Environmental Studies, B.S.

Program Code: ENVBS_BS

Program Description

This interdisciplinary major is designed to provide students with an integrated and critical knowledge of the natural environment and human interactions with it. Students will receive a strong foundation in the natural and physical sciences, but will extend their studies across several disciplines, emphasizing both public policy issues and the role of the natural environment in literature, history, and culture. The goal of the program is "ecological literacy," which means that students will develop a broad-based understanding and awareness of environments and environmental issues, and they will develop the problem-solving and technical skills to address those issues. Program requirements include interdisciplinary courses in environmental studies and a broad array of courses in biology, geology, chemistry, physics, geography, economics, political science, English, history, and philosophy. By selecting appropriate electives to supplement the "additional courses" requirement of the major, students may develop an emphasis in either a specific field (i.e., biology) or in a general area of study (natural science, social science, and humanities).

The B.S. in Environmental Studies will better prepare our graduates for graduate studies and/or employment in the sciences (e.g., ecology, geosciences, environmental sciences, and physical geography). Many graduate programs require at least one semester of calculus, chemistry, and physics. Furthermore, the requirements of additional 400-level courses in the sciences will permit students to target their undergraduate studies in a particular area of science so that they are best prepared for graduate work in their area of choice and/or employment.

What is Environmental Studies?

Environmental Studies provides a broadly-based liberal arts background for the study of environmental issues, blending the principles of the natural sciences with the intellectual traditions of the humanities and the social sciences. Emphasis is placed on experiential learning, ecological literacy, and problem-solving with a goal towards purposeful action.


You Might Like This Program If...

You wish to develop the analytical tools for understanding environmental issues while maintaining an emphasis on the role of socio-cultural influences in shaping human behavior towards the environment. Students benefit from working closely with faculty and peers on undergraduate research, community service, and out-of-classroom activities.


Entrance to Major

For entrance into the Environmental Studies B.S. program, students must have completed the following course: ENVST 100N, and have received a grade of C or better in the course.

Degree Requirements

For the Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies, a minimum of 121 credits is required:

Requirement Credits
General Education 45
Electives 12
Requirements for the Major 88-90

24 of the 45 credits for General Education are included in the Requirements for the Major. This includes: 3 credits of GH courses; 9 credits of GN courses; 6 credits of GQ courses; 6 credits of GS courses.

Requirements for the Major

To graduate, a student enrolled in the major must earn a grade of C or better in each course designated by the major as a C-required course, as specified by Senate Policy 82-44.

Prescribed Courses
Prescribed Courses: Require a grade of C or better
BIOL 110Biology: Basic Concepts and Biodiversity Keystone/General Education Course4
BIOL 220WBiology: Populations and Communities4
CHEM 20Environmental Chemistry3
CHEM 21Environmental Chemistry Laboratory1
CHEM 110Chemical Principles I Keystone/General Education Course3
CHEM 111Experimental Chemistry I Keystone/General Education Course1
CHEM 202Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry I3
ECON 428Environmental Economics3
ENGL 180Literature and the Natural World Keystone/General Education Course3
ENVST 100NVisions of Nature Keystone/General Education Course3
ENVST 200Research Methods in Environmental Studies3
ENVST 400WSenior Seminar in Environmental Studies3
GEOG 115Landforms of the World Keystone/General Education Course3
GEOG 160Mapping Our Changing World Keystone/General Education Course3
GEOSC 1Physical Geology3
HIST 453American Environmental History3
PHIL 403Seminar in Environmental Ethics3
PHYS 250Introductory Physics I Keystone/General Education Course4
SOILS 101Introductory Soil Science Keystone/General Education Course3
Additional Courses
Additional Courses: Require a grade of C or better
ECON 102Introductory Microeconomic Analysis and Policy Keystone/General Education Course3
or ECON 104 Introductory Macroeconomic Analysis and Policy Keystone/General Education Course
MATH 110Techniques of Calculus I Keystone/General Education Course4
or MATH 140 Calculus With Analytic Geometry I Keystone/General Education Course
PLSC 235Environmental Politics Keystone/General Education Course3
or PLSC 425 Government and Politics of the American States
STAT 200Elementary Statistics Keystone/General Education Course3-4
or STAT 250 Introduction to Biostatistics Keystone/General Education Course
Select one of the following:3-4
Biology: Molecules and Cells
Biology: Function and Development of Organisms
Select one of the following:4
Independent Studies
and Independent Studies
and Internship Preparation
Independent Studies
Supporting Courses and Related Areas
Select 12 credits (at least 9 credits at the 400-level) from the three departmental lists, in consultation with an academic adviser:
a. Natural Sciences6
b. Social Sciences3
c. Arts and Humanities3

General Education

Connecting career and curiosity, the General Education curriculum provides the opportunity for students to acquire transferable skills necessary to be successful in the future and to thrive while living in interconnected contexts. General Education aids students in developing intellectual curiosity, a strengthened ability to think, and a deeper sense of aesthetic appreciation. These are requirements for all baccalaureate students and are often partially incorporated into the requirements of a program. For additional information, see the General Education Requirements section of the Bulletin and consult your academic adviser.

The keystone symbol Keystone/General Education Course appears next to the title of any course that is designated as a General Education course. Program requirements may also satisfy General Education requirements and vary for each program.

