Student Opportunities

As an Environmental Science and Policy major, you’ll have many opportunities to explore the field and develop your skills both in and out of the classroom.

Field Study

All ENSP majors take at least one quarter of Field Study, in which students engage with community organizations in Orange County and around the world. The field study experience provides an opportunity to explore career paths, develop professional skills, and learn more about social and environmental problems. For more information, see visit the School of Social Ecology's Field Study website.


Working at a world-class research institution, the faculty in ESS and UPPP all have robust research programs, and many are excited to work with undergraduate students on ongoing projects.

If you're interested in doing research with faculty, first read about the types of work potential professors are working on; links to faculty profiles can be found here: UPPP Faculty and ESS Faculty.

After you’ve found a professor who is doing interesting research, you can send them a short email introducing yourself, describing your interests and any relevant training or coursework, and asking whether they have any ongoing research that you could join; it also helps if you attach a resume. You can also visit during a professor’s office hours to discuss your interests and ask about potential positions.

If you’d like to develop your own research, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), provides funding and other support for student projects. 

Finally, if you want to write a senior thesis, you can also apply for the year-long honors program in either Social Ecology or Earth System Science.

Mentorship Programs

Freshman or transfers can participate in the ACE Social Ecology Mentorship program, which pairs you with a trained junior or senior.

If you’re looking to learn about potential career paths, the Physical Sciences Undergraduate Mentoring Program pairs advanced undergraduates with business and science professionals.

Study Abroad

Many environmental issues are global issues, and study abroad is an excellent way to learn about challenges and solutions from outside the US. Visit the UCI Study Abroad website to find out about the variety of opportunities to study abroad, for a quarter, summer, or year. It often helps to plan ahead, so check out potential offerings well in advance of when you’d like to go, and speak to your academic counselors to see how a study abroad experience fits in with your degree planning.

Policy in Action

If you’re interested in learning about national environmental policy, UCDC is a great resource, providing internships, academic seminars, and electives in the national capital. There are two versions of UCDC at UCI:

UCDC Academic Internship Program

The UCDC Academic Internship Program in Washington DC, enables UCI students from all majors to pursue internships, seminar and elective courses, and research in fall, winter, or spring quarters. The UCDC Academic Internship Program is part of the Capital Internship Program, a unit of UCI's Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE).

UCDC Summer Internship Program

The UCDC Summer Internship Program sends 40 to 50 outstanding undergraduate students to live and intern in Washington, D.C. for 10 weeks each summer. Students live and have the opportunity to take classes at the UC Washington Center in the heart of DC, just blocks from the White House. UCDC is a great opportunity for students to examine the behind-the-scenes activities that shape and implement our nation’s future course. The UCDC Summer Internship program is offered through UCI's Division of Career Pathways. 

For state-level policy, UC Center Sacramento (UCCS) also offers classes, seminars, and internship placements with state environmental policy agencies in Sacramento.


Southern California has numerous Environmental Science and Policy related organizations where you can start applying the skills you’ve learned to make a change. Earth System Science maintains a list of some of these undergraduate opportunities.

Other great places to look for internships in the field are:

Global Sustainability Resource Center (GSRC)

The GSRC is a hub for students, providing resources, education, and programming to forward environmental balance, economic vitality, and social equity. Students, as well as campus and community partners, are invited to share a platform from which to address the root causes of ecological disruption, deepen understandings of the interdependence of all life, and engage the challenges and solutions of sustainability in a campus, community, and global context.

Orange County Association of Environmental Professionals (OCAEP) Student Chapter at UCI

OCAEP's student chapter at UCI was established in Fall 2017 in an effort to connect students to environmental professionals through relevant workshops, meetups, resume building, events, volunteer opportunities, and discounted prices on career-oriented events. 

Water UCI

Water UCI is an interdisciplinary center in the School of Social Ecology that facilitates collaboration across schools, departments, and existing research centers around questions of fundamental and applied water science, technology, management, and policy.

UCI Oceans

The UCI Oceans iniative offer a fresh take on ocean research and education by embracing a vision and approach that spans the natural sciences, engineering, social science, arts, education, law, and governance and is thus distinct from other marine research institutions.

Photo: University of California, Irvine