A.B. or Sc. B. - Which is Right for You?
The CES has offered an AB degree since 1979 and added an ScB degree in 1991. The two degrees have much in common. Both are intended for serious students who intend their work ultimately to improve the quality of the environment, and both require students to plan a set of focus courses leading to a year-long senior thesis.
The AB degree is appropriate for students who have a serious interest in social science and/or policy approaches to environmental problem solving and who are inclined to pursue post-graduate and/or professional experience in various aspects of environmental management or environmental education. The CES considers fluency in some basic sciences to be essential to this degree. At least two science courses are required for the AB degree but most AB candidates take more - up to 11 are possible. AB candidates are expected to focus their senior research effort on analysis of a contemporary environmental policy or educational problem. Senior thesis projects for AB candidates generally involve collection and analysis of original data and often require familiarity with one or more scientific disciplines. AB graduates generally work after graduation with environmental agencies, consulting firms or non-profits. Virtually all go on to graduate study in a wide range of fields, from environmental management programs, to traditional science and social science programs, to professional degrees.
The ScB degree is appropriate for students who have a serious interest in pursuing post-graduate and/or professional experience in the natural sciences as a way of understanding environmental processes. ScB candidates are required to take a total of 20 courses, a minimum of 16 science courses (seven at an upper level), and are strongly encouraged to take some policy classes. ScB candidates take two - four policy or humanities courses in order to understand how scientific findings are applied in a social context. ScB candidates are expected to focus their senior research effort on projects that require the collection and analysis of original biological, chemical and/or physical data. Senior thesis projects for ScB candidates often require the student to understand the social relevance of their findings. ScB graduates have obtained both policy and science-related environmental positions. We expect that they will soon begin graduate study, but they have graduated so recently that most have not yet begun to do so.
Depending on the courses selected, the quality of work done in them and in thesis research, both degrees can provide background sufficient to compete for virtually any entry-level environmental position.
You may be told that the ScB is prima facia the more desirable degree. In the 1980's, when Brown offered only the ES AB degree, many students who chose to emphasize science in their focus courses went on to science-related employment and graduate study. . It has been our experience that the degree chosen by the student has not been a limiting factor in future endeavors. We believe the quality of education is best judged by the courses taken and the quality of work done in them. The best proof of this is our graduates' continued successes and ongoing contribution to their fields. The degree chosen should in our opinion be the degree that best fits your interests, and should not depend on preconceived ideas of what the title of the degree represents.