Skip to content

Natural Resource and Environmental Economics Major Guide for 2016-2017

What is Natural Resource and Environmental Economics

In the U.S. and throughout the world, there is increasing competition for limited land, water and other natural resources, as well as growing concern about environmental degradation of various sorts. As such, there is a growing need for professionals who can assist in the process of balancing economic and environmental trade-offs. This major prepares students to do just this within a variety of careers in both the private and public sectors. Private business firms face serious challenges in meeting stricter environmental regulations and achieving self-imposed environmental goals. Public agencies must continually seek to design policies so that society’s resource conservation or environmental quality goals are achieved in a cost-effective manner.

The curriculum combines coursework in natural and environmental sciences, economics, business, and policy, allowing sufficient flexibility for students to tailor their program to their individual interests and career goals.

Career Opportunities in Natural Resource and Environmental Economics

Students graduating with this major may find employment in private firms with environmental compliance activities or conservation initiatives directed toward energy or other natural resources. Opportunities also exist with consulting firms that assist clients in meeting environmental objectives. Many nonprofit environmental organizations seek to employ staff with economic training. Several federal government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Agriculture, Interior and Energy, employ natural resource and environmental economists. State and local government agencies also provide opportunities for employment. The major provides a strong background for graduate studies in natural resource and environmental economics, leading to career opportunities in teaching and/or research, as well as high-level policy positions. Students would also be well prepared to pursue a professional program in environmental law.

Salary Trends in Natural Resource and Environmental Economics

Because graduates can pursue a variety of careers with respect to type of position and employer, the salary range for entry-level positions is fairly wide.  Depending upon the type of employer and position responsibilities, beginning salaries can be expected to range from about $35,000 to $50,000.  Starting salaries generally increase over time at slightly above the rate of inflation.  Potential for advancement in both responsibilities and salary depends on both the type of employer and the performance of the employee.

High School Preparation

High school students who wish to major in Natural Resource and Environmental Economics should take college-preparatory mathematics courses.  Completion of electives in areas such as business, microcomputer applications, oral and written communication, and social sciences such as psychology, political science or sociology could also prove helpful.  Participation in extracurricular activities to develop leadership, interpersonal, and communication skills is also advised.

How to Major in Natural Resource and Environmental Economics

Students planning to pursue this major simply declare this intent once they have gained admission to the University.  The department has no enrollment restrictions or association requirements beyond the University-wide minimum 2.0 GPA required to remain in good academic standing.

Students who plan to transfer into this major at UT after one or two years at a community college should consult an adviser at UT to choose appropriate courses as early as possible.  The flexibility within the curriculum requirements works to the advantage of transfer students, in most cases allowing for all credits taken from up to two years of study elsewhere to apply toward requirements of the program.

Requirements for Natural Resource and Environmental Economics

To complete a bachelor’s degree with this major, students must complete 120 semester hours of course work.  This includes 48 hours of general education courses in the areas of English, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, cultures and civilizations, arts and humanities, oral communication, and written communication.   Coursework totaling five hours in microcomputer applications and geographic information systems is also required. Students take 21 hours of courses in economics, accounting, and statistics in the College of Business. At least 12 hours of courses outside the department but within the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources are required, in the areas of environmental science and forestry.  The heart of the curriculum includes 28 hours of required courses within the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, including at least one of the following experiential learning activities: internship, research, or study abroad. Students can customize their academic program through selection of 13-15 hours of directed electives from various fields in the natural and social sciences and 4-6 hours of unrestricted electives. These electives can be used by students to pursue special interests or a minor in an area such as Sustainability or Watersheds.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

Internships with private companies, environmental organizations, or government agencies can be an exceptionally valuable component of a student’s academic program.  Internships are typically completed during the summer between a student’s junior and senior years of study.

Three hours of academic credit can be received for a three-month internship.  Students must submit periodic progress reports, complete a special project and receive satisfactory ratings from their supervisor.  During the following semester, students must also complete a written report and make an oral presentation summarizing their internship experience.

Highlights of Natural Resource and Environmental Economics

Wide applicability of major to a variety of career options:  Graduates are prepared to pursue opportunities for employment or further education in a number of different directions.

Personalized advising:  Academic advising for majors is handled by a dedicated team of faculty members in the Department of Agricultural Economics. Students typically work with the same adviser from orientation to graduation and develop a close relationship that often extends well beyond graduation. Advisers are committed to assisting the majors they advise not only in course selection but in career planning and placement as well.

Small class sizes:  Departmental courses all have relatively small enrollments, allowing for personalized interaction between professors and students.

Scholarship availability:  Majors are eligible for a large number of scholarships offered by the Department and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

Natural resource and environmental issues are often global in nature.  Students are exposed to the international dimensions of these issues in various courses within the curriculum.  Students are also encouraged to participate in faculty-led study abroad programs sponsored by the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR).  Other UT faculty-led and semester abroad programs are offered through the Center for International Education.  CASNR offers scholarships for students participating in study abroad programs. CASNR students, faculty and staff participate in the annual Unity through Diversity Dinner held each fall. Some CASNR students select a minor in Modern Foreign Languages and Literature.

Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

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.

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:

For More Information

Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
302 Morgan Hall
Knoxville, TN  37996-4518
Phone: 865-974-7231


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.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.