Student writes in notebook during field class

Environmental Science BSc

Department of Geography

School of Biosciences

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    You are viewing this course for 2023-24 entry. 2024-25 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 impact the wide range of habitats, ecosystems and environments on Earth. The course at Sheffield was one of the first degree programmes of its kind to be established in the subject. 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 School 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


    A selection of modules are available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

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

    Title: Environmental Science BSc course structure
    UCAS code: F900
    Years: 2022, 2023
    First year

    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
    Ecology and Conservation

    This module is an introduction to the principles of ecology and conservation. It covers ecological concepts about the factors controlling the abundance and distribution of species, coexistence and biodiversity at multiple geographic scales. It combines this with key ideas from tropical and marine communities about conserving populations, communities and habitats. The module includes lectures, a lab practical, an introduction to mathematical modelling in conservation biology and a field trip to Potteric Carr, a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve where you'll put into practice by collecting data to test some of the ideas you've learned in class.

    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 Science 1

    The Skills for Environmental Science module introduces students to fundamentals of investigative scientific practice:  lab practical skills, experimental design, information technology, data visualisation and analysis. Concepts will be introduced in a series of practical sessions that will develop a focussed laboratory based project. Complementing this, other activities will focus on understanding data handling, data manipulations, handling and presentation, and statistical analysis. 

    10 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 module introduces the general principles of physical geography for students with diverse backgrounds.  We will use a systems-based approach to physical geography to examine several key environmental systems, including the geosphere, atmosphere, and the cryosphere. It will include explanation of key interactions between physical systems and discussion of the impacts and consequences of system alterations, such as climate change, over time and space.  The course will introduce concepts of geomorphology to investigate the landforms of the earth; mountains, valleys, slopes, riverbeds, and dunes, leading to the consideration of landscape and landform development over varying temporal and spatial scales.

    20 credits
    Geographical Skills for Environmental Science

    Environmental Scientists are well-known for having a versatile set of practical and transferable skills. This module teaches you key research methods from across the discipline, with the following aims:

    Introduce you to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Earth Observation.

    Give basic training in finding, evaluating, analysing and presenting data and information.

    Develop your written, numerical and visual skills.

    Provide you with opportunities to develop and reflect on your employability skills.

    Small tutorials, run by academic staff, are used to develop skills in finding, presenting, analysing, and critically evaluating complex information. Lectures introduce you to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Earth Observation, with computer practicals providing you with the chance to apply these skills using industry-standard software.

    10 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, habitat 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

    Geography helps us plan for the future by investigating social and physical processes as they interconnect from the past through to the present. Geographers actively contribute to contemporary debates across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.  We address some of the most pressing issues facing the modern world linking to social justice and environmental change.  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 who are informing real world 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 and contribute to our changing world.  The module will also begin to highlight for students how knowledge is always produced and reflective of those who produce it in ways that reinforce the positionality of some and silence others.

    The following particular skills will be achieved in this module: exchanging knowledge; networking; emotional intelligence; inclusivity; positive mindset; innovation; commercial awareness.

    20 credits
    Exploring Human Geographies

    The module provides an introduction to key principles, relations and processes that contribute to a diverse array of social, cultural, economic and environmental aspects of human geography.  It looks at spatial patterns of power, inequality and interdependence produced by economic and cultural globalisation, how we experience these at the local scale and and how they have changed over time.  It outlines key concepts and current debates shaping how human geographers approach these issues by drawing on examples from around the world and at a variety of geographical scales.  It highlights the value of a geographical perspective on the world we live in.

