With problems like climate change and pollution wreaking havoc on the planet, students have begun flocking to more environmentally-conscious degrees. Due to this trend, interest in Ph.D. programs that focus on topics such as environmental science and engineering is skyrocketing. Offered through many big-name colleges and universities, doctoral programs in this subject area seek to prepare students to tackle some of the biggest problems threatening our planet’s natural systems today.
While some professionals might deem their current experience sufficient enough to get them through their career, earning a Ph.D. can only help their cause. It will show they possess a further, in-depth understanding of the issue and will only enhance their credibility. In addition to the professional clout that comes with it, students who earn a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering will also broaden their own horizons. The course work and dissertation process will force them to delve deep into subjects like oceanography, the contents of the biosphere, and more.
About Online Ph.D. Programs in Environmental Science and Engineering
Programs in this subject area don’t have a specific structure by which one must abide. Instead, students build their semesters to meet their specific needs — they just have to remain mindful of the course list and requirements that go along with it. To accommodate the busy schedules of students, some schools have even expanded their operations online. From lectures to tests, more and more classroom elements are making the move online.
- Environmental Law and Policy. This course is crucial for students as it emphasizes how the government and politicians work with scientists to affect change. Students with a better understanding of the political and legal processes that influence their work will be better professionals in the long run.
- Transport, Fate & Treatment of Contaminants in the Environment. This course allows students to not just scratch the surface but EXPLORE what happens to contaminants in the natural environment. From how they get there, to the damage they could do, this course covers it all and is a fundamental part of their education.
- Environmental Chemistry. From acidity to basicity, this course covers anything and everything chemistry, and relates it all back to the world around us. Students may even get invaluable lab time to hone their technical skills in this area. .
- Environmental Geoscience. Accompanied by a lab, this course gets students to study things like erosion, ground water, geohazards, and more. They will analyze how they are affected by some of the common environmental issues of today.
- Principles of Experimental & Engineering Design. In this course, students are generally divided into teams to tackle a regionally relevant environmental issue. They will be forced to work together to devise a feasible solution to environmental problems, which will help them hone their vital problem-solving skills.
- Interdisciplinary Environmental Problem-solving. In an effort to mirror the real world, this course brings students from various concentrations and disciplines together to tackle regionally relevant problems. They will have to work together to account for political, social, and environmental aspects of the issue.
To achieve a Ph.D. in this program, students must complete a relevant, approved dissertation. It should present an original examination and exploration of a current problem in the environmental science and engineering realm. Research should be solely that of the student, with the whole project needing to be reviewed by a doctoral advisory committee. Before students can advance to this level of the program, they must first pass a comprehensive exam that can be either written, oral, or both.
Value and Criticisms of a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering
Like anything, pursuing a Ph.D. in this subject has its pros and cons, and, for the students still on the fence about whether or not they should pursue this degree, these can be deal makers and breakers. Consumers are at a period of uncertainty, and many are taking extra steps to be “green” and eco-friendly. This means professionals in environmental problem-solving industries are in high-demand — especially those who hold Ph.D.s in the field. Oil and gas companies, energy moguls, and city councils alike are recruiting learned environmental scientists and engineers to oversee their operations.
One area of concern is the rate at which these “green” jobs are being created. Budgetary restrictions and poor economic conditions are keeping many companies from expanding their operations, making it an all-the-more competitive job market for new graduates. However, holding a Ph.D. instantly increases your chances of being hired as it shows you went the extra mile and are likely more knowledgeable than other candidates. These are all things students need to keep in mind as they decide whether or not to enroll in one of these programs.
Application & Admission Requirements
To be considered for admission into one of these programs, students need to hold a master’s degree in an environmentally related area of engineering or natural sciences. Additionally, students need a GPA of 3.5 from prior graduate work. They also need to have their GRE test scores submitted to the institution directly from the testing agency. Letters of reference and full transcripts are also required so that the school can make an educated decision about the student’s eligibility to enroll.
Career Options & Job Market
Students with a Ph.D. in environmental science and engineering are quickly becoming desirable to companies in every industry. As sustainable initiatives and projects pop up, they are needed to ensure everything is environmentally sound and logical. However, as previously mentioned, the job market is a competitive one, so having a Ph.D. will greatly increase their odds of being hired over other candidates.
Where to Find Information
- National Science Foundation Started by Congress to “promote the progress of science”, this organization is great for Ph.D. students because it helps them gauge what’s going on in their future industry.
- American Academy of Environmental Engineers Just as the title implies, this is a national organization for environmental engineers, which means its members have relevant, real-world experience from within the current industry and, therefore, have lots to share with up-and-coming generations.
- Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences Ph.D. students could learn a lot from members of this organization as it’s all about the promotion of scientific scholarship and even promotes career development. What more could a student ask for?
How to Get Funding
As is always the case, money can play a huge role in whether or not a student actually pursues higher education. While tuition and fees can be rather large and intimidating, it’s important for prospective students to remember they have options for funding their studies. From grants to loans and scholarships, it’s important they realize it doesn’t have to be as simple as “yes” or “no.” Many organizations and entities are ready and willing to work with you to help you achieve your educational goals.
- Federal Direct Stafford Loan. Federal Direct Stafford Loans offer students low-interest loan options that go as high as $20,500 a year. Another plus is that it comes with a FIXED rate of 6.80%, so students don’t have to worry about any surprise rate changes.
- Federal Perkins Loan. Full-time PhD students in need of a loan should consider applying for a Federal Perkins loan. A low-interest option that offers an average of $3,500 per academic year, these loans come with a fixed interest rate of 5.0%.
- Campus-Based Aid. Another viable option for students in need of financial assistance is the campus-aid option. Every school has its own selection, which is managed by the school’s financial aid office.
- Review the Ph.D. program before you enroll. This is no small endeavor, and you want to be 100% sure you are ready for this commitment before you sign on the dotted line. Although removing yourself shouldn’t be an issue, it’s a hassle that is best avoided.
- Apply for any and every scholarship you can. Grants and loans work, too, but a scholarship allows you to go to school completely on someone else’s dime without the headache of paying anyone back. Plus, once you have one scholarship, schools are more likely to give you even MORE money.
- Don’t procrastinate! Putting off assignments might have worked during your undergrad years, but you should not brush off any part of your Ph.D. program — mainly because they are too intensive for you to get away with it.
- Keep your eye on the prize. Pursuing a Ph.D. can be a stressful time, so when you feel like quitting, stop and give yourself a moment to think about WHY you’re doing this. You have a goal. Don’t get lost in the little details along the way.