Student writes in notebook during field class

Environmental Science BSc

Department of Geography

School of Biosciences

Apply for this course

You are viewing this course for 2022-23 entry. 2021-22 entry is also available.

Key details

Course description

A technician instructs a student by a river

Environmental Science is a broad and multidisciplinary subject exploring processes that control and have an impact on the wide range of habitats, ecosystems and environments on planet Earth.

The course at Sheffield was one of the first degree programmes of its kind to be established. In recent years, awareness about the complexity of the natural environment and the impacts of human activity has accelerated. This has led to the growth of environmental science as a major international discipline helping to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our planet. 

Environmental issues represent a pressing concern for global government, businesses and societies and there is a high demand for environmental specialists in all these areas. Sheffield remains at the forefront of the discipline. This is demonstrated by our graduates who are pursuing careers in industry, research, conservation, ecology and many other sectors across the world.

This course is taught jointly by the Department of Geography and the Department of Biosciences. Both departments undertake international research at the frontiers of the discipline, so you'll be taught by experts in their fields. You'll have the opportunity to tailor your degree to suit your interests and study modules that span the environmental sciences and focus on research specialisms such as global environmental change, biosciences, geoscience and environmental quality and technology.

The first year of the BSc includes modules in geography, earth science and biology. These modules explore the range of physical environments and ecosystems and provide the foundation for the rest of your course. In the second and third years, you'll build on what you've learned with more specialised study of environmental science.

Practical work and field classes are an essential part of the course. Third year students typically carry out an extended research project in the lab or in the field.

This course is accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES) and the Committee of Heads of Environmental Sciences (CHES). The IES is the leading professional body for environmental science professionals in the UK. Accreditation confirms that this course is of high quality and provide excellent standards of professional development. Students on this course are eligible to become student members of the IES - the first step toward achieving Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) status.

Student processing samples


The modules listed below are examples from the last academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course. For the very latest module information, check with the department directly.

Choose a year to see modules for a level of study:

Title: Environmental Science BSc course structure
UCAS code: F900
Years: 2021

Core modules:

Ecosystems and Environment Field Course

This field-based module introduces the study of ecosystems in relation to the environment, at sites in the Sheffield region. It provides training in Phase 1 and Phase 2 habitat surveys. This is combined with studies of environmental variables (geology, soils, climate, hydrology, grazing, management) that control the distribution of different plant communities, taught through introductory lectures to the sites to be visited, together with training in the field in observing, recording and interpreting how these factors affect vegetation stands. The final part of the course involves small groups conducting a research project that investigates an aspect of environmental controls on species or communities. The core field and reporting skills taught in this module are particularly relevant to careers in habitat conservation and restoration, and environmental consultancy.

10 credits
Principles of Ecology and Conservation

This course is an introduction to the principles of ecology and conservation. It covers ecological concepts about the abundance and distribution of species and key ideas about conserving populations, communities and habitats.

20 credits
Climate Change and Sustainability

This course introduces the core scientific issues required to understand climate change and sustainability. Students will learn the causes of climate change, its impacts in natural and agricultural ecosystems, the influence of biogeochemical cycles in these ecosystems on climate, and strategies for sustainably managing ecosystems in future. Learning will be achieved via lectures and videos, practicals and independent study.

20 credits
Skills for Environmental Scientists

The Skills for Environmental Scientists module introduces students to the fundamentals of scientific writing, presentation skills, practical skills, experimental design and data analysis, information technology, the role of science in society and career development. Research skills will be introduced in a series of lectures and seminars that students will then develop through practical sessions and independent study using printed and online module material and activities. Key communication skills will be developed and integrated using small group tutorials.

20 credits
Global Biogeochemical Cycles

This module provides fundamentals of environmental sciences with an emphasis on biogeochemical cycling. Challenges in loss of biodiversity, access to clean water, climate change and provision of food for a quickly growing population are best approached centred in sustainability (recycling, reducing consumption) and citizen engagement. The module aims to cover the main earth system approaches that underpin our understanding of environmental challenges using a systems approach. The contents focus heavily on global environmental cycles including climate, air and water resources, pollution, biological communities, geology and energy.

10 credits
Earth, Wind, Ice and Fire

This course is intended to provide an introduction to the general principles of physical geography for students with diverse backgrounds.

Part I will aim to give students an understanding of the origin and history of the Earth. It will include explanations of tectonic, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic activity, the history of crustal processes as well as reviewing the development over geological time of the evolution of the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere.

Part II will use a systems-based approach to physical geography to examine several other key environmental systems, including the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and the cryosphere. It will include explanation of key interactions between physical systems and discussion of the impacts and consequences of system perturbation, such as climate change, over time and space.

Part III of the course will introduce concepts of geomorphology as a means to investigate the landforms of the earth; mountains, valleys, slopes, river beds and dunes. It will include explanation of fundamental principles of landscape and landform development considering issues such as temporal and spatial scale, equilibrium and interaction between different landscape processes and components.

