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I want to study environmental science or ecology, but I majored in environmental studies, should I take additional courses at community college?


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Hi all!

I don't know what to do!

I want to study either environmental science, soil science, or ecology at the graduate level, however my undergrad does not exactly fit in any of these categories. I majored in environmental studies and minored in molecular and cellular biology and chemistry. I know I should take physics and maybe stats before apply to grad school, but is it a good idea to do this at community college? I am a bit anxious about applying, so any help is appreciated!

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Hi Alani,

Most of the ecology-type programs I looked at want at least two or three semesters of chemistry and two semesters of physics. Stats courses would be good to have even if it's not required.

I personally think it would be better to take the courses at a community college than have to make them up during the beginning of the graduate program. If you have the opportunity to do a post-bac at a university, then this would be ideal, though I do not know much about these programs or how to find them.

Of course, often one of the biggest factors in graduate admissions in ecology is finding an advisor/faculty sponsor. So I would start contacting faculty that interest you well ahead of time and get their take on your background. Getting someone to express interest in you during the application review process will be the most helpful thing of all.

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I also majored in enviornmental studies and am in a PhD program in ecology. I think stats in the most important course to take- a stats background from research would work i ntheory, but they will probably want proof in the form of coursework. I took 2 semesters of basic chemistry and one of organic, and one semester of physics. With your minor, you probably got enough chemistry. I don't think most programs will care about the number of physics courses you've taken, as long as it's not relevant to your research plans. The real question is how much background you have in relevant research.

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As a reference, here's a link to the course entry requirements for the grad group in ecology at Davis: http://ecology.ucdavis.edu/admission/coursereqs.html

And here's what Colorado State has to say:

What constitutes a proper background? Is my undergraduate work sufficient?

In general, having at least one course in Statistics and one course in Ecology is important. However, each applicant's situation and interests are unique. Research experience as an undergraduate, especially if you have the opportunity to complete an independent research project, is perhaps the most valuable investment of your time, since this will give you a taste of what to expect in graduate school, and allow you to decide if a research career is something you really want to do.

It sound like you might be okay, but it might depend on what kinds of courses you took in Environmental Studies. (For example, mostly policy type classes vs. ecology classes.) You could take physics and stat now, but your time would probably be better spent getting involved in research.

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I agree with the above. I made the assumption that your grad school interests stemmed from research experience, but if you have not been involved with a research project yet that should be your main priority.

So to expand, the key for many ecology type programs is research experience + a potential advisor.

Actually it's more like "research experience ----> potential advisor" because you need research experience to both determine the research you'd like to pursue and get a professor doing that sort of research to be interested in you.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi! First I would like to thank you all for replying!

I do not have traditional research experience, though I am working on the research for a book about the pre-colonial ecology of New York City. I am also an assistant ecologist at a consulting firm; I have been with the company for 6 months. Last semester, I took a graduate class called ecotoxicology. All of these recent experiences shaped my future, in ways that were not imaginable before. At my under grad, we have a "science track," which I have taken. It includes various science electives within the department, and across other departments like biology and I believe math.

For the summer I am trying to get some research stuff, and I am in the process of applying. I would prefer to do research in the fall, so I can have the summer to prepare for the GRE.

From all the people who I have spoken with so far, no one strongly feels the need for me to take physics. If the summer ends up not being promising, I will consider taking classes or trying to enroll in the ecology and evolutionary biology post-bac at Columbia...however funding for the program might be an issue.

Thanks again!

Edited by Alani Grace Grant
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