    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

    The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
    including a science subject

    A Levels + additional qualifications BBB, including a science subject + B in the EPQ; BBB including a science subject + B in Core Maths

    International Baccalaureate 33, with 5 in a Higher Level science subject

    BTEC Extended Diploma DDD in a relevant subject

    BTEC Diploma DD + B in an A Level science subject

    Scottish Highers + 1 Advanced Higher AABBB + B in a science subject

    Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels B + AB, including a science subject

    Access to HE Diploma Award of Access to HE Diploma in a relevant subject, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 30 at Distinction (to include science units), and 15 at Merit

    Other requirements
    • Science subjects include Geography (preferred subject), Biology (or Human Biology), Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geology, Maths, Further Maths, Statistics or Physics

    • GCSE Maths grade 4/C

    Access Sheffield offer

    The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
    including a science subject

    A Levels + additional qualifications BBB, including a science subject + B in the EPQ; BBB including a science subject + B in Core Maths

    International Baccalaureate 32, with 5 in a Higher Level science subject

    BTEC Extended Diploma DDM in a relevant subject

    BTEC Diploma DD + B in an A Level science subject

    Scottish Highers + 1 Advanced Higher ABBBB + B in a science subject

    Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels B + BB, including a science subject

    Access to HE Diploma Award of Access to HE Diploma in a relevant subject, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 24 at Distinction (to include science units), and 21 at Merit

    Other requirements
    • Science subjects include Geography (preferred subject), Biology (or Human Biology), Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geology, Maths, Further Maths, Statistics or Physics

    • GCSE Maths grade 4/C

    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 qualifications | UK and EU/international

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for an International Foundation Year in Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

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

    Department of Geography

    Our department building on the edge of Western Park

    The Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield is a world leader in teaching and research. We're ranked within the top 50 universities in the world for geography according to the QS Rankings 2022, top 10 in the world for geography by the ShanghaiRanking Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2022 and top 10 in the  UK for geography by the Guardian University Guide 2023.

    We are experts in the fields of social justice and environmental change. We explore our dynamic, diverse world to address humanity’s greatest problems, from food waste to melting ice sheets. Our innovative research and practice-based learning will equip you with distinct, relevant professional skills.

    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

    The School of Biosciences brings together more than 100 years of teaching and research expertise across the breadth of biology. It is home to over 120 lecturers who are actively involved in research at the cutting edge of their field, sharing their knowledge with more than 1,500 undergraduate and 300 postgraduate students. 

    Our expertise spans the breadth and depth of bioscience, including molecular and cell biology, genetics, development, human physiology and pharmacology through to evolution, ecology, biodiversity conservation and sustainability. This makes us one of the broadest and largest groupings of the discipline and allows us to train the next generation of biologists in the latest research techniques and discoveries.

    The School of Biosciences is based at the heart of campus across the interlinked Firth Court, Alfred Denny, Florey, Perak and Addison buildings which house lecture theatres, teaching labs and research facilities. You’ll be over the road from 24/7 library facilities and the UK’s number one students’ union, a short walk from our student accommodation, sports facilities and the city centre, and just a bus ride away from the Peak District National Park.


    Our students have access to world-class laboratory and computing resources for biological research and are trained in specialist teaching laboratories. The school is home to state-of-the-art facilities, including the Medical Teaching Unit where our students work alongside trainee medics to gain an excellent foundation for understanding human physiology and developmental biology. We also have the Alfred Denny Museum of Zoology that we use for teaching animal anatomy, biodiversity and evolution. 

    To further support our research and teaching, we have a world-leading controlled environment facility which allows our staff and students to study the impacts of climate change; multi-million pound microscopy equipment that’s helping us to understand and prevent diseases such as MRSA; and facilities for genomics, proteomics and metabolomics research, Biological Mass Spectrometry, and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance imaging.

    School of Biosciences

    Why choose Sheffield?

    The University of Sheffield

      A top 100 university
    QS World University Rankings 2023

      92 per cent of our research is rated as world-leading or internationally excellent
    Research Excellence Framework 2021

      Top 50 in the most international universities rankings
    Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022

      No 1 Students' Union in the UK
    Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017

      A top 10 university targeted by employers
    The Graduate Market in 2022, High Fliers report

    Department of Geography

    Top 10 in the UK for geography

    The Guardian University Guide 2023

    Top 10 in the world for geography

    ShanghaiRanking Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2022

    Top 50 in the world for geography

    QS World University Rankings by subject 2022

    School of Biosciences

    Top five in the UK for quality of research

    Research Excellence Framework 2021

    98% of our research and impact is rated as world-leading or internationally excellent

    Research Excellence Framework 2021

    Graduate careers

    Graduates from our BSc Environmental Science and MEnvSci Environmental Science degrees are valued by employers for their specialist environmental science skills and in-depth knowledge of environmental issues and the natural environment.

