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Confront Environmental Challenges

Environmental science is more important today than ever before. American University's Master of Science in Environmental Science gives students the knowledge and leadership skills to confront pressing environmental challenges facing the world, from climate change to renewable energy to food and water security.

The program will prepare you for careers in science, research, environmental policy, and advocacy. With advanced coursework in climate modeling, geochemistry, conservation, and the statistics necessary to inform science-based policy, the program prepares students to engage in high-level environmental problem-solving and to develop innovative solutions to critically important environmental issues.

You will graduate as a scientist with political savvy. Grounded in rigorous scientific research and analysis, the program also delves into the politics, policies, and economics of environmental concerns.

AU's location in Washington, DC, gives you the opportunity to gain practical experience and network within your field through internships with public and private environmental organizations. Students can conduct research with faculty at AU or at one of the many renowned research institutions in the area. In recent years, students have published their work in peer-reviewed journals including Applied Geochemistry, Ecological Engineering, Ecological Research, Marine Ecology Progress Series, and Marine Pollution Bulletin.

AU graduates are a force for change. Eighty-two percent of graduates work in an environmental field, are in graduate programs, or are doing both. Graduates move on to highly successful careers with government and non-governmental organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, Peace Corps, state environmental agencies, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Choose your master's program.

The Master of Science in Environmental Science is a 36-credit hour program focused on scientific research and analysis with a multidisciplinary examination of the natural sciences.

The program offers two degree tracks: a thesis track for those interested in careers as scientists or researchers and a non-thesis track for those pursuing careers in environmental policy or advocacy.

The 12-credit hour core of required courses will give you a strong foundation in environmental science, and 18 hours of electives in environmental science, environmental policy and economics, and related disciplines allow you to customize your coursework to follow your interests and goals.

Please see also: Admissions & Course Requirements

Knowledgeable faculty dedicated to your success.

The Department of Environmental Science has a world-class, highly trained faculty conducting research on various subjects such as airborne remote sensing of the terrestrial environment, marine and freshwater ecosystems, coral reefs, and environmental/natural resource economics. Faculty members work closely with students in the classroom, through research, and in collaborative scholarship.

Work, study, and make a difference in the nation's capital.

Consistently ranked as one of the best cities for job seekers, Washington, DC, offers American University students unparalleled access to private and public sector opportunities. From great jobs to doctoral programs, graduates succeed through the opportunities available in DC.

Students get a head start in the field with internships with the area's environmental agencies, research institutions, and non-government entities. These internships frequently lead to full-time positions after graduation. You will learn real-world skills, advance your career, and make important connections working in the nation's most important city for advocacy and policymaking.

Environmental scientists are tasked with solving some of the most critically important issues facing the world, and the MS in Environmental Science from American University is your entry point to this rewarding career. 

Recent alumni have gone on to work at such employers as

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • IIC Technologies Inc.
  • International Wildlife Research
  • Lab Support
  • Las Vegas Valley Water District
  • The University of Hong Kong

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Environmental Scientists earn an average annual salary of $71,000.

Read more career information about AU's environmental science alumni.

Environmental Science at AU


Learn more about the Department of Environmental Science at American University's College of Arts and Sciences. Faculty and students discuss what sets this program apart.

News & Notes

Community garden in Baltimore, one of the cities where research will be conducted

Announcement ·

American University, CAS Faculty Lead NSF-Funded National Research Network to Address the Challenge of Reducing Wasted Food

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  • Sauleh Siddiqui, Kiho Kim, and Jessica Gephart are part of the team of researchers recently awarded a five-year, $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Titled "Multiscale Resilient, Equitable, and Circular Innovations with Partnership and Education Synergies (RECIPES) for Sustainable Food Systems,” the project will study food waste and work toward sustainability and equity in food systems under the leadership of AU principle investigator, Siddiqui.
  • Sauleh Siddiqui spoke on CNN about why we need to adjust our approach to infrastructure to protect the most vulnerable from climate change.
  • Stephen MacAvoy co-authored Climate Change, Science, and the Politics of Shared Sacrifice.
  • Barbara Balestra received a grant for $12,000 from NASA for her project "Predicting Changes in Ocean Habitability on Earth and Other Ocean Worlds."
  • Michael Alonzo received a grant for $37,914 from NASA for his work improving models of forest ecosystem structure and function through fusion of 3D data derived from stereo imagery and lidar.
  • Sauleh Siddiqui received a $108,130 grant from National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Valentina Aquila was awarded $19,096 by Michigan Technological University/NASA, for her project "Tracking Volcanic Volatiles From Magma Reservoir to the Atmosphere: Identifying Precursors and Optimizing Models and Satellite Observations for Future Major Eruptions."
  • Elisa Davie (MS '22) was awarded F2020 Graduate Student Research Funds from the CAS Dean's Office to support her micro-plastics work with Drs. Meiller and Balestra.
  • Avery Williams
  • Avery Williams, MS '21 has won the prestigious The Garden Club of America, 2019 GCA Zone VI Fellowship in Urban Forestryfor the project: “Using High-Resolution Satellite Data to Track Phenological Shifts of Urban Vegetation for Individual Tree Scale Analyses.”

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Student Spotlight

I chose AU because of its international impact in the environmental field.

Lisa Toy entered the program with a BA in Physiological Psychology and Broadcast Communications. On campus, she worked on sustainability and LEED certifications. As an intern with the Pesticide Action Network, she researched the public and environmental health impacts of genetically engineered corn. She currently oversees sustainability and recycling programs for Palm Beach County Schools.

Frequently Asked Questions

Most graduate students receive financial support. There are merit-based tuition awards and stipends for being a teaching assistant. In the 2015-16 academic year, 64% of our students were supported by AU funding through research or teaching. Of those not supported by AU, 25% were funded by other sources.

Yes, but it is more difficult to get financial support, which is generally given to full-time students. Six credits per semester is considered full time for financial purposes, though most full-time students take nine credits per semester.

The thesis track gives students experience doing their own complex study and learning the statistics and analytical skills required to evaluate their results. The experience of writing the thesis is valuable and frequently leads to a peer-reviewed publication. The non-thesis track gives a strong coursework background in science and analysis, along with extensive internship experience that may lead more directly into a position.

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