Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences

What Is It?:

NRES is a unique, interdisciplinary program that brings biological, physical, and social scientists together to teach and discover solutions that improve the health and sustainability of urban and natural ecosystems. This major provides a science-based, application-oriented education that includes multiple field courses emphasizing hands-on experience and skills outside of the classroom. The NRES major prepares students for careers in management and conservation of natural resources; the study of environmental sciences, teaching, or research; business or government agencies providing services related to environmental and natural resource management; and graduate studies.

For more information, please visit the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.


  • Fish & Wildlife Conservation: emphasizes the ecology, conservation, and sustainable management of fish and wildlife species and communities. It is designed for students interested in understanding interactions among humans, wild animals, and their habitats. The concentration includes coursework in conservation of threatened and endangered species, management of harvested species, aquatic ecosystem conservation, animal behavior, vertebrate natural history, identification of animals and plants, and advanced ecology.
  • Global Change & Landscape Dynamics: explores the patterns and processes interlinking species with landscape components to promote the sustainability and ecological integrity of terrestrial ecosystems at local, regional, and sub-continental geographic scales. This concentration is especially relevant for students interested in invasive species; energy, nutrient, and organism exchanges; the distribution of land cover and land use; and other elements of environmental change affecting the earth. 
  • Human Dimensions of the Environmentemphasizes the social scientific interpretations of human-environment interactions at multiple levels as well as on applied policy and management implications. The Human Dimensions of the Environment Concentration requires advanced coursework in natural resource economics, environmental psychology, communications, social impact assessment, environmental policy, and environmental law. 
  • Resources Conservation & Restoration Ecologyemphasizes the ecology, biology, and management of aquatic, soil, forest, and wildlife resources. It is designed for students interested in the fundamental properties and practices underlying the restoration and management of soils, watersheds, and wetland, forest, and grassland ecosystems. Through lectures, labs and field exercise, students study biosphere relationships in natural resource systems. The Resource Conservation and Restoration Ecology concentration includes coursework in the areas of restoration ecology, soil science, environmental biology, aquatic ecosystem management, tree and plant physiology, and advanced ecology.

Courses That Introduce the Major:

  • NRES 102—Introduction to NRES or NRES 100 - Fundamentals of Environmental Sciences
  • NRES 287—Environment and Society

Students should consult with an academic advisor regarding course selection prior to the advanced registration period.

Possible Career Opportunities:

  • Aquatic Ecologist
  • Conservation Biologist
  • Conservation Officer or Manager
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Attorney
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Environmental Educator
  • Environmental Protection Specialist
  • Forest Economist
  • Land Use Planner
  • Lobbyist
  • Managers of Parks, Forests and Rangeland
  • Naturalist
  • Nature Center Director
  • Plant nutrient consultant
  • Plant physiologist
  • Policy Analyst
  • Professor
  • Researcher
  • Restoration Ecologist
  • Soil Conservationist or Scientist
  • Watershed manager

Common Career Titles Related to this Major:

(Some careers may require education beyond an undergraduate degree)

  • Conservation Biologist
  • Conservation Officer or Manager
  • Ecologist
  • Fisheries Conservationist
  • Forest Ranger
  • Forester
  • GIS/GPS Technician
  • Hydrologist
  • Litigation Support Analyst
  • Natural Resource Technician
  • Park Ranger
  • Project Manager
  • Water/Wastewater Plant Operator
  • Wildlife Manager
  • Zoo Researcher
  • Zoo Studbook Analyst

Enhancing Your Academic Experience:

  • Participating in undergraduate research
  • Applying for a study abroad experience
  • Utilizing resources of The Career Center
  • Joining a Registered Student Organization (RSO) related to this major, such as:
    • Soil and Water Conservation Society: The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign student chapter of the National Soil and Water Conservation Society works to educate students on the conservation and sustainable management of soil and water resources. Also known as the Illini Soil Judgers, the organization provides students with hands-on experience in soil and water conservation and opportunities to meet with professionals in the field. Some of our fun activities include soil crayon making, soil T-shirt tye dying, and mock soil judging competitions.
    • American Fisheries Society: Open to all students and faculty who are interested in the conservation and management of aquatic ecosystems. It is the goal of our chapter to provide people who are interested in fisheries an opportunity to meet one another and learn about fisheries management and conservation.

Related Skills:

  • Collect and manage research and monitoring data
  • Concepts and tools of Geographic Information Systems
  • Identify and assess the quality and relevance of scholarly information related to environmental issues
  • Integrate bio-physical and social sciences to solve environmental problems using a systems approach
  • Oral and written communication for peers, managers, stakeholders, and public
  • Recognize and differentiate among perceptual, social, political, and economic theories relevant to human-environment interactions
  • Sensitivity to diverse peoples, cultures, values and their roles in environmental management
  • Understand the ecological principles underpinning management of populations, communities, and ecosystems
  • Understanding of scientific methods and ways of knowing
  • Working in groups, both within and across disciplines, and ability to discuss environmental issues from different perspectives

Further Information:

For more information on what you can do with a major in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, visit The Career Center’s webpage: What Can I Do With This Major.

There are several professional organizations dedicated to Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.  Their websites might be able to provide a glimpse in the world of NRES.  These organizations include The Ecological Society of America, Society for Ecological Restoration, and The Wildlife Society.

For more information on the classes needed for a degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, visit Undergraduate Programs.