,864
  • Median Salary: $89,758
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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University of South Florida - Main Campus was founded in 1956 and since then has secured its reputation as a major research institute. Its online graduate programs cover a number of disciplines, including global sustainability. Its Master of Arts program in Global Sustainability offers distance students nine different specializations to choose from, including water, energy, transportation and tourism. It requires 12 core credit hours, 9 concentration credit hours, 6 electives, and 3-6 credit hours for the final project.

  • Annual Tuition: $39,975
  • Median Salary: $92,798
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Duke University has more graduate and professional students than undergrads – a testament to its longstanding academic prowess. Its Duke Environmental Leadership Master of Environmental Management (DEL-MEM) program is a two year, four semester online program that is designed to propel working professionals into career advancement and leadership roles. As with all of Duke's online courses, its classes were specifically created for online students. Online students receive many of the same benefits as on-campus students, including access to advisors, career specialists and the university library.

Online Master's Degrees (1)

  • Annual Tuition: $14,040
  • Median Salary: $86,777
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Webster University offers transfer students credit for both credits earned and prior military training. Through its online programs it extends its reach globally. Distance students can obtain its online Master of Science in Environmental Management, choosing the 36-credit-hour general track, the 39-credit-hour environmental sustainability track, or the 51-credit-hour MBA with an emphasis in environmental management option. All three options prepare graduates to successfully traverse the business aspects of environmental management.

  • Annual Tuition: $8,541
  • Median Salary: $84,600
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Mississippi State University's Center for Distance Education offers over 40 online degree options. MSU provides online students with special incentives, such as offering in-state tuition, start dates in the spring, summer and fall, and standard student services such as tutoring and job fairs. Its online Master of Science in Forestry offers both thesis and non-thesis options, and requires 30 credit hours for completion. Its online Master of Science in Environmental Geosciences is a 10-course, 30-credit-hour program which requires either a field-based or campus-based capstone project.

  • Annual Tuition: $10,530
  • Median Salary: $79,814
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Private, regionally-accredited Nova Southeastern University provides graduate students with five distance options for environmental science degrees. These online programs use multimedia, real-time video presentations, and web-based bulletin boards to facilitate student involvement and learning. The Master of Science in Coastal Zone Management has both thesis and capstone tracks, while the Master of Science in Disaster and Emergency Preparedness - Environmental Hazards can be completed in as few as 21 months. The Master of Arts in Cross-Disciplinary Studies - Coastal Environment & Society requires a portfolio project for graduation.

Online Master's in Environmental Science Overview

Students typically enroll in several traditional classes during the first semester in a graduate program. Schools vary with regard to their credit demands, but in most cases students will take more classes during the first year while they acclimate to the program and find internship or research opportunities. The majority of programs will ask students to take a certain number of set classes, such as Introduction to Environmental Science and Research Methods in Environmental Science. From there, students may be able to select their own courses based on their own particular interests. 

Schools will also vary depending on how they structure classes. There may be variation within the school, but most master's program courses will be conducted in a discussion format, allowing students the chance to develop and share their ideas. Graduate classes are also often heavily paper-based, rather than via examinations. 

A master's student who is studying environmental science will probably have to write an extended, research-based paper. They will conduct research on a topic of their choice and then present their findings in an academic paper, which typically takes at least a semester to complete. Most students spend their entire second year developing their master's thesis ideas. It is not unheard of for schools to offer a designated thesis-writing class in order to offer adequate support to students, but most will also form a partnership with one particular professor who will guide them through the research and academic writing process. 

Some universities are particularly focused on research, and they invest millions of dollars a year in helping fund large research projects. In fact, universities have hosted some of the most innovative research projects for environmental science in the last couple of decades, and students have the opportunity to get involved in such projects. This is something to consider when choosing a school as this type of experience can provide opportunities for networking and ongoing professional partnerships. 

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This indicates that a school has an annual tuition of $15,000 or less as reported to the National Center for Education Statistics or based on the school's website.