    Recent graduates have gone on to careers in environmental consultancy and policy, sustainable energy, and land remediation and conservation. Our environmental science degrees are also a strong foundation for careers in other sectors including tech and coding, consultancy and business, financial services, policy and government.

    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.

    You'll develop your ability to analyse environmental problems from a range of perspectives and at different scales. As well as specialist skills from geosciences and biosciences, including carrying out fieldwork, lab skills, and analysing spatial data, our innovative teaching will help you develop the Sheffield Graduate attributes. These will help you strengthen skills to support your career development, including collaboration, leadership, influencing, commercial awareness and community engagement. We have specialist staff who will support you to undertake an additional placement year to enhance learning, share knowledge, and develop confidence and skills for graduate level employment.

    Placements, field trips and study abroad


    You may have the opportunity to add an optional placement year as part of your course, converting the three year course to a four-year Degree with Placement Year. 

    A placement year will help you to:

    • gain an insight into possible careers
    • develop a range transferable skills 
    • build a professional network
    • get a feel for what you do and don’t like doing
    • add valuable work experience to your CV
    • gain experience of applying for jobs and interview practice
    • apply elements of academic learning in the workplace

    Field trips

    Field trips are central to teaching and research in the environmental sciences. They allow you to apply the ideas and skills from your lectures and lab work, and are vital for developing the analytical and practical skills required by environmental specialists.

    We aim to make our field classes as inclusive as possible. For this reason, all costs for the core field classes at Levels 1 and 2 and the optional UK-based field classes at Level 3 are met by the department. This includes the costs of travel, accommodation and food during your residential stay.

    Your first year typically includes four (non-residential) field days at a field centre in the nearby Peak District. During this time you will conduct a wide range of habitat survey work as well as project work focussed on plant and soil interactions and environmental controls on plant community composition.

    Your second year typically includes a seven-day residential field class in a European destination. In recent years, students have developed and applied their research skills in Almería, Spain, a destination that offers sites for investigating diverse topics related to landforms, microclimate, aeolian processes, water and soil quality, and coastal environments.

    We also run optional field classes in your third year. These are closely aligned with the research strengths of our staff, and give you additional opportunities to develop your fieldwork skills. In recent years we have run trips to investigate glacial, geological and environmental processes that have shaped the beautiful Lake District. 

    Additionally, many students conduct fieldwork as part of their dissertation projects and departmental scholarships are available to support ambitious independent fieldwork. Recent scholarships have supported research into glaciology in the Swiss Alps, the reintroduction of beavers in the Scottish Highlands, and the links between migration and music in Morocco.

    Our field classes give you practical experiences and training in diverse environments. We take an ethical and sustainable approach to planning destinations and consider the impact on local communities and the environment.

    Destinations for field classes may change from year to year in response to our course content, our world-leading research, reviews, feedback from students or wider global events. We will contact students in advance of any changes to our field classes.

    Our fieldwork philosophy

    Study abroad

    Spending time abroad during your degree is a great way to explore different cultures, gain a new perspective and experience a life-changing opportunity that you will never forget. 

    You can apply to extend this course with a year abroad, usually between the second and third year. We have over 250 University partners worldwide. Popular destinations include Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. 

    Find out more on the Global Opportunities website.

    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

    We host five open days each year, usually in June, July, September, October and November. You can talk to staff and students, tour the campus and see inside the accommodation.

    Open days: book your place

    Subject tasters

    If you’re considering your post-16 options, our interactive subject tasters are for you. There are a wide range of subjects to choose from and you can attend sessions online or on campus.

    Upcoming taster sessions

    Offer holder days

    If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our offer holder days, which take place between February and April. These open 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

    Our weekly guided tours show you what Sheffield has to offer - both on campus and beyond. You can extend your visit with tours of our city, accommodation or sport facilities.

    Campus tour: book your place

    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:

    Not ready to apply yet? You can also register your interest in this course.

    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.

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Terms and Conditions upon Acceptance of an Offer