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Environmental and Soil Science – Environmental Science Concentration Major Guide for 2016-2017

What is Environmental and Soil Science – Environmental Science Concentration

Environmental scientists study land, soil, and water resources, and their role in natural and managed ecosystems, often working to remove the hazards that affect people, wildlife, and their environments. Understanding the issues involved in protecting the environment—degradation, conservation, recycling, climate change, and renewal energy—is central to the work of environmental scientists. This is the training provided in the Environmental Sciences concentration of the Environmental and Soil Sciences major.

Environmental scientists also understand the societal issues related to the environment, such as policy, economics, and ethics. They often have expertise with modern technologies such as geographical information systems, global positioning systems, computer systems, and the application of these technologies to solve real world environmental problems. Environmental scientists work in offices and laboratories; some may spend time in the field gathering data and monitoring environmental conditions firsthand. Most environmental scientists work full time.

Career Opportunities in Environmental and Soil Science – Environmental Science Concentration

Some Environmental Science graduates pursue careers related to food and fiber production; others focus on environmental remediation or compliance; others may work as research assistants; and others may pursue graduate studies. The curriculum prepares graduates for an interesting and challenging career path working with other professionals to solve complex environmental problems. Examples of potential careers include: reclaiming contaminated sites; designing and monitoring landfills; analyzing and protecting rural or urban water supplies; planning for stormwater; working in a university or industry setting as a specialist or scientist; private consulting in environmental and agricultural areas; and working with non-governmental organizations.

As an Environmental Scientist, you can choose from a wide range of job opportunities that take you into the field, laboratory, or office. Federal, State, and local governments employ 43 percent of all environmental scientists. Many environmental scientists work at consulting firms, helping businesses and government agencies comply with environmental policy, particularly with regard to water and soil contamination. They often use this understanding to design and monitor waste disposal sites, plan for stormwater management, preserve water supplies, and reclaim contaminated land and water to comply with Federal environmental regulations. Environmental Scientists also write risk assessments and technical proposals, describing the likely effects of construction and other environmental changes. Our students take core physical and biological sciences, math, plant and soil classes that may lead to certification as a soil scientist, a professional requirement in many agencies and companies.

According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor, environmental scientists and specialists held about 90,000 jobs in 2012. About 37 percent of environmental scientists were employed in State and local governments; 21 percent in management, scientific, and technical consulting services; 15 percent in architectural, engineering and related services; and 7 percent in the Federal Government, primarily in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Defense.

Salary Trends in Environmental and Soil Science – Environmental Science Concentration

Median annual wages of environmental scientists and specialists were $63,570 in May 2012. The middle 50 percent earned between $45,340 and $78,980. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,310, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,610.

High School Preparation

Successful Environmental Science students typically have a good high school background in math, physics, biology, ecology, and chemistry. This background will enable you to more easily begin your college work. Also, if you are able to earn advanced placement credit in some of these areas, you may have additional options later in your degree program. These could include taking specialized courses that interest you, working in a lab, or contributing to a research project — providing valuable experience and improving your employment opportunities.

Freshman admission to the program follows the general requirements of the University. Admission chances are enhanced by high ACT/SAT scores and a solid high school transcript.

Transfer Student Preparation

The transfer students that do best in Environmental Science come in with a strong background in the physical and biological science, and math, having done well in the equivalent of Chemistry I, Geology, Biology I, and pre-calculus.  Having most of the general education core completed is recommended. In addition, transfer students from community colleges do best at UT when they have completed 60 credit hours at the community college. There is an articulation agreement in Environmental Science with Pellissippi and Roane State Community Colleges. Several community colleges offer an introductory soil or environmental science class that will transfer into this major.

How to Major in Environmental and Soil Science – Environmental Science Concentration

The Environmental Science concentration is housed in the Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science Department under the Environmental and Soil Science major. Our faculty and students enjoy talking with prospective students. A faculty member (or a student, if you prefer) will be happy to guide you through our labs and answer your questions about the department, major, and career opportunities.