Foundations (grade of C or better is required and Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

  • Quantification (GQ): 6 credits
  • Writing and Speaking (GWS): 9 credits

Breadth in the Knowledge Domains (Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

  • Arts (GA): 3 credits
  • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits
  • Humanities (GH): 3 credits
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 3 credits
  • Natural Sciences (GN): 3 credits

Integrative Studies

  • Inter-Domain Courses (Inter-Domain): 6 credits


  • GN, may be completed with Inter-Domain courses: 3 credits
  • GA, GH, GN, GS, Inter-Domain courses. This may include 3 credits of World Language course work beyond the 12th credit level or the requirements for the student’s degree program, whichever is higher: 6 credits

University Degree Requirements

First Year Engagement

All students enrolled in a college or the Division of Undergraduate Studies at University Park, and the World Campus are required to take 1 to 3 credits of the First-Year Seminar, as specified by their college First-Year Engagement Plan.

Other Penn State colleges and campuses may require the First-Year Seminar; colleges and campuses that do not require a First-Year Seminar provide students with a first-year engagement experience.

First-year baccalaureate students entering Penn State should consult their academic adviser for these requirements.

Cultures Requirement

6 credits are required and may satisfy other requirements

  • United States Cultures: 3 credits
  • International Cultures: 3 credits

Writing Across the Curriculum

3 credits required from the college of graduation and likely prescribed as part of major requirements.

Total Minimum Credits

A minimum of 120 degree credits must be earned for a baccalaureate degree. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 credits. Students should consult with their college or department adviser for information on specific credit requirements.

Quality of Work

Candidates must complete the degree requirements for their major and earn at least a 2.00 grade-point average for all courses completed within their degree program.

Limitations on Source and Time for Credit Acquisition

The college dean or campus chancellor and program faculty may require up to 24 credits of course work in the major to be taken at the location or in the college or program where the degree is earned. Credit used toward degree programs may need to be earned from a particular source or within time constraints (see Senate Policy 83-80). For more information, check the Suggested Academic Plan for your intended program.

Program Learning Objectives

  • Develop structural knowledge pertaining to an interdisciplinary problem or course theme.
  • Integrate and/synthesize information from a variety of contexts or fields of knowledge.
  • Apply the knowledge of physical and socio-economic environments in the analysis of multi-dimensional environmental issues.

Academic Advising

The objectives of the university's academic advising program are to help advisees identify and achieve their academic goals, to promote their intellectual discovery, and to encourage students to take advantage of both in-and out-of class educational opportunities in order that they become self-directed learners and decision makers.

Both advisers and advisees share responsibility for making the advising relationship succeed. By encouraging their advisees to become engaged in their education, to meet their educational goals, and to develop the habit of learning, advisers assume a significant educational role. The advisee's unit of enrollment will provide each advisee with a primary academic adviser, the information needed to plan the chosen program of study, and referrals to other specialized resources.



Carolyn Mahan
Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, Adviser, BS in ENVST
Hawthorn Building 209
3000 Ivyside Park
Altoona, PA 16601

Suggested Academic Plan

The suggested academic plan(s) listed on this page are the plan(s) that are in effect during the 2024-25 academic year. To access previous years' suggested academic plans, please visit the archive to view the appropriate Undergraduate Bulletin edition.

Environmental Studies, B.S. at Altoona Campus

The course series listed below provides only one of the many possible ways to move through this curriculum. The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. This plan should be used in conjunction with your degree audit (accessible in LionPATH as either an Academic Requirements or What If report). Please consult with a Penn State academic adviser on a regular basis to develop and refine an academic plan that is appropriate for you.

First Year
ENGL 15, 30H, or ESL 153ENGL 1803
BIOL 1104BIOL 220W*4
CHEM 20*3MATH 22 or 40*3
CHEM 21*1CAS 1003
ENVST 100N*‡#†3ECON 102 or 104*3
PSU 31 
General Education (GHW)1.5 
 16.5 16
Second Year
CHEM 110*3PHYS 250*4
CHEM 111*1General Education3
MATH 110 or 140*4General Education (GS)*3
SOILS 1013BIOL 230W, 240W, or 222*3 or 4
GEOSC 13General Education (GN)*3
General Education (GHW)1.5 
 15.5 16-17
Third Year
STAT 200 or 250*4ENVST 200*3
CHEM 202*3GEOG 1153
GEOG 160*3ENVST 428*3
ENGL 202A, 202B, or 202C3Elective3
General Education Course3PLSC 235 or 425*3
 INTSP 370 or ENVST 296*1
 16 16
Fourth Year
Arts and Humanities Course*3ENVST 400W*3
HIST 453*3PHIL 403*3
ENVST 395 or 496*3Elective3
General Education Course3Elective3
 Natural Sciences 400-level Course*3
 12 15
Total Credits 123-124

Course requires a grade of C or better for the major

Course requires a grade of C or better for General Education


Course is an Entrance to Major requirement

Course satisfies General Education and degree requirement

University Requirements and General Education Notes:

US and IL are abbreviations used to designate courses that satisfy Cultural Diversity Requirements (United States and International Cultures).

W, M, X, and Y are the suffixes at the end of a course number used to designate courses that satisfy University Writing Across the Curriculum requirement.

General Education includes Foundations (GWS and GQ), Knowledge Domains (GHW, GN, GA, GH, GS) and Integrative Studies (Inter-domain) requirements. N or Q (Honors) is the suffix at the end of a course number used to help identify an Inter-domain course, but the inter-domain attribute is used to fill audit requirements. Foundations courses (GWS and GQ) require a grade of 'C' or better.

Career Paths

This degree prepares students for graduate studies, and/or employment in the sciences such as environmental science, conservation biology, earth science, geology, and physical geography.





Hawthorn 221
3000 Ivyside Park
Altoona, PA 16601