Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Bachelor of Science

School of Earth and Sustainability

College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences

Students who are interested in the environment and the issues at its crux will enjoy the pursuit of this degree. Crucial issues of sustainability, diversity, and change are interwoven through the program

  • To receive a bachelor's degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete at least 120 units of credit that minimally includes a major, the liberal studies requirements, and university requirements as listed below.

    • All of Northern Arizona University's diversity, liberal studies, junior-level writing, and capstone requirements.
    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s).
    • At least 30 units of upper-division courses, which may include transfer work.
    • At least 30 units of coursework taken through Northern Arizona University, of which at least 18 must be upper-division courses (300-level or above). This requirement is not met by credit-by-exam, retro-credits, transfer coursework, etc.
    • A cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0 on all work attempted at Northern Arizona University.

    The full policy can be viewed here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • At least 62 units of major requirements

  • Up to 9 units of major prefix courses may be used to satisfy Liberal Studies requirements; these same courses may also be used to satisfy major requirements.

  • Elective courses, if needed, to reach an overall total of at least 120 units.

Students may be able to use some courses to meet more than one requirement. Contact your advisor for details.

Minimum Units for Completion 120
Major GPA 2.0
Highest Mathematics Required MAT 114
Fieldwork Experience/Internship Fieldwork Experience/Internship may be required by chosen emphasis or offered as an option.
Research Optional
University Honors Program Optional
Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Plan Optional
Bachelor/Juris Doctor 3+3 Optional
AZ Transfer Students complete AGEC-A Recommended
Progression Plan Link View Progression Plan

Purpose Statement

The Environmental and Sustainability Studies program at NAU constructs an interdisciplinary base of knowledge and skills that integrates humanistic disciplines and perspectives with natural and social scientific approaches to develop real-world solutions to our environmental and sustainability challenges, from the local to the global.

Our BS degree program begins with a firm grounding in natural systems, to ensure all students understand how physical and biological processes maintain life, and how humans are affecting, and are affected by, the natural world. In addition to the natural sciences, students will also obtain a solid understanding of the environment through focusing on the social sciences and humanities in order to develop a critical appreciation of the historical, political, economic and ethical forces that have shaped our current environmental issues. This will prepare students for work in non-profit, government and community-action organizations.

Students will work together in field and lab environments to apply rigorous qualitative and quantitative methods to environmental and sustainability issues, exploring interdisciplinary impacts and solutions that range across space and time. Interdisciplinary experience is centered around focus areas or specific environmental problems, rather than disciplines. This structure produces students well-trained in both the fundamentals of multiple disciplines as well as specific knowledge needed to understand, analyze and become engaged in particular issues and professions. Additionally for the BA degree, students will attain foreign language competency and experience with cross-cultural communication to better understand the impact of environmental issues on global communities.

This issue-based approach allows students to attain a wide knowledge base in order to approach the solution of specific problems by working individually and together with other students. To culminate learning in the program, students develop an individually designed research project or internship addressing an environmental issue of importance to them, which helps to further prepare students for a range of professional or graduate opportunities.

Student Learning Outcomes
  • Understand interactions among natural and human systems and their relationships to sustainability science.
  • Explore the concept of global and local sustainability using examples from natural science, social science, and humanities perspectives.
  • Examine feedbacks between the human experience and the environment.
  • Identify and effectively communicate environmental issues and sustainable solutions using natural science, ethical, and social science principles.
  • Explore the components of, and the interactions between, the Earth system such as lithosphere, hydrosphere, soils, atmosphere, and how people and society interact with these systems.
  • Envision environmental problems through a lens that acknowledges component interactions, feedback loops, emergent properties, and uncertainty.
  • Apply knowledge of coupled human-natural systems to address complex environmental problems such as decision-making in the face of uncertainty.
  • Investigate the effects of resource use and management within linked natural and social systems and learn ways to maintain healthy ecosystem services.
  • Apply knowledge of the policy cycle, stakeholders, the science policy interface and environmental legislation to inform sustainability policies.
  • Incorporate sustainability principles into interdisciplinary policy decision-making, to generate innovative ideas.
  • Demonstrate competence in critical thought and communication.
  • Actively participate in field and lab research including data collection, management, analysis and synthesis.
  • Participate in internship or research activities that align environmental studies concepts to address and resolve environmental issues.
  • Attain experience with cross-cultural communication.
  • Investigate the core concepts of life sciences including nutrient cycling, applications of ecology, biological diversity, conservation biology, and the role of these concepts in human and natural systems.

Major Requirements
General Electives
  • Additional coursework is required if, after you have met the previously described requirements, you have not yet completed a total of 120 units of credit.

    You may take these remaining courses from any of the academic areas, using these courses to pursue your specific interests and goals. You may also use prerequisites or transfer credits as electives if they weren't used to meet major, minor, or liberal studies requirements.

    We encourage you to consult with your advisor to select the courses that will be most advantageous to you.

  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.

Additional Information
  • Accelerated Bachelor's to Master's Program

    This program is available as an Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Plan. Accelerated Programs provide the opportunity for outstanding undergraduates working on their bachelor’s degree to simultaneously begin work on a master’s degree. Departments may allow students to complete both degrees in an accelerated manner by approving up to 12 units applicable toward both degrees. Students must apply to the accelerated program and the master’s program by the application deadline, and meet all requirements as listed on the Accelerated Bachelor's to Master's Programs to be considered for admission. Admission to programs is competitive and qualified applicants may be denied because of limits on the number of students admitted each year. Be sure to speak with your advisor regarding your interest in Accelerated Programs.

  • Bachelor/Juris Doctor 3+3 Program

    This plan is eligible for NAU’s 3+3 program offered in conjunction with the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law. This program allows outstanding students to substitute their final year of undergraduate studies with their first year of law school and earn an undergraduate (BS or BA) and law (JD) degree in six years instead of seven years. Please refer to the Bachelor/Juris Doctor 3+3 Program for more information.