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Environmental studies

With environmental issues dominating world policy and the news media, new areas are developing constantly, and these are reflected in the diverse range of education choices. The prominence of issues such as water and climate change has also resulted in extra research funding for many universities. Browse Environmental studies courses by state
If you are considering studying the environment it’s probably because you believe in protecting and improving it. But you might also consider these courses because they are intellectually stimulating (many combine science with social science and theory with ‘how to’) or for the lifestyle appeal and variety of some graduate jobs. For more information about the field, visit the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand website.If you are interested in environmental studies, you will also find related specialisations in fields as diverse as architecture (particularly landscape architecture and environmental design), agriculture, built environment, business and management, education and training, engineering and technology, humanities and social sciences, sciences and sport and leisure studies.
VET study in environmental studies
Courses and specialisations
VET courses in this field are very accessible for enthusiastic students. The good selection of courses offered around the country provide students with both practical skills and theoretical knowledge. Many of the VET courses available in this field are in conservation and land management (certificate II through to diploma level). Some courses with this title are in general land management, while others provide specialisations in areas such as Indigenous land management, parks and wildlife, natural area restoration and management, pest management and weed management. Such courses help students to develop the competencies required by a variety of sectors within the conservation and land management industry.
Where to study
VET courses in this field are offered at both metropolitan and regional TAFE institutes and private VET private providers throughout the country. You may also find relevant specialisations in other fields of study. Courses in this field should provide opportunities for field studies and on-site environmental study, so be sure to investigate opportunities for industry experience. You might also like to look into laboratory facilities and practical equipment.In some instances, courses in this field may provide articulation pathways to higher-level VET courses and university study. Credit may be given for some of the lower-level VET courses (such as certificate II, III or IV) towards diploma courses in the same of related subject area. Similarly, students who complete diploma courses may be eligible for entry into degree courses in science, environmental science or applied science with some credit.
Career opportunities
Graduates find employment in land management for local government, as well as in national parks, other state government agencies, Landcare Australia and bush regeneration organisations.
Undergraduate study in environmental studies
Courses and specialisations
The following are just some of the majors you can study in this field:
  • Atmospheric science
  • Conservation
  • Ecology
  • Environmental science
  • Landscape management
  • Marine studies
  • Parks, recreation and heritage
  • Sustainable resource management
  • Toxicology
  • Wildlife and conservation biology
As awareness of the human impact on the environment increases and the idea of sustainability gains popular ground, more and more professions are finding room for environmental specialists (agriculture, journalism, engineering, surveying and planning, for example). One option is to study an environmental specialisation in a professional degree, but if your interest is exclusively in environmental studies, there are many areas of specialisation leading to different careers. You might look into anything from conservation biology, conservation management or environmental science, to environmental studies, environmental assessment, environmental resource management or parks management. But that's not all there is to environmental studies — expect to find anything from atmosphere studies and coastal management to eco-design and mine rehabilitation.Some environmental degrees are named after these specialisations, but ‘general’ courses like arts, science and applied science can also have relevant majors. Don’t immediately discount courses with a general title or structure, as they may be able to provide a strong framework for understanding the environment. Make sure to conduct thorough research into what each specialisation involves and the subjects offered, as well as how they are structured — they may be practical or theory based, which can vary between institutions. This will help you determine whether you will like the course itself, rather than just the idea of the its content. You should also try to research new areas that are developing, as there could be future employment demand, even if these areas are not well known now.
Where to study
Relevant courses are available at most universities. Some cut-offs and prerequisites vary according to the specialisation and the institution, but overall this is an easy field to get into. Many courses are available part time, and some are offered externally. Bear in mind too that most of these specialisations are available through a postgraduate certificate or diploma, which can be completed after a more general bachelor degree.See Degree costs and loans for more information about paying for your degree.To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.
Career opportunities
Graduates of this field were very satisfied with the quality of teaching and the skills they gained, but employment rates have worsened significantly, with 52 per cent of 2013 graduates still seeking full-time work four months after course completion (up from 35 per cent the previous year). Not surprisingly, 30 per cent of graduates try to improve their chances of employment by going onto further study. Starting salaries are below average at $51,303, a decrease on 2013 figures.See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
Postgraduate study in environmental studies
Courses and specialisations
At postgraduate level, there are programs for those who already work in the field and others for those who want to move into it or just explore a new area of knowledge.The increasing popularity of this field is reflected in the diverse range of education choices. Many programs relate to the science, theory, policy and practical aspects of preserving the environment. If you already work in areas such as resources management, wildlife conservation, energy or environmental policy, there are plenty of postgraduate coursework options to help you update or extend your knowledge. If you work in a different field, there are also programs with broader entry criteria that provide an understanding of the field or the aspects of it that are relevant to different professions. More and more professions are finding room for environmental specialists, including engineering, journalism and urban planning. Programs in this field might vary significantly in the extent to which they focus on theory, practice or science. You should conduct thorough research into what each coursework program involves and the subjects offered in each to ensure that you are getting what you want.If you already have a background in the field, you might have a particular passion for one aspect of it that you would like to explore through a research program. The prominence of issues such as water scarcity and climate change has resulted in extra funding for research at some universities. If you are shopping around for a research degree you might take this into consideration, but your main concerns should be the extent of the research activity in your areas of interest and the emphasis placed on research training. In some cases the opportunities for field-based projects will be important — many universities make good use of nearby natural features, specialising in areas such as marine ecology or tropical environmental studies.
Where to study
Although some of the more specific and niche programs in the field may be offered by just a handful of institutions, expect to find some relevant courses and specialisations at most universities and also at some private providers. To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.
Career opportunities
Recent environmental studies graduates were very satisfied with their courses, giving five-star ratings for teaching quality and overall satisfaction in the national Course Experience Questionnaire survey. Although 30 per cent of graduates were still seeking work four months after course completion, those who did find work earned good salaries (an average of $82,255). See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
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