4 majors to explore if you love the outdoors

Colorado State students learn in the outdoors

Whether you’re a backpack-every-weekend adventurer or take a more-casual approach to your love of the outdoors, you might wonder if there’s a way to integrate your fancy for fresh air and nature-filled views into your academic life at college and even your future career. And, while Colorado State’s location can certainly help keep your feet on the dirt path, so can its academic choices. Here are four majors that spend a lot of time beyond the four walls of classrooms and out in the Rocky Mountain wilderness.

#1. Geology

You might be surprised to hear that Geology majors do a lot more than just looks at rocks and sediments in labs. At CSU, Geology majors get a field-oriented approach to learning, which basically means you’ll be outside the classroom often. Geology majors have multiples courses with labs that take them into the Rocky Mountains, the nearby foothills, and along the rivers and creeks of Colorado to study erosion, mineral deposits, and even why mountains and volcanoes formed. Depending on which concentration you decide to pursue within the major, you’ll have other opportunities to explore locations associated with Hydrogeology (groundwater locations), Environmental Geology (surface-level research locations), and Geophysics (mining and petroleum locations). You will also attend a summer field camp in your final year.

#2. Restoration Ecology

When you major in Restoration Ecology, you’ll be a part of a community that’s passionate about addressing and helping to heal the lands damaged by intensive human use and resource extraction such as mining, deforestation, and land fragmentation. Restoration Ecology majors spend much of their lab time in the outdoors doing just this — learning how to properly restore and rehabilitate altered ecosystems. In your initial classes you might find yourself in the hills identifying native plant life, and later in your curriculum, you may be exploring the Rocky Mountains while planting trees to replace ones cut or burned from fires. In addition, you’ll have multiple opportunities to take field courses at the CSU Mountain Campus and even study abroad to explore restoration efforts throughout the world.

#3. Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology

If you think you’ll be spending time along creeks and rivers as a Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology major, you’d be right … and a little wrong. Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology majors take courses and labs that take them to waterways, fields, mountains, and beyond to learn. Depending on the concentration you choose, you might end up in a variety of outdoor settings, however. Conservation Biology students might spend more time in the field focusing on the systems that support conservation of wildlife, such as soils, water, forests, and geology). Wildlife Biology students might go to areas where they can observe and research habitats of birds, deer and elk, bears and wolves, and more. Students in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences will not only learn and research along waterways, but might find themselves wading in to take samples. Lastly, every student in the major will complete a summer field course at the CSU Mountain Campus.

#4. Forest and Rangeland Stewardship

As one of the most outdoors-focused academic programs at CSU, the Forest and Rangeland Stewardship major offers many opportunities to explore and learn in beyond the classroom and campus. In the major, you’ll take multiple courses at the CSU Mountain Campus, where you’ll learn how to understand and manage animal, soil, water, and vegetation resources on lands that carpet much of the earth’s ground. There are five concentrations to choose from, each offering field work and learning on site in their specific academic areas within the nearby forests and forested areas throughout the state. In addition to a required summer field course, students in forestry concentrations will take additional two-week field courses to focus on forestry field measurements.

More ways to get outside the classroom at CSU

Check out our blogs on classes that take place outside the classroom, showcasing outdoor classes as well as classes that go into the community and beyond.


Prairie Smallwood

Prairie Smallwood is a writer and content creator for the Office of Admissions at Colorado State University. She is passionate about education and exploration, and knows that going to college can be both an adventure and an overwhelming experience. She aims to create content that helps students through that journey — the wonderful, the scary, and everything in between.