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Environmental Policy and Decision Making

Degree: BS

Campus: Columbus

School: Environment and Natural Resources

The environmental policy and decision making major explores the protection of long-term natural resource use and environmental quality through changes in human behavior and policy. This major gives particular consideration to how policies are formulated and implemented and what impact they will have on society, as well as how to best engage individuals and communities to respond to environmental challenges. The major provides students with opportunities to develop important skills relevant for environmental careers as well as effective citizenship in a world where environmental challenges are growing each day. 

Students admitted to the university can directly enroll as majors in environmental policy and decision making within the School of Environment and Natural Resources. A student’s first year will include several foundational courses in environment and natural resources as well as general education requirements such as mathematics, chemistry, biology and the humanities. 

The following foundational courses provide an initial exposure to an array of issues that impact natural resources, focusing on physical and natural sciences as well as the social sciences. 

  • Introduction to Environmental Science
  • Society and Natural Resources
  • Introduction to Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife
  • Introduction to Soil Science 


Communication and behavior change focuses on how best to communicate environmental, science and risk information to public audiences. Course work offers opportunities to understand what motivates individuals to act to protect the environment and how best to frame information to engage the public in pro-environmental behavior.

Environmental and social justice focuses on the local and global inequality in access to and control over resources, the impact this has on livelihoods, and how corporations and policies can contribute to both solutions and problems faced by disadvantaged populations. Course work offers opportunities to understand social inequality in specific contexts, to gain knowledge about globalization’s impacts on local development and livelihood strategies, and to better understand the relationship between socioeconomic status (e.g. race, gender, class) and the environment.

Policy and governance focuses on understanding how policies that affect the environment and natural resources are designed and implemented. Students learn how policy decision-making processes work and how to analyze and evaluate the specific policies that result from such processes.

Nearly half of all graduates in the environmental policy and decision making major study abroad before they graduate. The School of Environment and Natural Resources provides environmentally focused international study opportunities in a variety of places including New Zealand, Australia and Iceland.

Gaining real world experience through internships is critical to student success. Students gain valuable work experience at a variety of federal, state and private agencies and organizations. All students in this major complete either an internship or a capstone experience.

The Environment and Natural Resources Honors program challenges high ability students by providing an enriched academic experience, close work with faculty mentors, the ability to design their own study plan and scholarships for outstanding scholastic achievement. Students who successfully complete the program requirements will graduate with honors. Honors students with strong research interests can pursue the degree with distinction, a program of research during the senior year culminating in a thesis and oral defense. 

The Environment and Natural Resources Scholars program is designed to support students with an interest in exploring the natural world. Students will examine areas such as environmental problems and solutions, alternative energy, wildlife management and outdoor recreation. ENR Scholars have the opportunity to go on recreation trips across the United States during breaks and explore parks and outdoor adventure opportunities throughout the Columbus area. The Scholars live in a resident hall community on campus and participation is focused on the first two years of attendance at Ohio State.

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Student organizations, such as the Sierra Club Student Coalition and Students for Recycling, give students hands-on experiences in the field and help them develop network connections with professionals. 

The School of Environment and Natural Resources Career Services Office assists students with one-on-one counseling to identify job opportunities, assist in preparing cover letters and resumes, and preparing for interviews. They offer workshops, conduct career fairs and help students along the way to make sure they are building successful resumes.

93% of environmental policy and decision making graduates find employment or enroll in graduate or professional school within six months of graduation. About 20% of graduates go directly into graduate or professional school.

Selection of positions acquired by recent grads:

  • regional disaster preparedness coordinator
  • environment, health and safety specialist
  • policy analyst
  • naturalist and camp director
  • AmeriCorps member
  • environmental compliance specialist
  • outreach and organizing manager

Average salaries range from $56,000 to $87,000. Supervisors with advanced experience can expect salaries around $100,000 to $155,000 per year with public or private agencies.