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Exploring the multidisciplinary nature of environmental studies: A guide for international students

Updated on: Nov 15, 2023
Exploring the multidisciplinary nature of environmental studies: A guide for international students
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A degree in environmental studies is more than just an academic pathway. It’s a commitment to finding solutions to the problems our world faces.

After all, the environmental crisis is a defining issue of the twenty-first century. We need answers. Fast.

Yet the problems are complex. Global warming, pollution, biodiversity loss, food waste, and extreme weather events are just a handful of the issues graduates of environmental studies aim to address.

And since these issues are interrelated, environmental studies is by its nature a multidisciplinary degree.

But what does this mean? What are the main course options available for students wishing to pursue environmental studies? And, what careers might a degree in this multidisciplinary field lead to?

Happily, Edvoy is here to help.

Global warming, pollution, biodiversity loss and extreme weather events are just a handful of the problems graduates of environmental studies seek to combat.

If you’re an international student interested in pursuing environmental studies, Edvoy’s comprehensive guide is for you.

Why environmental studies is by its nature a multidisciplinary field

Let's start by breaking down the term multidisciplinary.

First, disciplinary refers to the disciplines (subjects) related to a course of study.

And, multi is a plural (as in, “multiple”). So, a multidisciplinary degree comprises many different subject areas.

When you think about it, environmental studies involves a huge array of different subjects. Broadly, these are: life sciences, physical sciences, engineering and technology, social sciences, and mathematics and computer science.

Seems like a lot, doesn’t it?

Well, don’t worry! Below, we’ll unpack how these disciplines are relevant to environmental studies.

Then, you’ll be able to understand the multidisciplinary nature of this exciting degree subject.

The multidisciplinary scope of environmental studies: Exploring the major disciplines

Life sciences

Life sciences like biology and zoology help us to understand our natural world and its many inhabitants.

A huge part of environmental studies is conservation. Protecting Earth’s flora and fauna is key to combatting the degradation of our climate and ecosystems.

So, if you have a passion for natural sciences, environmental studies could be a great next step.

Physical sciences

Physical sciences such as chemistry, geography, physics, or geology help us to understand the natural processes and ecological dynamics of the wider environment.

After all, without these subjects, we would not understand the complex conditions that allow life on Earth to flourish.

Hence, scientists are in high demand in the field of environmental studies.

Engineering and technology

Engineering and technology allow humans to have an impact on the built environment around us.

Subjects in this category include civil engineering, hydraulics, and nanotechnology.

In short, these are specific, technical disciplines that aim to shape our future for the better. Research shows that many more jobs will be created in this field over the coming decade. You can read more in Edvoy’s article on industries with promising growth.

Finally, if this discipline interests you, we suggest paying close attention to our section on common specialisations (below in FAQs).

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Social sciences

Social sciences include law, philosophy, economics, education, political science, history, sociology, communications, and more.

These diverse disciplines share a common interest in human attitudes and social systems.

By understanding our society from multiple perspectives, we can plot a route to effective change. Because if society doesn’t change, the climate crisis will only intensify.

Mathematics and computer science

Mathematics and computer science might not seem relevant at first.

But actually, computer modelling and mathematical analysis are crucial components of resolving environmental and climate issues.


So, if crunching numbers is your cup of tea, you might want to consider pursuing this aspect of environmental studies.

As you can see, many disciplines fall under the remit of environmental studies.

This multidisciplinary nature makes it a fantastic choice for international students with a wide range of academic backgrounds and interests.

If you want to read more, this guide by Cambridge University Press has lots of great information about the multidisciplinary scope of environmental studies.

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The top universities offering environmental studies courses

When it comes to pursuing a degree in multidisciplinary environmental studies, choosing the right university is crucial. The quality of education, research opportunities, and faculty expertise can significantly impact your academic journey.

To help you make an informed decision, Edvoy has compiled a list of top universities offering courses in environmental studies and related disciplines.

Ambitious international students wishing to pursue environmental studies should consider these top university destinations and courses.

These prestigious institutions consistently feature in the upper echelons of world university rankings. They are amongst the best destinations worldwide for ambitious international students wishing to pursue environmental studies.

Don’t forget, you can seek support with your study choices and university applications through Edvoy’s Remote Counselling service, specially designed for international students.

You can find out more about how Edvoy can help you here.

