Environmental Studies Major Requirements (B.A.)

(Also see Requirements for a Bachelor's Degree.)

The Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary major that introduces students to the ways in which human activities impact Earth systems and vice versa. It equips students to use a variety of tools, such as policy, science, communication, and individual and societal behavior change, to solve environmental and sustainability problems, with an emphasis on the perspectives and tools of the social sciences. Environmental Studies majors must complete a set of core courses common to both ENVS majors, including a senior capstone and an applied experience, plus additional social science core courses and a suite of electives in the student's area of interest. 

All ENVS majors are encouraged to consider studying abroad at some point during their undergraduate years to develop a more global, culturally sensitive perspective on environmental and sustainability issues. Students are also encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities at JHU and elsewhere to engage in research and scholarship, either through a work or internship experience, an independent research course, or a senior thesis project.

The Environmental Studies major requires a total of 58 credits to complete. With the exception of the Applied Experience, all courses must be taken for a letter grade, and students must earn a grade of C- or better to apply the course to the major. Students are not permitted to double-major in both Environmental Studies and Environmental Science. 


Each student should work with their advisor to choose a coherent and meaningful suite of elective courses that are relevant to the student's individual interests and career plans and that total at least 12 credits, 9 of which are at the 300-level or above. Some students may choose to center their electives around one or more environmental/sustainability issues or disciplines, such as anthropology or economics; others may choose to explore more broadly. Approved elective courses are those that concentrate directly on environmental or sustainability issues. ENVS independent study, independent research, and senior thesis courses can also count as electives. The ENVS Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) distributes a list of approved elective courses each semester, and these courses are denoted with the POS tag ENVS-MAJOR in the Schedule of Classes. Approval for other courses can be sought by emailing the DUS.

Applied Experience

The applied experience can be completed during any semester including summers and involves at least 80 hours of supervised, hands-on work while enrolled in AS.271.509 Applied Experience.  The experience can involve doing research or working with an organization on environmental or sustainability issues through an internship or similar work or volunteer experience. Journal entries and synthesizing assignments reflecting on the experience are required for the course. The goal of this requirement is to ensure that students have practical experience in a workplace or community setting that will help prepare them for the next step in their education and career.

Senior Capstone & Seminar

The ENVS AS.271.496 Senior Capstone course  focuses on developing critical thinking and communication skills through engagement with complex, real world, environmental and sustainability problems.  Concurrently, seniors take the 1-credit  AS.271.499 Senior Seminar course that focuses on life design and career planning in order to support seniors as they transition to post-graduate life and work. All ENVS majors must enroll in the capstone and senior seminar courses in the fall semester of their senior year.

Major Requirements

Common ENVS Core
AS.270.103Introduction to Global Environmental Change3
AS.271.107Introduction to Sustainability3
AS.270.202Introduction to Ecology3
AS.270.205Introduction to Geographic Information Systems and Geospatial Analysis3
AS.271.402Water, Energy, and Food Nexus3
AS.271.403Environmental Policymaking and Policy Analysis3
or AS.271.360 Climate Change: Science & Policy
or EN.570.367 Sustainability Science and Policy: The Threat of Climate Change
AS.271.496Senior Capstone3
AS.271.499Senior Seminar1
AS.271.509Applied Experience1
AS.030.101Introductory Chemistry I3
or AS.020.151 General Biology I
AS.110.106Calculus I (Biology and Social Sciences)4
or AS.110.108 Calculus I (Physical Sciences & Engineering)
AS.180.102Elements of Microeconomics3
AS.190.101Introduction to American Politics3
or AS.190.102 Introduction To Comparative Politics
or AS.190.111 Introduction to Global Studies
or AS.190.108 Contemporary International Politics
AS.230.205Introduction to Social Statistics4
or AS.200.201 Design & Statistical Analysis for Psychology
or AS.280.345 Public Health Biostatistics
or EN.553.111 Statistical Analysis I
or EN.553.211 Probability and Statistics for the Life Sciences
or EN.553.310 Probability & Statistics for the Physical Sciences & Engineering
or EN.553.311 Intermediate Probability and Statistics
Social Sciences Core
AS.180.101Elements of Macroeconomics3
AS.230.202Research Methods for the Social Sciences3
or AS.070.317 Methods
or AS.190.365 Research and Inquiry in the Social Sciences
or AS.200.200 Research Methods in Psychology
or AS.230.323 Qualitative Research Practicum
or AS.280.240 Research Methods in Public Health
Choose 12 credits of approved courses, at least 9 credits of which are at the 300-level or above. ENVS independent study, independent research, and senior thesis courses can count as electives.Courses with the POS-Tag ENVS-Major automatically apply towards this requirement 12
Total Credits58

Sample Program of Study

First Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
 13 10
Second Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
 6 6
Third Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
Elective course3Elective course3
 Elective course3
 6 7
Fourth Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
Elective course3 
 7 3
Total Credits 58

Honors in the Major

To earn honors in the major, a student must meet the following criteria:

  • Earn a cumulative GPA of 3.50 in the courses taken to fulfill the major requirements.
  • Complete AS.271.399 Research Design during the junior year to develop a senior thesis project proposal. If a student is prevented from taking the course for some reason, such as studying abroad, they must petition the DUS for a waiver.
  • Submit a senior thesis project proposal on an environmental or sustainability-related research project or other comparable scholarly endeavor before the start of the senior year. It will be evaluated by the ENVS Director, Associate Director, and the proposed faculty research advisor and must meet their approval.
  • Complete 6 credits of AS.271.511 Senior Thesis under the guidance of a JHU faculty member or research affiliate.
  • Earn a rating of good or excellent on the final product of the thesis, as determined by the ENVS thesis committee including the student’s research advisor.
  • Present the results of the thesis orally in an appropriate JHU department.

Additional details on the procedures and criteria for earning honors are available on the ENVS website. A thesis project completed to earn honors in an ENVS major cannot be double-counted with an honors thesis done in another department or program for a second major.

B.A./M.S. Option

Undergraduates majoring in Environmental Studies may apply for accelerated status toward an M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Policy (ESP) or an M.S. in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) through the JHU Krieger School of Arts & Sciences' Advanced Academic Programs. Interested students should speak with their advisor and the Director of the ESP or GIS Program in their senior year. Students may apply up to three courses taken as undergraduates toward the M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy and up to two courses toward the M.S. in GIS, thereby leaving only seven to eight more courses to complete the M.S. following receipt of their bachelor's degree.  Students will receive two separate degrees, so the requirements of both degrees must be fulfilled. Students cannot earn the M.S. degree without completion of the B.A. or B.S., however, students who do not complete the M.S. retain their B.A. or B.S.