University of Iowa

Environmental Science

By its nature, environmental science takes place in a global context. There is much to be gained through acquiring an understanding of how the particular environments, histories, and traditions of other cultures both shape and are shaped by environmental factors. Study abroad is one very exciting way to discover new approaches to environmental science and build up your skills.

Study abroad provides many opportunities to further your study of the world’s environments and ecosystems by experiencing them for yourself, and from an international perspective. You could work on an urban environmental program in a foreign city, or study conservation biology or tropical ecology on the Caribbean coast, in close proximity to splendid mountains, lush rainforests, and smoking volcanoes of Costa Rica! These are just a few of the exciting possibilities offered by study abroad programs.

Coffee farm in Costa Rica

You can also fulfill Environmental Science elective requirements, take General education classes, explore general electives in a subject of your choice, or immerse yourself in language study and internships. Whole worlds open up when your education goes international!


We generally do not encourage studying abroad until junior and senior year for Environmental Science majors due to a highly structured curriculum of courses. The summer between your freshman and sophomore year does, however, provide an excellent opportunity to participate in a short-term study program.


Sophomore year is a good time to go abroad to complete General Education requirements or to study a language.


Junior year is a great time to spend a semester or year abroad. It is recommended that you have your math and science foundation courses complete before you go abroad. As a junior, you will likely choose a program that is focused on Environmental Science major credit, or you will work on completing any remaining General Education requirements.


Senior year is probably the best option for the study abroad experience. Seniors will likely choose a program that is geared towards their track of choice. Also, consider taking courses not offered by the University of Iowa that will enrich your understanding of environmental science—for example, a course that would allow you to explore specific problems of the local ecosystems or provide an opportunity to do research for a thesis.

General Education and Electives

Most study abroad locations will offer coursework that will count towards the General Education requirements of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences requires that all majors acquire either fourth-semester competency or the departmental equivalent in a foreign language. If you need to complete your foreign language requirement, you could consider studying abroad to immerse yourself in a language and complete this requirement in as little as one semester. Taking elective courses abroad is exciting because you have the chance to explore a topic you could never study in the U.S. The Study Abroad office approves GEP courses, so please talk to an advisor.

Environmental Science Major Requirements and Electives

Your Environmental Science foundation courses need to be completed at the University of Iowa.

Geosciences Track

The Geosciences track requires 36 semester hours. These are broken down on the Geosciences website.

Hydrosciences Track

The environmental Hydrosciences track requires 34 semester hours. These are broken down on the Hydrosciences website.

Chemical Sciences Track

The Chemical Sciences track requires 37 semester hours. These are broken down on the Chemical Sciences website.

Biosciences Track

The Biosciences track requires 36-37 semester hours. These are broken down on the Biosciences website.

The B.S. in Environmental Sciences is a highly structured course of study, so you will need to plan carefully to go abroad.

You are encouraged to look into opportunities for field research abroad, possibly as research towards an honors or senior thesis. Conducting fieldwork abroad is excellent preparation for your future career or for graduate school.

Internships and independent studies may also be possibilities for your time abroad. More information about studying abroad in the major can be found on the Department of Environmental Science's website.

The programs on this page were chosen because they offer a diverse representation of issues in environmental science, unique cultural experiences, or specialized internship options.

While we suggest you look at these highlighted programs first, feel free to browse the programs section of the Study Abroad website and consult materials in the Study Abroad Resource Room.

Study Abroad programs which may contribute to the Environmental Science BS:


Iowa Regents Semester in Australia
Both the University of Newcastle and the University of Tasmania have reputations nationally and internationally for teaching and research excellence. Both offer Iowa students a wide array of courses in the arts and humanities, sciences, social sciences, business, architecture, and engineering.

At the University of Newcastle, Environmental Science students can choose from courses on Energy, Environment, Environmental Legislation and Planning, Ecology, Integrated Environmental Impact, Assessment Environmental Biology, Biochemistry, Animal Physiology and Development, Ecology and Management of Australian Flora and Fauna, GIS and Remote Sensing, Structural and Field Geology, Optical Mineralogy and Igneous Petrology, Climatology & Soils, Sustainable Society, and Outback Diversity River Basin Processes, among others, as well as a variety of field courses.

The Environmental Science program offered at the University of Tasmania has a strong focus on aquatic science, chemical monitoring, and environmental management, and overarches three of the University's theme areas, namely National and State Development, Natural Environment and Wilderness, and Antarctic and Southern Ocean.

Costa Rica

CIEE Monteverde

At the Continental Divide in Monteverde, Costa Rica

There are two programs relevant to the Environmental Science major: CIEE Monteverde Sustainability & the Environment, and CIEE Monteverde Tropical Ecology & Conservation.

USAC San Ramon

This USAC program in Costa Rica is designed for science majors interested in learning more about health, ecology and conservation biology in that location. Courses especially designed for the student group include intensive Spanish language, other area studies, and courses such as the following, all of which include a field component: Natural History of Mesoamerica, Tropical Conservation, and Ecology and Population Biology. For more information, visit the USAC website and talk to a study abroad advisor.


Regents Semester in Ireland
This semester or academic year program offers students the opportunity to enroll in a wide range of courses in a variety of disciplines at the University College Cork, one of the oldest universities in Ireland. Students are fully integrated academically and socially with their Irish peers.

Environmental science students can choose from courses in Environmental Studies, Biochemistry, Biology, Earth Science, Geology, Plant Science, and Zoology.

United Kingdom

Regents Semester in Wales
The Regents Semester in Wales offers undergraduate students an opportunity to study for a semester at a British university. Students are integrated academically and socially with their British peers at the University of Wales-Swansea. The program begins with a three-week course on British life and politics, after which students enroll in regular courses offered by the university.