Environmental Chemistry and Environmental Science: A Survey of Courses Offered in U.S. Colleges and Universities


Today's chemists are asked to 1 ) the continue the development and production of massive amounts of chemicals which improve the human standard of living and 2) to responsibly manage, reduce, treat, and dispose of chemicals. Non-chemists are asked to make informed decisions that contribute to environmental improvement. The study of environmental chemistry and its applications is the arena in which college students can become prepared to meet these demands. The purpose of this survey was to find out the variety and availability of college level environmental chemistry course offerings in the United States.

The survey was sent to all departments of chemistry or related divisions in U.S. colleges and universities which have a faculty of four or larger. An environmental chemistry course was defined as one which surveys the environmental chemistry of water, air, soil, and biological systems at a level that requires a background of 15 to 20 hours in chemistry, including some organic chemistry and some knowledge of quantitative analysis.

Of 819 surveys sent out, 47% were returned by mail. An additional 7% of chemistry departments were surveyed by telephone. Two hundred (45%) responding institutions offer an environmental chemistry course within the chemistry department. Ninety six (22%) responding institutions are contemplating offering such a course in the chemistry department. Two hundred thirty three (53%) responding institutions offer an environmental sciences course in a department other than chemistry. It is estimated that about 40% (380) of chemistry departments in U.S. colleges and universities with faculties of four or more offer an environmental chemistry course. Approximately 15% (137) more are contemplating offering an environmental chemistry course in the near future.

It was concluded that environmental chemistry is increasingly being recognized as an important part of a college chemistry education. Colleges and universities across the nation are enhancing, reorganizing and upgrading their chemistry programs by adding a new environmental chemistry course or improving existing programs/courses in environmental science/environmental chemistry. The ecologically literate chemistry graduate is becoming a real goal among U.S. colleges and universities.


Childhood Education and Family Studies

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first-year undergraduate, environmental chemistry, administrative issues

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Journal Title

Journal of chemical education