Majors related to climate change are popular — and for good reason. Global temperatures are rising, so college students are joining the fight to combat climate change. Members of Generation Z “flock to climate careers,” according to The Guardian.
“I cannot imagine a career that isn’t connected to even just being a small part of a solution,” Mimi Ausland, 25, told The Guardian.
If you’d like to prepare for a climate career, consider a major that immerses you in the study of the environment and ecology. Students who choose a specific focus — such as atmospheric science, marine biology, or horticulture — can contribute their unique expertise toward mitigating climate change. These 13 majors within the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences could prepare you to become part of the solution.
1. Agricultural and environmental education major
Want to teach people the truth about climate change? Students in the agricultural and environmental education major balance the studies of science, teaching and communications to learn how to translate science to the public. They might become educators, advocates, community organizers, curriculum advisors, journalists, or outdoor education specialists, among many other careers.
The agricultural and environmental education major includes a sampling of courses in animal science, plant and soil science, environmental horticulture, agricultural and environmental engineering, economics, and the environmental sciences. The required courses in education prepare you to work with students of all ages.
2. Atmospheric science major
Want to help communities prepare for and respond to severe weather events such as floods, heat waves, hurricanes, tornadoes and droughts? The atmospheric science major teaches you about weather patterns through the study of physics, solar radiation, meteorological processes, climate change and variations, and air pollution.
Graduates are qualified to become National Weather Service meteorologists. They could also work as air quality specialists, atmospheric science researchers, climate scientists, environmental scientists, educators, and more.
3. Environmental horticulture and urban forestry major
Plants are a key part of mitigating climate change. They have the power to repair damaged landscapes, control erosion, and reduce water and energy consumption. Plants improve our air quality and our quality of life. Students in the environmental horticulture and urban forestry major learn about the complex relationships between plants, people, animals, soil, water, air and microorganisms.
Graduates could become revegetation consultants, native plant propagators, botanical garden managers, irrigation engineers or restoration specialists. They could go on to further study in urban planning, horticulture, environmental sciences, business and more.
4. Ecological management and restoration major
Fire seasons are now a regular occurrence across the West, and hurricanes and blizzards have increased in intensity. As the damaging effects of climate change rage on, our lands will need care. A major in ecological management and restoration will teach you how to tend to wildland, rangeland or plant communities.
Graduates will be prepared to manage and repair ecological systems so that these systems can keep supplying human needs, such as food, while conserving and sustaining ecology and diversity. Students have gone on to work as environmental restoration practitioners, natural resource conservationists, park botanists and restoration ecologists.
5. Environmental policy analysis and planning major
Every day, citizens around the world are awakening to the fact that environmental protection is an absolute must. They are demanding that their governments and businesses take action to solve global issues.
Increasingly, there is a need for environmental professionals to make a greater impact, and fast. Water scarcity, biodiversity loss, a skyrocketing global population and food security — while frightening — also offer opportunities to find solutions to the most critical issues of our time.
At UC Davis, environmental policy and planning majors are at the forefront of meaningful and rewarding careers — as an environmental lawyer, a city planner or an environmental consultant, to name a few — that will make planet Earth more sustainable.
Read more at “What Can I Do With a Major in Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning?” by Pablo Loayza.
6. Environmental science and management major
Want to contribute solutions to climate change through a combination of science, policy and management? Environmental scientists advance our understanding of how people are affecting the world around us, and they connect that understanding to management and policy. In the environmental science and management major, all students have opportunities to gain practical experience through field courses and a required internship.
Graduates of the environmental science and management major have a wide variety of opportunities, from research to management. They could eventually go on to careers as environmental attorneys (with additional schooling), geographic information systems analysts, and environmental impact specialists.
Read more at “What Can I Do With a Major in Environmental Science and Management?” by Tanya Perez and Lev Farris Goldenberg.
7. Environmental toxicology major
Pesticides and pollutants affect our habitats and our health. Environmental toxicologists study the impact of toxins on all living things, and they play an important role in their regulation. Students in the environmental toxicology major become well-versed in chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and toxicology.
Graduates in environmental toxicology could work as biohazard specialists, environmental compliance analysts, forensic scientists, public health scientists, pharmacists, environmental consultants, and more.
8. Hydrology major
Hydrologists tackle climate change with a focus on our most precious resource: water. Hydrologic science is the study of water in all of its aspects: as weather, river basins, groundwater, glaciers, lakes, streams, permafrost and water vapor. Hydrologists measure and analyze water beneath the ground, on the earth’s surface and in the atmosphere to determine how water is affected by physical, chemical and biological processes on Earth.
Graduates in the hydrology major might become hydrologists, hydrogeologists, limnologists, water hygiene engineers, water policy analysts, and more.
9. Marine and coastal science major
Do you want to tackle climate change while exploring coastal tide pools? Marine scientists apply their scientific skills to protect ocean and coastal environments and solve global problems. Our oceans account for more than 96% of the world’s water, and few of the world’s coastlines are beyond the influence of human pressures. To help in their conservation and study, we offer three marine and coastal science major specializations:
- Coastal environmental processes or marine environmental chemistry
- Oceans and the earth system
- Marine ecology and organismal biology
Graduates could become fisheries biologists, coastal geologists, marine ecologists, aquarium operations managers, and more.
10. Plant sciences major
When you study plant sciences, you get hands-on experience with plants and agriculture, experience that can lead to a lucrative, rewarding career and a healthier planet for us all. The combination of science and practical experience prepares graduates to be innovators in sustaining agricultural productivity and environmental quality.
Graduates of the plant sciences major could go on to become agronomists, plant geneticists, precision agriculture specialists, seed producers, and more.
11. Sustainable agriculture and food systems major
Want to fight climate change with a focus on food systems? The major in sustainable agriculture and food systems takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding complex issues ranging from food security to food policy to growing crops on a farm.
Graduates could become successful agriculturalists, entrepreneurs and researchers. They could hold jobs as farmers market managers, farmers, community organizers, agricultural policy analysts, international development officers, permaculture specialists, and more.
12. Sustainable environmental design major
Climate change will require that we strengthen our communities to make them sustainable. Urban planners and regional developers shape our physical landscapes to create environments that frame our daily lives. With an added focus on sustainability, these community builders help ensure that the places in which we live and work are environmentally safe and resource-efficient. The sustainable environmental design major prepares students to thoughtfully plan communities, design livable cities, develop smooth-running transportation systems and create healthy, equitable urban spaces.
Graduates could become urban planners, community organizers, researchers, developers, and policy analysts. They might go on to additional graduate studies in landscape architecture, urban planning and regional development, architecture, real estate or environmental sciences.
Read more at “What Can I Do With a Sustainable Environmental Design Major?” by Sudhiksha Shanbhag Kota.
13. Wildlife, fish and conservation biology major
Do you want to tackle climate change by protecting animals?
If you do feel passionate about animals, maybe you want to become a wildlife biologist — or possibly a veterinarian, fisheries manager, habitat restoration ecologist or zookeeper.
If these careers interest you, consider the wildlife, fish and conservation biology major at UC Davis. We prepare students who are dedicated to the conservation of all wildlife and fish species and interested in the resolution of conflicts between people and wildlife.
Read more at “Where the Wild Things Are” by Robin DeRieux.
Rebecca Huval is the digital managing editor of the Majors Blog.