Elite international destinations for environmental studies: Our top picks

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 
2023 QS Ranking: 1

A leader in scientific and technological research, MIT offers multidisciplinary environmental science courses, including:

  • BSc Civil and Environmental Engineering: This programme explores the intersection of civil engineering and environmental science, emphasising sustainable development.
  • BSc Biological Engineering – Environmental and Toxicological Studies: Students of this programme examine the biological aspects of environmental science, with a focus on toxicology.
University of Oxford 
2023 QS Ranking: 4

The University of Oxford offers the following environmental science courses for postgraduates:

  • MPhil/MSc Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management: This programme delves into ecological protection and management strategies.
  • MSc in Environmental Change and Management: Students learn about the causes and consequences of environmental change and how to address them.

Undergraduates wishing to pursue a degree relevant to environmental studies could consider:

  • BA Geology (3 years)
  • MEarthSci (4 years: combined BA and Masters in Earth Sciences)
  • BA Politics, Philosophy & Economics (3 years)
Stanford University 
2023 QS Ranking: 3

Stanford University has exciting environmental science degree offerings for students, including:

  • BSc Earth Systems: This undergraduate degree gives students a comprehensive understanding of natural systems and human interactions with the environment. 
  • Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER) with PhD: The E-IPER combines interdisciplinary coursework with research opportunities, leading to a PhD in environmental studies.
National University of Singapore 
2023 QS Ranking: 11 

NUS offers holistic degrees in environmental studies. So, these programmes are great for students who wish to gain wide experience across multiple disciplines relating to the field:

  • Bachelor of Environmental Studies
  • MSc in Environmental Studies
ETH Zurich 
2023 QS Ranking: 9

ETH Zurich, like NUS, offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, with impressive technical specialisations at Masters level:

  • Bachelor ETH Environmental Sc. provides a broad foundation in various environmental disciplines.
  • MSc ETH Environmental Sc.
    covers atmosphere and climate, biogeochemistry and pollutants, ecology and evolution, forest management, and human health.

As you can see, these top universities provide a wealth of multidisciplinary environmental studies degrees.

By enrolling on these programmes, international students can explore and contribute to finding solutions for today's environmental crisis.

What’s more, each elite institution is located in a country famed for offering students a fabulous international experience, not least because you can easily combine study and work in these countries.

And if you want to learn more about studying and working abroad, look no further than our blog.

More on the multidisciplinary nature of environmental studies: Frequently asked questions

At Edvoy, we pride ourselves on helping international students choose and achieve their dream course of study.

Our experts are here to guide you through every step of the application process. To get started on your Edvoy journey, just go to our guide.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of FAQs to assist you in pursuing a degree in the multidisciplinary field of environmental studies.

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1. What are some specialisations in environmental studies?

Environmental studies encompasses a wide range of specialisations.

Thus, students can focus on specific aspects of environmental science and its practical applications.

These specialisations provide individuals with the expertise needed to address the unique challenges within each area.

Notable specialisations include soil ecology, marine biology, energy and climate change, natural resource management, and environmental policy and planning.

But, these are just a few! Truly, the sector is vast.

And, since it’s so multidisciplinary, combining one of these technical specialisation with a broad academic basis in the field will only enhance your employability as a graduate of environmental studies.

2. What are some careers stemming from choosing a degree course in environmental studies?

A degree in environmental studies opens doors to a multitude of career options spanning countless categories, each requiring its own focus and expertise.

To help, we’ve split common environmental careers into the following categories.

That way, you can see all the places this exciting degree path can lead to!

  • Environmental science and research. Job titles in this category include hydrologists, researchers, oceanographers, biologists, ecologists, geologists, and air/water quality inspectors.
  • Environmental conservation and management. Roles include wildlife conservation, land consulting, mining consulting, forestry, agriculture, and hazardous waste management.
  • Environmental policy and law. Did you know that some lawyers specialise in ecological issues? But, there’s much more to this category besides becoming a lawyer. You might work as a political advisor, a think tank researcher, an environmental planner, or a statistical analyst.
  • Sustainability and green practices. People who work in this sector put policy into practice. Careers include sustainable development, food, ecotourism, and working in environmental non-profit organisations and NGOs.
  • Education and communication. From environmental journalism to becoming a teacher or activist, professionals in this field use the power of language to effect positive change and combat climate catastrophe.

The future is multidisciplinary

As we’ve seen, pursuing environmental studies is a gateway to tackling the pressing challenges our planet faces today.

This multidisciplinary field encompasses a wide range of subjects, from life and physical sciences to engineering, social sciences, and mathematics.

International students interested in this dynamic field have access to top-notch programs at prestigious universities worldwide. These programs not only provide an excellent education but also open doors to diverse career opportunities, including research, conservation, policy-making, sustainability, and education.

By choosing environmental studies, students can be at the forefront of finding solutions to the critical environmental issues of our time, making a meaningful impact on our planet's future.

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