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Confront Environmental Challenges

Environmental science is more important today than ever before. American University's Master of Science in Environmental Science gives students the knowledge and leadership skills to confront pressing environmental challenges facing the world, from climate change to renewable energy to food and water security.

The program will prepare you for careers in science, research, environmental policy, and advocacy. With advanced coursework in climate modeling, geochemistry, conservation, and the statistics necessary to inform science-based policy, the program prepares students to engage in high-level environmental problem-solving and to develop innovative solutions to critically important environmental issues. In recent years, students have published their work in peer-reviewed journals including Applied Geochemistry, Ecological Engineering, Ecological Research, Marine Ecology Progress Series, and Marine Pollution Bulletin.

You will graduate as a scientist with political savvy. Grounded in rigorous scientific research and analysis, the program also delves into the politics, policies, and economics of environmental concerns.

This program is designated as a STEM degree program.


Hannah Niconson

Hannah NiconsonMS Environmental Science

Hannah Nisonson’s passion for environmental justice has led her to pursue an MS in environmental science at American University and a prestigious fellowship at DC’s Global Environment and Technology Foundation, where she is building research databases for blue carbon sequestration methods. Her goal is to find alternative ways to reduce blue carbon in and around the ocean, potentially by carbon sequestration and oceanic carbon credits.

Hannah says she hopes environmental justice will always be at the forefront of her life. At AU, she is a merit scholarship recipient and teaches an environmental science lab to undergraduate students. “I love a space where I can share my passion and knowledge for environmental science,” she says.

Hannah is also looking forward to working with Associate Professor of Environmental Science Sauleh Siddiqui, the principal investigator on a National Science Foundation-funded food waste grant—the largest-ever grant in AU history. She hopes to help with the data analysis and visualization for the project.

It’s a perfect fit for Hannah, who came from a technical undergraduate engineering background and plans on pursuing a doctorate in environmental science and a career as a professor at a scientific research institution.

“After my passion for environmental issues grew, so did my understanding of the importance of political influence,” she says. “I figured American University would nicely combine a STEM related degree with international studies…and I was right! My professors are passionate about teaching, which has made it easier for me to learn from them. AU is constantly giving me the tools I need for real life applications within my field.”

Choose your master's program.

The Master of Science in Environmental Science is a 36-credit hour program focused on scientific research and analysis with a multidisciplinary examination of the natural sciences. 

The program offers two degree tracks: a thesis track for those interested in careers as scientists or researchers and a non-thesis track for those pursuing careers in environmental policy or advocacy.

The 12-credit hour core of required courses will give you a strong foundation in environmental science, and 18 hours of electives in environmental science, environmental policy and economics, and related disciplines allow you to customize your coursework to follow your interests and goals.

Please see also: Admissions & Course Requirements (with additional info for international students).

Students collecting water, seagrass, and algae samples.

Knowledgeable faculty dedicated to your success.

The Department of Environmental Science has a world-class, highly trained faculty conducting research on various subjects such as airborne remote sensing of the terrestrial environment, marine and freshwater ecosystems, coral reefs, and environmental/natural resource economics. Faculty members work closely with students in the classroom, through research, and in collaborative scholarship.

Work, study, and make a difference in the nation's capital.

Consistently ranked as one of the best cities for job seekers, Washington, DC, offers American University students unparalleled access to private and public sector opportunities. Our DC location gives you the opportunity to gain practical experience and network within your field through internships with public and private environmental organizations. Students can conduct research with faculty at AU or at one of the many renowned research institutions in the area.

Students get a head start in the field with internships with the area's environmental agencies, research institutions, and non-government entities. These internships frequently lead to full-time positions after graduation. You will learn real-world skills, advance your career, and make important connections working in the nation's most important city for advocacy and policymaking.



AU graduates are a force for change. Eighty-two percent of graduates work in an environmental field, are in graduate programs, or are doing both. Graduates move on to highly successful careers with government and non-governmental organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, Peace Corps, state environmental agencies, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. 

Recent alumni have gone on to work at such employers as

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Conservation International
  • EPA
  • IIC Technologies Inc.
  • International Wildlife Research
  • Lab Support
  • Las Vegas Valley Water District
  • The University of Hong Kong

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Environmental Scientists earn an average annual salary of $71,000.

Read more career information about AU's environmental science alumni.

Frequently Asked Questions

Most graduate students receive financial support. There are merit-based tuition awards and stipends for being a teaching assistant. In a typical academic year, around 64% of our students receive some level of AU funding through research or teaching. Of those not supported by AU, 25% were funded by other sources.

Yes, but it is more difficult to get financial support, which is generally given to full-time students. Six credits per semester is considered full time for financial purposes, though most full-time students take nine credits per semester.

The thesis track gives students experience doing their own complex study and learning the statistics and analytical skills required to evaluate their results. The experience of writing the thesis is valuable and frequently leads to a peer-reviewed publication. The non-thesis track gives a strong coursework background in science and analysis, along with extensive internship experience that may lead more directly into a position.

Still have questions? Send us an email:

News & Notes

Sea Turtle.

Research ·

Going Green: AU Environmental Scientists Work to Save Our Planet

Read More

Community garden in Baltimore, one of the cities where research will be conducted

Announcement ·

American University, CAS Faculty Lead NSF-Funded National Research Network to Address the Challenge of Reducing Wasted Food

Read More

Elisa Davey (MS 2022) recently started a full-time position with the EPA, working on biosolids. 

Emily Nguyen (MS 2022) was just hired as a Program Coordinator at Conservation International.Barbara Balestra was awarded an AU Deputy Provost & Dean of Faculty’s Pilot Grant for the proposal “Effects of biofilm biodiversity and biomass on microplastics in the Potomac River” (Spring 2022), working with MS student Joe Barnes.

  • Jessica Gephart was awarded a $785,000 NSF grant to develop a global seafood trade network database for sustainable food systems, human health, and nutrition security.

    Kiho Kim is co-PI on a $300,000 NSF grant to develop enhanced teaching and learning through problem-based pedagogy. Karen Knee and Barbara Balestra are also participating in this research. Kim is co-PI on a $800,000 NSF grant entitled “Noyce Scholar Retention in Racially and Culturally Non-dominant Communities: Partnerships and Persistence.” 

    Karen Knee and collaborators were recently awarded a 3-year, $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from trees.

  • MS student Kristina Nicholas's project proposal on the Anacostia and Potomac watershed was awarded $500 by the COSMOS foundation.

    MS student Joseph Barnes and BS student Natalie Landaverde were awarded AU's Deputy Provost & Dean of Faculty’s Pilot Grant Award for their project "Effects of biofilm biodiversity and biomass on microplastics in the Potomac River."

    Washington City Paper features research by prof Jesse Meiller and grad student Elisa Davey on microplastics research in local watersheds.

  • Elisa Davey (MS '22) was awarded F2020 Graduate Student Research Funds from the CAS Dean's Office to support her micro-plastics work with Drs. Meiller and Balestra.
  • Avery Williams (CAS/MS 2021) won the prestigious The Garden Club of America, GCA Zone VI Fellowship in Urban Forestry and $5000 research stipend for the project: “Using High-Resolution Satellite Data to Track Phenological Shifts of Urban Vegetation for Individual Tree Scale Analyses.” 
  • Jenna Wiegand (CAS/MS 2019) received the Veronique Pittman Award at Less Cancer's Cancer Prevention Day at the Rayburn House Office Building.

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