Natural Resource and Environmental Economics (BS)

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Date Posted: Jan. 12, 2019
Submitted by: Claire Pope
Sustainability Topic: Curriculum
Content Type: Academic Programs
Program Type: Baccalaureate degree


Students majoring in natural resource and environmental economics are prepared for a variety of careers in both the private and public sectors. With increasing competition for limited land, water, and other natural resources in the U.S. and throughout the world, as well as growing concern about environmental degradation of various sorts, there is a growing need for professionals who can assist in the process of balancing economic and environmental tradeoffs. Private firms face serious challenges in meeting stricter environmental regulations and achieving self-imposed environmental goals. Public agencies must continually seek to design policies so that society's resource conservation or environmental quality goals are achieved in a cost-effective manner.

The curriculum builds upon the university-wide general education requirements with a set of core courses in business and economics. Students then take advanced and specialized coursework that focuses on the economic foundations for policies designed to foster natural resource conservation or enhance environmental quality. The curriculum is highly interdisciplinary. Courses are required in the physical and environmental sciences covering subject matter such as conservation, ecology, and forestry, as well as soil and water resource issues. Coursework is required in environmental ethics, environmental law, and other social science disciplines such as sociology. Students gain skills using tools such as geographic information systems for analysis of spatially-referenced data.

Students graduating with this major may find employment in private firms with environmental compliance activities or conservation initiatives directed toward energy or other natural resources. Opportunities also exist with consulting firms that assist clients in meeting environmental objectives. Many nonprofit environmental organizations seek to employ staff with economic training. Several federal government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Energy, employ natural resource and environmental economists. State and local government agencies also provide opportunities for employment. The major provides a strong background for graduate studies in natural resource and environmental economics, leading to career opportunities in teaching and/or research, as well as high-level policy positions. Students would also be well prepared to pursue a professional program in environmental law.