Guide to the Best Online Master’s in Environmental Science

Explore flexible online master’s degrees from top schools that can prepare you to lead the way solving today’s biggest environmental issues.

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Environmental issues impact everything from climate change to construction. Whether you’re interested in environmental advocacy or consulting on environmental regulations affecting businesses, an online master’s in environmental science or an online master’s in environmental studies offers rigorous scientific study alongside topics like business, public policy, and anthropology—all of which combine to improve our future and our world.

The following guide highlights flexible options for pursuing a master’s in environmental science online degree and showcases several standout programs. Plus, we take a close look at popular careers for graduates, how much they pay, and how the job market looks. Keep reading for answers to your pressing questions about this versatile degree, and see what this online master’s program can do for you.

2024’s Best Master’s in Environmental Science Online Programs

Below we highlight this year’s best online environmental science master’s programs to help you get started on your school search. These colleges offer flexible online degrees that take an interdisciplinary approach to addressing various global environmental issues. The list of top online environmental science master’s degree programs was based on reviewing several key program components, including accreditation, online program availability, overall affordability, and student support services. Discover a school to meet your needs now.

About the ranking

College Ranking Methodology

Generate List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in the subject area offered partially or fully online.
  • Career placement and academic counseling services.

Assign Weightings

After generating the list of eligible schools, the STEPS data team then assigned weights and ranked schools based on their performance in a variety of key categories. Affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings, followed by online learning and academic quality metrics (equally weighted).

Online Learning

  • Number of online programs in subject area self-reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Percentage of graduate students at the school taking at least one class online.


  • Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on in-state tuition for graduate students per academic year.

Academic Quality

  • Student-to-faculty ratio: Schools with lower ratios ranked higher.
  • Percentage of students admitted. More selective schools ranked higher.

About Our Data

All STEPS rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: August 2023

Accreditation Glossary

ABHE: Association for Biblical Higher Education, Commission on Accreditation

ABHES: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools

ACCJC: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

ACCSC: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges

DEAC: Distance Education Accrediting Commission

HLC: Higher Learning Commission

MSCHE: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

NECHE: New England Commission of Higher Education

NWCCU: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

SACSCOC: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

TRACS: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission

WSCUC: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission


University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida

Students can pursue a Master of Science in Soil, Water, and Ecosystem Sciences, Environmental Science Track, online through the University of Florida. This master's degree is ideal for students who want to expand their knowledge of evaluating soil and water quality in various environments. A bachelor's degree or equivalent in soil and water sciences or a related field is required to apply. However, interested students without an undergraduate degree in the field can complete prerequisite coursework to establish eligibility. Since courses are entirely online, students remain in their respective locations and professions while earning a degree. For maximum convenience, students can begin studies during any spring, summer, or fall semester. Thesis and nonthesis tracks are available.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science Degree - Environmental Science Track

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: 2-4 years
  • Cost: $565/credit
  • Mode: 100% online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to-Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Accreditation SACSCOC
Online Students 48%


University of Illinois Springfield

Springfield, Illinois

Students who want to launch or expand their careers in environmental sciences can earn a master's degree online from the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS). This program offers three distinct tracks of study. Students customize their degree by choosing from concentrations in General Environmental Sciences, Environmental Planning and Management, and Sustainable Development and Policy. To qualify for graduation, master's students choose to complete a thesis, develop a culminating project, or present a draft of environmental legislation or policy. Coursework is available entirely online, making it possible for students to complete their degree from wherever they're located, on their own schedules. UIS recommends that students have prior knowledge of chemistry, algebra, statistics, and biology before applying to this program.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Environmental Sciences

  • Credits: 40
  • Length: 2-4 years
  • Cost: $366/credit
  • Mode: 100% online
  • Accreditation: HLC
Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to-Faculty Ratio 12:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Accreditation HLC
Online Students 89%


Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, Maryland

Whether a student is interested in the science or policy-making side of environmental science, they can achieve their career goals with a Master's in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University. The curriculum is flexible, meaning that students can adapt their course selection to their preferred educational outcomes. The program's courses encompass a spectrum of environmentally related topics. For example, students learn about endangered global ecosystems, the economics of natural resources, and environmental trusts and laws. To guide students, six focus areas are available—Conservation Biology; International Environmental Policy; Sustainability; Climate and Energy; Remediation, Compliance, and Assessment; and Environmental Justice and Equity. Additionally, academic advisors guide students in selecting electives that align with their interests and goals.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Environmental Sciences and Policy

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: 3-4 years
  • Cost: $4,580/course
  • Mode: 100% online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to-Faculty Ratio 6:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Accreditation MSCHE
Online Students 81%


Tulane University of Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to-Faculty Ratio 8:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Accreditation SACSCOC
Online Students 37%

What You’ll Learn in an Environmental Science Online Master’s Program

An environmental science online master’s program provides you with an exceptionally flexible degree, allowing graduate students the opportunity to augment core classes with various academic concentrations and electives. With concentrations from environmental education to climate change you will be able to tailor this online degree to your academic interests and career goals.

Because this degree typically is multidisciplinary, students encounter various academic areas such as business, political science, and anthropology. As a result, students gain a broad knowledge base that applies to an equally broad spectrum of careers. Keep reading to learn more about popular classes and academic concentrations.

Common Classes in Online Environmental Science Master’s Programs

While courses differ between schools, online environmental science master’s programs and the closely related online master’s in environmental studies typically take an interdisciplinary approach. Core classes traditionally cover essential environmental science topics and are supplemented by concentration and elective courses. We’ve highlighted a handful of standard graduate-level courses below.

Foundations in Sustainability

Examining sustainability issues from business management and environmental management perspectives, students familiarize themselves with the fundamental theories of sustainability and challenges in natural resource management and community planning. Other topics include energy and natural resources, biodiversity, and global climate change.

Environmental Economics

Acting as an introduction to environmental and natural resource issues, students cover topics such as the principles of market efficiency, the economic concept of value, and environmental policy. By understanding economic principles, you’ll examine environmental issues including pollution, renewable natural resources, and nonrenewable resource management.

Environmental Law

Providing a broad overview of issues in environmental law, students familiarize themselves with topics such as federal an