It is important to choose your desired concentration early (preferably at or before enrollment), to avoid having to make up specific required courses. There are provisions for elective courses to be taken in specific subject areas at various stages of your degree program. Students consult with their advisors each semester about their interests and the appropriate classes to meet the students’ needs.

Requirements for Environmental and Soil Science – Environmental Science Concentration

During the freshman year, the Environmental Science Concentration emphasizes foundational physical and biological sciences, writing skills and necessary math. The sophomore year includes additional sciences, as well as computer applications, economics, statistics, and some introductory core courses.

In the junior and senior years, the Environmental Science Concentration directs the student into a variety of core courses that emphasize soil and water sciences. The Environmental Science Concentration shares many courses with the Soil Science Concentration, but focuses more intensely on ecology and interactions between plants, humans, soils, and water.

Directed technical electives allow students to focus on an area of interest. This focus will introduce students to natural resource problems and their management, including:

  • Soil and water conservation issues
  • Land use problems
  • Waste disposal
  • Reclamation of disturbed lands
  • Watershed management
  • Sustainability

Other areas of interest can be pursued through the appropriate selection of these technical electives.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

An internship is a structured 10-12 week work session, usually in the summer, in which you apply what you have learned in the classroom to real-life problems, while being mentored by a trained professional. Students are employed in paid full-time positions by industry, business, and government organizations, providing valuable experience and a competitive salary. The Environmental and Soil Science program encourages all students to intern while in college. Can you see yourself collecting samples in the ?eld, doing applied research, sampling environmental features, learning to map natural resources, constructing wetlands, or teaching environmental education to our youth? Many of our students work as summer interns in the Student Conservation Corps, where they get to live and work in a spectacular national park.

Highlights of Environmental and Soil Science – Environmental Science Concentration

Here are some additional reasons to consider Environmental Science at UT:

  • An excellent student:professor ratio. This means more one-to-one time with professors for academic counseling and assistance with coursework. Graduates consistently rank our outstanding, caring faculty as one of our strengths.
  • a built-in Watershed Minor requiring NO EXTRA CLASSES
  • Training in delivering presentations — through seminars, poster sessions, papers, and attendance at professional meetings.
  • Excellent scholarship support. Our students are eligible for scholarship money from both the University and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
  • The chance to participate in Soil Vols, our soil judging team.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

In addition to providing its graduates with a skill set and academic preparation that are needed around the world, Environmental Science takes an international perspective in both its research and educational missions.  Departmental researchers have recently worked in or cooperated with researchers from countries ranging from Australia to Zambia, with countries in-between including Taiwan, Vietnam, Brazil, Ecuador, and many others.  Finally, our student body includes many international students who add to the diversity of our campus. Students have spent semesters abroad in countries from Sweden to Malta to South Africa, and have traveled with College trips to the Dominican Republic, Belize, Thailand, Mexico, and Jamaica.  CASNR and college departments frequently provide scholarships for CASNR students participating in study abroad programs.  Study abroad students often go on to minor in International Agriculture and Natural Resources. Environmental Scientists are not only ready for the world; they see their mission as meeting needs of a global population to feed itself while protecting its environment.

Experience Learning

Experience Learning LogoExperience Learning is a bold new initiative with the goal of transforming the educational student experience at the University of Tennessee. Over a five-year period, UT will transform our culture to give students more opportunities to be involved in civic engagement, solve complex real-world problems, and contribute to the welfare of their communities as part of their regular course work.

The purpose of Experience Learning is to help students apply the knowledge, skills, and values learned in the classroom to real-world challenges. Experience Learning also seeks to engage student learning through direct experience and intense reflection to increase knowledge, acquire lifelong learning and problem-solving skills, and elucidate values.

Learn more about Experience Learning (opens in new tab).

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. Beginning with first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students entering in the Fall 2013 semester, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, go to (Opens in New tab)

For More Information

Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science
University of Tennessee
2506 E.J. Chapman Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4531
Phone: (865) 974-7266, 974-7237
Web (opens in new tab)


The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.

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