20 credits

Optional modules:

Living with Environmental Change

This module will introduce students to a wide range of critical environmental issues facing the world today from physical science and social science perspectives. Using a range of environmental problems evident in the Global North and Global South (such as climate change, habit loss, water resources, land-use change, agriculture), the physical and social processes implicated will be examined. Drawing on a range of examples, students will critically explore the causes, consequences, management and solutions to environmental issues and learn how to question assumptions about environmental processes.

20 credits
Why Geography Matters

Geographers actively contribute to intellectual debates across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, addressing some of the most pressing issues facing the modern world, from climate change to food security, informing policy and practice. The module provides a challenging but accessible insight into the origins of the discipline and how these translate into the cutting edge of contemporary geographical research, and how this helps us understand our changing world. Serving as a bridge between the general introductory modules, and the more specialist modules taught at levels 2 and 3, this module provides an opportunity for students to engage with topical issues in contemporary human and physical geography led by academics actively engaged in cutting edge research on those subjects.

20 credits

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.

Learning and assessment


Our environmental science programmes provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to understand and solve critical environmental issues. You will study with academic staff whose research expertise is internationally recognised and your learning will take place on field classes and in state-of-the-art laboratories, lecture theatres and libraries.

We invest to create the right environment for you. That means outstanding facilities, study spaces and support, including 24/7 online access to our online library service.

Study spaces and computers are available to offer you choice and flexibility for your study. Our five library sites give you access to over 1.3 million books and periodicals. You can access your library account and our rich digital collections from anywhere on or off campus. Other library services include study skills training to improve your grades, and tailored advice from experts in your subject.

Learning support facilities and library opening hours


You will be assessed through a combination of exams, coursework and practical assessment. The proportions of these will vary depending on the modules you choose.

Programme specification

This tells you the aims and learning outcomes of this course and how these will be achieved and assessed.

Find programme specification for this course

Entry requirements

With Access Sheffield, you could qualify for additional consideration or an alternative offer - find out if you're eligible

Standard offer
Access Sheffield offer

The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Geography or another relevant science subject

The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Geography or another relevant science subject

A Levels + additional qualifications | BBB, including Geography or another science subject + B in the EPQ; BBB, including Geography or another relevant science subject + B in Core Maths BBB, including Geography or another science subject + B in the EPQ; BBB, including Geography or another relevant science subject + B in Core Maths

International Baccalaureate | 33, with 5 in Higher Level Geography or another relevant science subject 32, with 5 in Higher Level Geography or another relevant science subject

BTEC | DDD in a relevant subject DDM in a relevant subject

Scottish Highers + 1 Advanced Higher | AABBB + B in Geography or another relevant science subject ABBBB + B in Geography or another relevant science subject

Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels | B + AB, including Geography or another relevant science subject B + AB, including Geography or another relevant science subject

Access to HE Diploma | 60 credits overall in a relevant subject, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 30 credits at Distinction (to include Geography or another relevant science subject units) and 15 credits at Merit 60 credits overall in a relevant subject, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 24 credits at Distinction (to include Geography or another relevant science subject units) and 21 credits at Merit

Mature students - explore other routes for mature students

English language requirements

You must demonstrate that your English is good enough for you to successfully complete your course. For this course we require: GCSE English Language at grade 4/C; IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component; or an alternative acceptable English language qualification

Equivalent English language qualifications

Visa and immigration requirements

Other requirements
  • Relevant science subjects other than Geography include Biology/Human Biology, Geology, Environmental Science/Studies, Chemistry, Maths, Further Maths, Physics or Statistics

  • GCSE Maths grade 4/C

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

Department of Geography

Student pointing out something by riverside

The Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield is a world leader in teaching and research. We're ranked as one of the top 50 universities in the world for geography according to the QS Rankings 2020.

We have over 30 full-time academic staff in the department. Our high staff-to-student ratio ensures that you receive excellent quality teaching and a high level of pastoral support throughout your studies.

The Department of Geography is housed in an award-winning, purpose-built building on the edge of the beautiful Weston Park, close to the Students' Union and central libraries and lecture theatres.


We have a well-equipped computer teaching laboratory, postgraduate and undergraduate physical geography laboratories, and image processing facilities which provide an important component for teaching and research in remote sensing and geographical information systems (GIS).

Our facilities

Department of Geography

School of Biosciences

Arthur Willis Environment Centre

Biosciences at Sheffield is home to over 120 lecturers who are actively involved in research at the cutting edge of their field. You'll learn from scientists who are helping to solve some of the biggest global challenges, from understanding the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our food systems and discovering how to absorb up to 2 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, to combating the biodiversity and climate crises.

Our staff are drawn from across the biosciences and are engaged in research in a wide range of areas, from molecular biology, human health and disease, to evolution, biodiversity, conservation, genetics and sustainability.

