6 Stellar College Programs for Outdoorsy Folks

For most of us, outdoor recreation is strictly a weekend pastime. However, there are plenty of folks whose jobs allow them ― in many cases, require them ― to spend a good deal of time with Mother Nature. There are plenty of academic options for U.S. students who’d would rather forgo a stuffy office in favor of more natural surroundings. According to some of today’s most reputable college and university rankings, here are some of the country’s finest degree programs that focus on environmental disciplines.

State University of New York: College of Environmental Science and Forestry
If you know you’d like to pursue a career in forestry ― but that’s about as far as you’ve gotten ― then SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry is a fantastic place to explore your options. Associate-level credentials are available in three fields of study: environmental and natural resources conservation; forest technology; and land surveying technology. In addition, the school offers more than 20 bachelor’s degrees in a host of fields, including: aquatic and fisheries science; biotechnology; construction management; environmental education and interpretation; forest health; landscape architecture; paper engineering; sustainable energy management; and wildlife science.
Annual tuition for this institution costs $16,445 for all out-of-state students.

University of California-Davis: Bachelor’s in Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology
UC Davis is a great place for eco-friendly folks to study. As a member of the California university system, it is striving to achieve zero waste and carbon neutrality by 2020; the school has also collaborated with 10 other schools in the state to help raise the use of green vehicles by 50 percent and produce at least 10 megawatts of renewable energy by next year. At the UC David College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, students can study a wide range of fields at the undergraduate and graduate level. The bachelor’s degree in wildlife, fish and conservation biology is particularly reputable, thanks to its dedicated faculty and all-encompassing curriculum that prepares students for more than a dozen different career paths. But make no mistake: there are plenty of other environmentally oriented fields to choose from if this one doesn’t especially suit you.
Annual tuition for this institution costs $36,774 for all out-of-state students.

Indiana University School of Public & Environmental Affairs: Masters of Public Affairs
Environmental policy is a rewarding major for students who want to have a direct say in where, when, why, and how lands and natural resources are managed. Indiana University’s main campus in Bloomington offers a Master of Public Affairs degree with a concentration in environmental policy and natural resource management is a great fit for individuals who wish to pursue this career path. The program’s curriculum integrates law, public management, finance, and economics ― as well as plenty of science coursework ― to prepare graduates for careers in both the public and private sector. Indiana’s School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA) ranked second on the U.S. News & World Report 2013 ranking of graduate-level public affairs programs.
Annual tuition for this institution costs $32,350 for full-time, out-of-state students.

University of California-Berkeley: Master’s in Civil and Environmental Engineering
Civic and environmental engineers design and evaluate roads, dams, and other manmade structures to ensure their impact is sustainable and considerate of the surrounding natural features. Cal-Berkeley’s M.S. program in civic and environmental engineering is the best in the U.S., based on the 2013 ranking published by U.S. News & World Report. The university’s College of Engineering boasts an impressive 5.9-to-1 ratio of faculty members to students. Those who wish to enroll in this two-year program should focus on math and science as undergrads; courses in areas like fluid mechanics or hydrology are among the program’s other prerequisites. Two M.S. programs are available; one requires a written thesis, while the other consists of either an intensive examination or a capstone project to be completed by the end of the second semester. Annual tuition for this two-year program costs $26,322 for full-time, out-of-state students.

Lewis & Clark Law School: J.D. in Environmental and Natural Resource Law
Bottom line: the environment needs as many legal advocates as it can get. If you’ve nailed your undergraduate studies and would like to obtain some advanced credentials in the field of environmental and natural resource law, then the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College is arguably your best bet. The Portland school placed second on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the country’s best graduate programs in environmental law; top-ranked Vermont Law School has more prestige, but Lewis & Clark’s program has a more favorable student-faculty ratio and is more than $7,000 cheaper. J.D. students can choose from a wide assortment of specialized courses ― from animal law and environmental enforcement to land use planning and toxic torts. Those who wish to earn LL.M. should consider the joint degree that combines this optional credential with the J.D. curriculum; it’s one semester shorter than the two individual programs combined, which will save you close to twenty grand.
Annual tuition for this three- to four-year program costs $38,180 for full-time students.

Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program
You don’t need to attend some prestigious college or university in order to land a sweet outdoor gig. If you’ve always aspired to a career as a law enforcement ranger for a state or federal agency, then the SLETP program is both affordable and available at different institutions throughout the country. Most programs last roughly 12 weeks, and include a wide range of skills training; everything from making arrests and filing official reports to rescue techniques and first aid will be covered. Expect to get both tased and pepper-sprayed during the course; it’s standard procedure for all officers of the law who are trained to administer these brutal forms of temporary restraint. The program is designed to train national park rangers, but graduates have gone on to law enforcement careers in the National Forest Service and various (such as national forest rangers or state park rangers).
Tuition will vary, but expect to spend between $3,500 and $5,000 for the entire program