The Environmental Science curriculum recognizes the need for well-trained scientists to cope with balancing human requirements and environmental conservation. Majors acquire an understanding of earth systems by taking courses in the natural sciences, as well as courses investigating environmental stress. Students learn to critically evaluate the diverse information necessary for sound environmental analysis. Courses foster an interdisciplinary approach to environmental problem-solving. Internships or some type of work, research, or field experience are extremely valuable in preparing you for a career in Environmental Science. You might want to consider a semester or summer program at the SEE-U, SEA Semester at Woods Hole, the School for Field Studies, the Organization for Tropical Studies, or some other field program. In addition, all students majoring in Environmental Sciences are urged to take a course where you gain experience using spreadsheets, statistics, and data analysis on computers.

Environmental Science

Environmental Science provides a scientific basis for management of earth systems. It focuses on the interaction between human activities, resources, and the environment. As human population grows and technology advances, pressures on earth's natural systems are becoming increasingly intense and complex. Environmental Science is an exciting field where science is used to best serve society.

Environmental Biology

In 1997 we introduced a new major in "Environmental Biology." Students take courses in both the Environmental Science and Biology departments. Career opportunities are possible in: natural history museums and parks, environmental education, environmental advocacy, and government agencies.

Environment and Sustainability

In the Fall of 2017, the Environment and Sustainability major was approved by the Barnard Faculty as a revised and renamed Environmental Policy major. Sustainability is a growing field focusing on finding solutions in an ever-changing environment.  Majors develop an understanding of the processes and stresses of earth's systems, handle environmental data and make reasoned assessments, and engage in collaborative and interdisciplinary work required for developing approaches to maintain a sustainable environment.

Environmental Policy

In the Fall of 2002, a new major in Environmental Policy was approved by the Barnard Faculty. Majors in the Classes of 2018 and 2019 may remain in the Environmental Policy major or elect to major in the new Environment and Sustainability major. Environmental Policy focuses on political institutions, societal processes, and individual choices that lead to environmental stress, the impact of environmental stress on institutions, processes and individuals, and the development of approaches to reduce environmental impact at the intersection of science and society.

Special Majors

Students interested in pursuing further work in environmental science and other areas may consider doing a special major. Students interested in environmental law, teaching and journalism may also wish to consider a double major, or a major/minor combination in relevant fields.


Students wishing to minor in Environmental Science must have a plan approved by the Environmental Science Department chair. Five courses are required including 1 laboratory science courses (such as EESC BC1001, EESC UN1011, EESC UN2100, EESC UN2200, EESC UN2300 and 4 electives (including at least 3 courses at the 3000 level or above).  For details see Environmental Science Minor Worksheet for a list of qualifying electives. In some cases, courses in other sciences can be substituted with the approval of the chair.

Students wishing to minor in Environmental Science who are interested in field programs and seek minor credit must contact Department Co-Chairs, Martin Stute or Brian Mailloux. The only current field program within Columbia University is SEE-U.

There is no minor in Environmental Biology or Environmental Policy.

Five Year Programs

You can combine your BA from Barnard with a Masters of Science Degree from Columbia in Sustainability Management.  Speak with your adviser about what you can do to fulfill the requirements and apply!