The Master’s Degree

The curriculum for the MS in Environmental Sciences allows students to gain strong scientific understanding of ways to study, evaluate, and interpret environmental realities and their impacts, as well as to manage and mitigate environmental problems. Objectives are to enable students to:

  1. develop a basic literacy in the natural and social sciences and the humanities as they contribute to an understanding of environmental issues;
  2. critically analyze environmental problems;
  3. identify, research, and evaluate environmental problems; and
  4. compare, contrast, implement, and manage short- and long-term solutions to environmental problems. The department recommends that students interested in the Environmental Sciences degree have prior knowledge of chemistry, algebra, statistics, and biology.

Three concentrations are available:


All new on-ground students must participate in a graduate student orientation before their first semester. New online students must complete a similar orientation online. In conjunction with his or her academic advisor, each student must prepare an educational plan before or during completion of the first semester of study. The educational plan is submitted to the department chair for final approval.

Degree Requirements

  • Academic essay of at least 300 words addressing the following: 1. What are the most urgent environmental problems facing your community today? 2. How will a master’s degree in environmental studies help prepare you to address these problems? 3. Which area of environmental specialization appeals most to you? 4. A brief description of your academic background, including life experiences, that contribute to your academic preparation.
  • Two informative letters of recommendation from professors or employers addressing applicant’s academic ability, work ethic and personal integrity
  • General Environmental Science Concentration Only: Must have identified a faculty member who agrees to serve as research advisor before application will be considered. Applicants to the Environmental Planning and Management or Sustainable Development and Policy concentrations do not need prior approval from a research supervisor in order to apply.

Required Core Courses

ENS 551 Environmental Natural Sciences 4
ENS 552 Environmental Social Sciences and Humanities 4
ENS 553 Research Methods in Environmental Science 4
Concentration Requirements and Electives 24
Closure 4
Total Hours 40

Educational Plan

Development of an educational plan is a key activity through which student and academic advisor identify course work appropriate for the student’s background, aspirations, and needs. The plan indicates the courses for the chosen degree and concentration, and is developed prior to or during the first semester of study. Upon completion of the plan the advisor and Department chair review the plan. Minor amendments (such as electives) may be made during the course of study with approval of the academic advisor; significant changes in direction (changes between concentrations or degrees) also require the approval of the Department chair and necessitate a Change of Curriculum form. Variances from Department requirements must be indicated and approved through a Student Petition process.

Grading Policy

Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a scale during their course of study. A maximum of four hours of C (2.0) grades (a grade of C- or lower will not be acceptable) is applicable to an ENS degree, provided each hour of C is balanced by an hour of A (a grade of A- will not be accepted), and an approved  Student Petition is on file in the Office of Records and Registration. Failure to maintain an overall graduate grade point average of 3.0 or higher will result in initiation of academic dismissal by the Department of Environmental Studies. Courses that are offered on a letter-grade basis must be taken for a letter grade.

NOTE: Students also should refer to the campus policy on Grades Acceptable Toward Master’s Degrees section of this catalog.

Master’s Closure

MS candidates, with the assistance of their advisors and graduate committees, are required to complete one of the three available closure options. For some ENS students, the culminating experience of graduate-level work is a formal thesis. Other ENS students develop a substantial and carefully-designed graduate project, such as an interpretive plan for a nature center, an exhibit for a museum or visitors’ center, a film or multimedia show with supportive materials, or a finished and well-researched draft of environmental legislation or policy. ENS students are required to present and defend their thesis/graduate project proposal and completed thesis/graduate project before the graduate committee. The third closure option is the Capstone Closure course.  The Capstone Closure option is not available to students in the General Environmental Science Concentration. The Capstone Closure option involves the completion of a 240-hour professional internship while enrolled in ENS 550. Before enrolling in ENS 550, capstone students must identify a suitable internship site and develop an internship plan in consultation with their internship site supervisor and the capstone instructor. The capstone instructor determines whether the proposed internship activities and learning goals meet departmental standards. Prior approval of the internship plan is required in order to register for ENS 550. While enrolled in ENS 550, students submit regular progress reports and complete a final capstone presentation and a comprehensive final capstone report summarizing and analyzing their accomplishments and learning experiences during the internship.  

Students enroll for thesis or graduate project credit hours with the approval of their thesis/graduate project advisor. Students must enroll in a total of four credit hours of closure; however, they may accrue the total in increments (thesis and graduate project only). Once students begin taking closure hours, they are required by campus policy to be enrolled in at least one closure hour per regular semester (fall and spring) until the four-credit hour closure requirement is completed. If the closure exercise is not completed by the time four credit hours have been completed, students must register for zero credit hours (one billable hour) of ENS 511, ENS 529, or ENS 557 (as applicable) in all subsequent regular semesters (fall and spring) until the closure exercise is completed.