Social Ecology: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Social Ecology

Social Ecology is a political, ethical and community-based approach to today's social and environmental problems. Social Ecologists work to identify problems and implement proactive solutions. Many in the field think that society and ecology have been separate concepts for too long; that people's choices about how to use the environment are connected to our ecological and social crises, such as famine, global warming, and the loss of habitat and biodiversity.

Many people believe that we must work with the environment, not against it, if we are to have a healthy and sustainable planet in the future. Social Ecologists want to help lead the way to this sustainable future, where humans use and re-use resources in an environmentally-responsible manner.

The Academic Requirements

Students learn about the complex social and environmental problems of modern times, how these problems developed, and some solutions to these problems. Philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and environmental studies will be main focuses in the program. While students do learn about quick, short-term fixes to Social Ecology issues, an emphasis is placed on finding and implementing long-lasting solutions as well. To this end, course work will include community organizing and political action to work with societal issues. An integrated focus will also include studying environmentally-sound technology and sustainable development and agriculture.

To conduct research, a master's or doctoral degree is usually required. Graduates with a bachelor's degree can assist with research, help implement projects for positive social change and teach others about Social Ecology issues. A teaching certificate is required to work in a school, while a master's or doctorate degree is needed for jobs in academia.

Here are some courses that we've seen:

  • Plant Ecology
  • Ecology and the Food System
  • Politics and Freedom
  • Organizing for Social Transformation
  • Sustainable Design, Building & Land Use
  • Arts, Media, Activism, and Social Change
  • Ecology and Community
  • Theoretical Inquiries in the Age of Globalization
  • Environment, Development and Health
  • Introduction to Criminology, Law and Society
  • Conservation and Development in Third-World Nations
  • Behavioral Ecology

Professional Outlook

Social Ecologists can work in schools, universities or colleges, teaching others about the importance of social and environmental issues. They can also work in research institutes, privately or for the government. Some Social Ecologists work for non-governmental organizations (called NGO's) that promote sustainable development and societal improvement.

According to Cornell University, "More than half of Human Ecology graduates who enter the workforce after earning their undergraduate degrees go on to careers in business. Others find jobs in human services, medicine and health, education, design, public service, public policy, and law. Some 42 percent of the college's undergraduates go on for graduate or professional degrees."

Social Ecologists wishing to conduct research or manage projects should obtain a master's or doctoral degree (a doctorate is also required for college-level academic positions).

Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Social Ecology:


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