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Programs / Arts / Environmental Studies

Program Summary

How do people interact with nature, and how does this impact the environment? How do societies transform nature? The environment consists of a complex set of human and natural systems of which people are an important, and sometimes dominant, element. Decisions made by individuals, institutions, governments, industries and other actors have the ability to impact the environment in both direct and indirect ways, with consequences for future generations. Understanding the costs and benefits of development and conservation, as well as the underlying values and ethical guidelines for good environmental practice are critical for informed environmental decision-making. It is critical, to both the present and future state of the environment, that dialogue and policy are precautionary, evidence-based, thoughtful and inclusive.

The Environmental Studies program at Carleton University prepares students to be informed, skilled individuals who can participate effectively in the resolution of environmental problems and in the larger environmental debates critical to our future. The program is interdisciplinary and flexible, so that students can focus on the conservation of natural systems, natural resource management, environmental organizations and institutions, sustainable economies, environmental education and activism, or research.

Hands-on learning and applied work experience

The Carleton Environmental Studies program offers you the chance to gain practical experience while you study.

  • The third year of the program includes an Intensive Field Course in which you will receive specialized hands-on training in a variety of applications.
  • As a senior student, you will have the opportunity to gain valuable environmental work experience through placements in a practicum offered in the
    fourth year of the Honours program.
  • Elements of community service-learning are included in many of our courses.
  • In addition, we encourage all our students to seek out volunteer opportunities with government and non-governmental agencies relevant to an area of

Co-op opportunities

The co-operative education option gives you the chance to explore great learning opportunities; apply current best practices in your field of study; attempt challenging and interesting assignments to broaden your horizons; and experience ample networking opportunities with professionals working in your field of interest. At the end of your second year, you may be eligible to be placed in a paid position for four to twelve months. Past employers have included the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, Ecology Ottawa, Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada and many others.

When you study environmental issues at Carleton, you will benefit from:

  • The university’s strategic location beside the Rideau River and the historic Rideau Canal;
  • The many opportunities to gain first-hand experience with Canadian traditions of biodiversity conservation and environmental governance (including shared jurisdiction over the environment and resources); and
  • Access to specialized national collections of environmental information and of federal government departments, as well as numerous head offices of environmental non-governmental organizations and businesses.

Bachelor of Arts (Honours and General programs)

The Environmental Studies program at Carleton is a multidisciplinary program based on the social sciences, humanities and sciences. You will develop innovative interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the environment and human roles and responsibilities. You will also be encouraged to develop your own perspectives and approaches to environmental questions.

You will be able to select courses in a wide range of disciplines, including environmental science, law, political science, economics, geography, philosophy and psychology, as well as enroll in the integrative core courses in Environmental Studies at each level. Individual programs may be enriched by selecting from a wide range of courses offered by other departments.

At Carleton, we offer a Bachelor of Arts General degree and a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Environmental Studies. Both programs consist of
a core of required courses, as well as a number of program electives.

Core courses

The Environmental Studies programs provide students with a solid foundation of core and optional courses in the first two years, followed by an opportunity to specialize in one more areas of special interest. In your first year, you will take Introduction to Environmental Studies and in addition choose two of the following:

  • People, Places and Environments;
  • Introduction to the Environment; or
  • Global Environmental Systems.

You will also take the following core courses in Environmental Studies and Interdisciplinary Science:

  • Nature, Environment and Society: Theoretical
  • Sustainable Futures: Environmental Challenges and
  • Natural Laws; and
  • Human Impacts on the Environment.

Note: If you are entering with 4 U/M science credits, you may request permission to substitute other first-year courses, including science courses, for the ISCI 1001 and ISCI 2000 courses.

Other core courses include:

  • Research methods courses;
  • Introduction to Environmental Ethics;
  • Environmental Studies Colloquium; and
  • Environmental and Natural Resources.

In addition to their core courses, students choosefrom a variety of third and fourth year courses with environmental themes (for example, in Political Science, Economics, Geography, Anthropology, Human Rights, Religion and other fields).

Honours program

If you are in the Honours program, your core courses will also include the Intensive Field Course, a seminar in Environmental Studies, and a practicum course. You may also choose to undertake independent research or an environmental project. The fourth-year seminar
uses case studies, action learning and research projects to give students competencies in analysis, synthesis and innovation for sustainable futures. We examine how social institutions respond to environmental concerns and how environmental priorities may be reflected in social, political and economic decision-making. The practicum offers valuable work experience in an external agency or organization involved with environmental issues.


In addition to the core courses identified above, you can choose from optional courses and Approved Environmental Studies electives (see the Environmental Studies program description in the Carleton University Undergraduate Calendar) tailored to your own particular interests. These courses can be arranged into themed groupings, including (but not restricted to) areas such as:

  • Environment, economy and development;
  • Environmental policy and politics;
  • Environmental attitudes and ethics; and
  • Sustainable urban environments.

You also have the flexibility to create a different theme from the approved program elective courses list and from selected other courses that are uniquely appropriate to your goals.

We also encourage field studies and field courses. Previous offerings have included those in ecological planning, sustainable watersheds and mountain ecology in the Himalayas.

In planning your first-year program, you should consider the prerequisite first-year courses that are necessary for the advanced courses you wish to take later. Please note that you can receive departmental permission to enter a course in another department if you do not have all of the prerequisites.

Minor in Environmental Studies

If you are pursuing an undergraduate degree in another discipline, you may choose to complete a minor in Environmental Studies.

First-year experience

First-year BA students are strongly encouraged to include a First-year Seminar (FYSM) in their firstyear course load. Our First-year Seminars will get you away from the lecture hall and give you the chance, in a small class of no more than 30, to discuss and debate topics with your classmates and your professors. Although some FYSMs count as courses leading to a major, you do not have to choose a FYSM in your major discipline.

By studying Environmental Studies, you will learn to use information from many sources as a basis for environmental decision-making. During this process, you will acquire a solid foundation in environmental knowledge, as well as develop the specialized communication skills needed to actively promote yourself and your expertise.

The workplace

New areas of growth in today’s job market include those in environmental sectors, where there is a need for individuals who are able to develop new knowledge and innovative applications to meet identified environmental needs. Growth areas in environmental fields include:

  • Sustainability policy and practice;
  • Environmental regulation;
  • Green enterprises;
  • Environmental assessment;
  • Urban planning;
  • Recreation and ecotourism;
  • Protection of endangered species and habitats;
  • Environmental law and policy;
  • Environmental activism and education; and
  • International environment and development.

Employment opportunities exist in all levels of government, the non-profit sector, education, private sector businesses, communications and consulting.

Today our graduates are working to replace toxic substances, create new environmental laws, educate the next generation, assist in international development, grow organic food crops, conduct environmental assessments and create sustainable futures for us all.

Graduate studies

Graduates of the Honours program may also be eligible to go on to graduate studies in a variety of fields, including environmental studies, geography, planning, resource management, environmental assessment, urban studies, sociology, political science, public administration, philosophy and other fields and disciplines.

If you think you may wish to pursue advanced studies, you are encouraged to investigate graduate programs early in order to ensure that your Environmental Studies program is tailored to meet requirements at the graduate level.

What students are saying about Environmental Studies

Carleton’s Environmental Studies program has expanded my knowledge of environmental processes, my passion for nature-care, and my personal capabilities in the field of environmental work. This program has provided me with opportunities not only to learn from knowledgeable peers and professors, but also to gain first-hand experience in field research. Some of my favourite classes have taken place while trekking through the forest, sitting in the back of a canoe, or hiking in a provincial park.
Hannah Henry, Environmental Studies student

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