Environmental degree programs

A good planet is hard to find

You want to make the world a better place – or learn about the world under your feet – or create a positive impact on the environment for generations to come. Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to help you understand the options you have for studying all things environment. Here at the University of Waterloo, you have more than a dozen options for customizing a degree that gives you the skills and experience to reach (and exceed) your goals in environment.

Student holding notebook while on field trip to Antarctica

Geography and Environmental Management allowed Cassandra to embark on an Arctic adventure. She participated in a comprehensive study of the north, exploring interconnections between the human and physical environment while analyzing the impacts of climate change. Photo credit: Jeff Topham, One Ocean Expeditions


Choices can be overwhelming. We’ve divided our programs into goal-oriented categories (which can, and do, overlap – but it’s a great starting point if you didn’t realize how far-reaching careers in the environment are). Hopefully, this helps you understand the many ways programs in environment can help you reach your dreams.

  • Research: Understand the science behind environmental features, functions, and phenomena, while exploring teachings and theories in labs and field trips.
  • Industry: Apply practical scientific knowledge to commercial industries and/or use the latest technology in areas like satellite data, high-end software, and global positioning systems.
  • Policy: Influence government, industry, and the economics surrounding environmental policies. This includes socio-economic responses and planning that influence the environment of the future.
  • Management: Gain knowledge in human-centric environmental subjects like population dynamics and climate change, while also understanding business and management systems that can influence a more sustainable future.

Research-focused programs

Earth Sciences

Learn about the fascinating and complex world under your feet by exploring topics such as geology, geophysics, geochemistry, and hydrogeology. Learn more about Earth Sciences.

Environmental Science

In our Environmental Science degree, you'll get a solid grounding in science and still have lots of room to explore environment-related courses in math, ecology, microbiology, hydrology, and more.

student standing in stream with net


Industry-focused programs

Environmental Engineering

Clean up contaminated soil. Prevent E. coli outbreaks. Design smarter ways to treat and manage water. Learn more Waterloo's Environmental Engineering degree.

Geography and Aviation

Do you dream of being a pilot? Take to the skies with the largest university-level aviation program in Canada. Learn more about Geography and Aviation at Waterloo.


Geological Engineering

Use your knowledge of soil and rock behaviour to solve complex problems. Ensure the safety of dams and pipelines, assess risks for landslides and earthquakes, and more. Learn more about Geological Engineering at Waterloo.


Learn to use tools like remote sensing, computer mapping, geographic information systems (GIS), and GPS to analyze geographic data, understand spatial data, and make meaningful decisions. Learn more about our Geomatics degree.


Policy-focused programs

Environment, Resources and Sustainability

Use insights from the natural, physical, and social sciences to help solve some of the world’s biggest environmental challenges — from water scarcity to pollution to loss of biodiversity. Learn more about the Environment, Resources and Sustainability program at Waterloo.


In Waterloo's Planning degree, you'll go beyond urban planning and learn to tackle the environmental and social challenges facing urban, rural, and natural areas. Learn to manage the growth of cities, design transportation systems, protect parks, and more.


International Development

Learn to tackle issues of economic inequality, social injustice, and environmental change through the International Development program at Waterloo.

Carlee, a student in the international development degree program, holds a dog with a friend in Nepal.


Management-focused programs

Environment and Business

Today, smart businesses know that sustainability has to be a core part of their plan. In Environment and Business — the only program of its kind in North America — you’ll develop an in-depth knowledge of environmental issues and the business world.

Waterloo Environment and Business student writing on whiteboard.

Geography and Environmental Management

Explore how people shape the planet we live on. Delve into the dynamics of the Earth’s physical systems. With a geography degree, you'll learn to solve many of the world’s most pressing problems, such as climate change, water scarcity, resource management, and more.

A student in the geography degree program reads a travel guide at a table outside.


globe icon16th in the worldfor social and economic impact based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.Times Higher Education’s University Impact Rankings 2020
skyline icon22nd in the worldfor research on sustainable cities and communities.Times Higher Education’s University Impact Rankings 2020

Customize your perspective on the environment

Whether or not you major in a program that's related to the environment, you can include minors and diplomas as part of most programs to tailor your degree to your interests. For example, you could

  • combine Environment, Resources and Sustainability with Biology,
  • mix Environmental Science with Political Science, or
  • learn about national and provincial parks with a geography degree and the Parks minor.

Want to learn more? Contact the student recruitment co-ordinator for your faculty or program of interest. They'll be able to help you pursue your particular set of interests. Normally it's not possible to include minors for programs such as Engineering where there aren't a lot of elective courses.

Beyond the classroom

Meet others who share your passion

Become part of a community that's engaged in creating a more sustainable environment. Some of our student-run clubs include

  • Alternative Fuels Team
  • Society for Ecological Restoration
  • Sustainable Campus Initiative

And building on Waterloo's strengths in entrepreneurship, there's also funding for student teams with business ideas that address climate change.

Gain work experience through co-op

Many of our environmental programs let you explore careers and gain paid co-op work experience as part of your degree. Co-op students have worked in positions such as

  • Environmental geoscientist
  • Industrial wastewater engineer
  • Species-at-risk research student assistant


Waterloo researchers and students are working hard to enhance both the natural world and our urban environment. As a student, you can attend events, learn from leading researchers, or even pursue further education with centres such as the

Sustainability at Waterloo

The Sustainability Office works to minimize waste, reduce emissions, and shrink our environmental footprint. The University's efforts focus on education (with over 525 courses related to sustainability), innovative research, community engagement, and a sustainability strategy that aims to

  • be a leader in sustainability education and research,
  • operate our campus sustainably, and
  • imbed sustainability practices into campus culture.

Earn your degree from one of Canada's leading universities

2ndin Canada for water resources researchAcademic World Rankings of Universities 2020
4thin Canada for geographyAcademic World Rankings of Universities 2020
4thin Canada for environmental sciencesQS World University Rankings by Subject 2020

Did you know?

Quick facts about Waterloo's environmental initiatives.

  • Home to Canada’s largest Faculty of Environment.
  • Committed to becoming a zero-waste campus by 2035 and carbon neutral by 2050.
  • Designated as a Fair Trade Campus in 2019.
  • Host an annual Eco Summit for the campus community to reflect on our sustainability progress and opportunities.
  • Waterloo is the founding institution for Sustainable Development Solutions Canada, part of a global network of universities, colleges, and research centres that promote practical solutions for sustainable development.
  • Nearly 500 professors conduct research that advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • 85% of all cleaning janitorial supplies are eco-friendly.
  • 31% of all the food and drinks purchased are local, produced on-site, or third-party certified for sustainability.

Learn more about Waterloo's commitment to creating a better environment on our sustainability website.

Campus shot