We’re a close-knit community where every student gets the support and encouragement needed to achieve their best work. Whether it’s joining one of our student-led societies and taking part in nights out, trips abroad and quizzes with lecturers, or volunteering, fundraising and organising your own events, there are lots of opportunities to get involved.

Biosciences students are based across Firth Court, the Alfred Denny, Florey and Addison buildings. We are at the heart of the University campus, adjacent to the Students' Union and just a 15-minute walk from the city centre.


Our students have access to world-class laboratory and computing resources for biological research and are trained in specialist teaching laboratories, supported by teaching assistants and our technician team.

Biosciences at Sheffield is home to state-of-the-art facilities, including super resolution light, cryo-electron and atomic force microscopy, NMR and X-ray facilities, a Biological Mass Spectrometry facility and the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility, which provides molecular genetics facilities and training to the UK science community.

We also have controlled environment facilities that can simulate any past, present and future climate, entomology resources, experimental gardens, leading equipment for DNA analysis, and the Alfred Denny Museum of Zoology on campus.

School of Biosciences

Why choose Sheffield?

The University of Sheffield

  A Top 100 university 2021
QS World University Rankings

  Top 10% of all UK universities
Research Excellence Framework 2014

  No 1 Students' Union in the UK
Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2019, 2018, 2017

Department of Geography

Top 50 in the world for Geography

QS World University Rankings By Subject 2021

School of Biosciences

Top 10 in the UK for Biological Sciences

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021

Top 5 for Biological Sciences Research

Research Excellence Framework 2014

Top 20 in the world for Ecology

Shanghai Ranking

Our graduates are among the UK's top ten most targeted by leading employers

High Fliers Research 2020

Graduate careers

Graduates from our BSc Environmental Science and MEnvSci Environmental Science degrees are valued by employers for their environmental science skills and in-depth knowledge. Recent graduates have gone on to careers in environmental consultancy and policy, sustainable energy, land remediation and conservation.

As well as specialist skills and knowledge, our degrees provide you with transferable skills that are valued by graduate employers, such as handling data, communicating complex issues, and managing projects from start to finish. Other environmental science graduates have used these assets to secure employment in teaching, law, patenting, finance and banking.

93% of our geography and environmental science graduates are in employment or further study within six months of graduation (Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2017).

In addition to further study, our graduates go on to work for leading scientific organisations like Cancer Research, GSK, RB and Mondelez; organisations linked to ecology and conservation such as the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum and the Environment Agency; and prestigious graduate schemes like Google, PwC, the BBC, Deloitte, United Kingdom Civil Service, Aldi and the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme.

Careers and employability on the Department of Geography website


Fieldwork is central to teaching and research in the environmental sciences. It allows you to apply the ideas and skills from your lectures and lab work, and is vital for developing the analytical and practical skills required by environmental specialists. You will typically undertake residential field classes funded by the department in both the first and second years of your degree. These field classes currently take place in the UK. 

We also typically run local day trips for fieldwork, which take advantage of Sheffield’s location on the edge of the Peak District National Park. Where possible we run optional residential field classes in the third year. These are closely aligned with the research strengths of our staff, and give you additional opportunities to develop your fieldwork skills.

In the interests of inclusivity, we run these trips at a range of prices, with domestic options available to reduce costs and carbon emissions. In previous years these optional field classes have gone to locations as diverse as the Lake District and New Zealand. Many students conduct fieldwork as part of their research projects and departmental scholarships are available to support ambitious independent fieldwork. Recent scholarships have supported research into glaciology in the Swiss Alps and the reintroduction of beavers in the Scottish Highlands.

Our fieldwork philosophy

Fees and funding


Additional costs

The annual fee for your course includes a number of items in addition to your tuition. If an item or activity is classed as a compulsory element for your course, it will normally be included in your tuition fee. There are also other costs which you may need to consider.

Examples of what’s included and excluded

Funding your study

Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for a bursary, scholarship or loan to help fund your study and enhance your learning experience.

Use our Student Funding Calculator to work out what you’re eligible for.

Visit us

University open days

There are four open days every year, usually in June, July, September and October. You can talk to staff and students, tour the campus and see inside the accommodation.

Open days: book your place

Taster days

At various times in the year we run online taster sessions to help Year 12 students experience what it is like to study at the University of Sheffield.

Upcoming taster sessions

Applicant days

If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our applicant days, which take place between November and April. These applicant days have a strong department focus and give you the chance to really explore student life here, even if you've visited us before.

Campus tours

Campus tours run regularly throughout the year, at 1pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Book your place on a campus tour

Apply for this course

Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.

How to apply When you're ready to apply, see the UCAS website:

The awarding body for this course is the University of Sheffield.

Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

Our student protection plan

Terms and Conditions upon Acceptance of an Offer

Explore this course: