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Environmental Studies: B.A. vs. B.S.

topic posted Tue, September 26, 2006 - 4:15 PM by  Claire
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Heya everyone. I had a question for all you college grads out there: I'm trying to decide between a B.A. and a B.S. in Environmental Studies. It seems one curriculum (B.S.) has mostly Calculus, Physics, and Chemistry classes, whereas the other (B.A.) has more broad science-ish classes (think Quantum Reasoning) and Economics. What do you think? Would a B.A. suffice for a building contractor? The curriculum seems much more interesting for the B.A. than the B.S. Is there a substantial monetary difference?

Eager to know your thoughts and opinions,

Xavana
posted by:
Claire
San Diego
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  • Unsu...
     
    If it's anything like other majors that offer both, I suspect it won't matter a damn bit except for your first job. I was lucky enough to have the choice in (of all things) Computer Science. It didn't matter that I took the BA by the time I graduated because I had interesting experience under my belt, which was the driving factor in my first post graduation job. My advice would be to take the study path you're the most passionate about, and fill in the blanks where you care to.

    Disclaimer: I don't know what the ES graduate to jobs ratio is, but if you're at the top of the class, it shouldn't matter.
    • The B.S. always looks better than a B.A. I say you should go for the B.S.
      • I'm surprised it's offered as a B.A., since Environmental Studies relies heavily on the natural sciences.

        And unfair as it is, I believe that Kelly is right about a B.S. "looking better". OTOH Paul's right, too. Choose your internships well (in terms of skill setes gained) and the first job will come more easily.

        The best answer probably comes from knowing just what kind of work you'd like to pursue when you get out of school. Talk to people who already have the job you want.

        Good luck! Follow your bliss.
        • When I first graduated (with a BA in Environmental Studies) I completely lucked out and got a job working for a small water resources engineering firm. They pretty much let me fill in wherever I was most interested in learning and so I got to learn A LOT and do a lot of technical work. However, when it came down to it, my name was often omitted from our proposals because I simply don't have enough credentials to qualify (many times the RFP specified masters degrees). So I'd do the work but I wouldn't get credit for it, not where our clients could see anyway. In the engineering world, even if you're just doing technical analyses, you will want that BS and probably a masters too.

          Now I'm working for a planning firm, so the BA is fine. But it's still limited and it would be very difficult for me to get another job w/a technical firm unless I got a masters degree.

          I say that if you're just going to go with the BA, you should be sure to find a focus so that you have some specialized skills that will give you the upper hand when applying for jobs.
  • Thanks for all the input guys! I appreciate it. :)

    My emphasis is going to be in Energy Management and Environmental Technology... my plan: to start a business renovating homes in a manner that won't cost the home-owner an arm and a leg. As for creds, I'm considering getting LEED and Green-Builders certified as well. Do you think that'll help?

    Thanks again,

    Xavana
    • BA usually are better communicators and big-picture thinkers (incorporating social and economic elemnets), and generally make the best managers. However, the benefits to that type of mind kick in in a few years, and typically, the best BAs become leaders. Example, the new Director of Planning for the City of Vancouver - the leading City in the new world for livability - simply posesses a BA. The recruitments for Arts types aren't as clear as BSc, as employers are looking for diversified skills and adaptability.

      BSc are often highly focussed within an area of specialty, and as a result, often find immediate placement due to industries which specifically require their accreditation. The downside is that technical specialty can act an anchor for lateral moves.

      My recommendation for you is not to start a business but to join an integrated firm in which you can learn from several mentors, and experience a diversified range of projects. Otherwise, you'd be better off taking a mini MBA and subcontracting out the work.

      Running the business side and actually doing the craft are two completely different skills. If you're new to the field, better to do one really well, than struggle with two.

      However, anything Baccalaureate is simply a spark for ongoing, professional and self-acquired education. As the years go by, what a person has learned and practiced as a professional is far more prominent than what they studied a few years after teenage-hood.

      Good luck Xavana !
  • Xavana - Go where your heart guides you. My advice (although I don't have a Bachelors even yet) is to reach for the Masters Degree in an Environmental Studies concentration such as Landscape Architecture or Environmental Design. I'm reaching for a masters and the more guerillas in the system at that level, the more able we are to change things! It is important, as has been noted, to focus on the work you want to do in the feild: what it will take to do the work, what you could learn to enhance that niche in the profession, where you'd like to live, what type of team you'd like to work with...Do you know what I'm saying? Visualize.
    Design your life :) - Star *