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Environmental Sociology

Environmental Sociology is the study of the relationship between modern societies and the environment at a variety of scales, from households to global relations. It includes issues such as the public understanding of environmental issues, the environment and inequality, environmental social movements and social change, migration and the environment, and the analysis of environmental policy reform and adaptation. Environmental Sociology is different from environmental science, which is based in the natural sciences, and environmental studies, which includes courses from a wide range of disciplines, including engineering and the humanities. The department’s program in Environmental Sociology includes a solid introduction to sociology and sociological methods as well as foundation requirements in environmental science. The program prepares students for careers in government, the law, management, research and teaching, and the nonprofit sector. 

Recently Offered Courses

ENVS 4101  Environmental and Sustainability Studies Seminar
SOC 1020    Social Issues (environment emphasis)
SOC 3311    Climate Change & Society
SOC 3312    Environment and Development
SOC 3313    Sociology of Health and   Environmental Science
SOC 3314    Environment, Inequality, & Justice
SOC 3315    Human Ecology and Society
SOC 3317    Energy Transitions and Society
SOC 3318    Sociology of Green Jobs
SOC 3321    Population & Society
SOC 3604    American Social Movements
SOC 3605    Law and Social Movements

The Major in Environmental Sociology

(1) Foundation Courses in Sociology
6 credit hours from the following two courses:
-SOC 1020 Contemporary Social Issues
-SOC 3001 Sociological Perspectives

(2) Foundation Courses in Environmental Sciences
t least 6 credit hours:
Students take two courses from a list of courses in Earth and Environmental Sciences. At least one course is related to climate science.

(3) Research Skills
6 credit hours:
-SOC 2100 Statistics for Social Scientists (or other statistics course approved by the DUS of Environmental Sociology) followed by or concurrent with
-SOC 3002 Introduction to Social Research or HOD 2500 Systematic Inquiry for those with a double major in Human & Organizational Development

(4) Environmental Sociology Core
15 credit hours selected from a menu of courses:
It can include the recently offered courses mentioned previously plus SOC 3851 Independent Research and Writing, SOC 3881 Internship Reading & Research, and SOC 3882 Internship.

Honors Program

The Honors Research Track offers superior majors in Environmental Sociology the opportunity to pursue intensive work through an independent research project. Students interested in pursuing the Honors Research Track in Environmental Sociology should view the catalog for requirements and contact the DUS of Sociology for more information. 

Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research options are available through various mechanisms: research assistants on faculty research projects; participation in the capstone seminar ENVS 4101, which involves a research paper; the honors program thesis; and independent study courses with faculty. There are some large, interdisciplinary environmental research grants on the campus that offer some students team-based research opportunities. Some research is paid, and other research is available for course credit.

Other Special Opportunities

Sociology offers an internship program of 6 to 9 credit hours that allows students an opportunity to gain real world experience and to integrate the experience with a research project. The internships also involve a research paper for which the student also receives credit. Some of the study abroad opportunities, especially in New Zealand and Denmark, have specialized courses in environmental studies, but students are free to study abroad in a wide range of countries.

There is also an interdisciplinary Program in Environmental and Sustainability Studies that coordinates events, intern-ships, environmental classes across the campus, and an alumni network.  Research across the campus is coordinated by the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment. Students are encouraged to look at the web sites of both programs.

After Vanderbilt

Students with a major in Environmental Sociology can go into many fields. Some plan to work in the government or nonprofit area on environmental policy, some decide to practice environmental law, and some go into the private sector to work in green-energy companies and in the environmental management divisions of large companies. Many public health issues involve an environmental dimension.

Students who prefer to enter the workforce directly upon graduation often choose to develop additional technical skills such as courses in statistics, journalistic writing, or geographical information systems. Some students also develop a minor in the sciences, and it is possible to pursue a double major in a wide range of fields./p>

Another option is the minor in Business. A template is available for students who wish to combine the major in Environmental Sociology with a minor in Business. This minor will prepare you for work in a variety of organizations, including government and the nonprofit sector, in addition to the private sector. Advanced courses in environmental sociology include options in business and civil society, green jobs, and the energy industry.


The Sociology Department has a cluster of faculty who work on environmental issues. Professors Patrick Greiner, David Hess, Zdravka Tzankova, and Joe Bandy all specialize in environmental policy and environmental sociology.  Professor Mariano Sana is a demographer who includes environmental issues in his courses. Professor Holly McCammon specializes in social movements and includes the environmental movement in her teaching. Lecturer Terrie Spetalnick includes gender and the environment in some of her courses. In addition, there are social scientists in other departments who offer courses that complement the study of environmental sociology.


David J. Hess
Director of Undergraduate Studies

Environmental Sociology Website