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There are many different environmental degree programs to prepare students for careers in a variety of environmental organizations. Students may earn everything from a vocational certificate or an associate's degree all the way up to a doctoral degree at various colleges and universities around the world. The specific topics for environmental degree programs are then broken down, broadly, into scientific and technical programs, law and policy programs, as well as more general programs that provide overall environmental studies information. The specific path and degree an individual chooses is entirely based on his or her career goals and hopes for the future.
Initially, environmental degree programs are broken down into the time it takes to complete them and the degree that is earned at the end. Vocational and associate's degree programs take the shortest time to complete, generally two years or less, and typically lead to entry-level careers. Individuals who want to eventually progress into four-year degree programs will sometimes start with an associate's degree as well, particularly if their grades do not allow them to progress straight to a traditional college from high school. As a general rule then, bachelor's degrees take four years to complete, master's degrees an additional two, and doctoral degrees an additional three or four years on top of that; these are only estimates, however.
Associate's degrees and technical certificates are generally pursued by students who are looking for entry-level, technical positions. For instance, an individual can generally work as a forestry technician -- not a forester -- with a two-year degree. For those who intend to advance further than this, Bachelor's degrees are very versatile, and are available in a number of different environmental topics including forest science, natural resource management, or land-use planning. Scientific degree programs such as conservation biology and ecology are some of the most popular environmental degree programs for people who want to work as researchers.
Advanced master's or doctoral environmental degree programs are typically pursued by students who wish to teach, or who are interested in attaining senior-level jobs. An environmental law degree, for instance, allows individuals to become practicing attorneys, while a Ph.D. may allow individuals to teach. Master's degrees in renewable energy may allow people to work with new technologies like solar and wind power. For those interested in working with nonprofit organizations, general environmental studies degrees may be a great way to learn additional skills like grant writing and communications. These are just a few of the hundreds of different environmental degree programs available to students, often in very specific topics, so it is important to research options thoroughly; deciding on specific career goals early is key in choosing the best program.