MS in Environmental Sciences and Policy

You’ll receive mentoring from accomplished faculty for individualized programs of multidisciplinary study, research, and applied projects that often reach across campus and into the greater community.  The program’s rigorous training in the natural and political sciences prepares you for successful environmental careers in industry, government, and the non-profit sector. 

The MS Environmental Sciences and Policy program also has a Paleoenvironmental Sciences emphasis option.

Program of study

  • ENV 555, the 3-credit program cornerstone investigating the science/policy interface
  • 3 credits of environmental law, regulation, or policy theory
  • 3 credits of quantitative analysis
  • 6 credits of science courses from two of the following disciplines:
    • water resources
    • atmosphere and climate
    • land resources
  • 15 credit hours of graduate-level specialty courses you select
  • 6 credit-hours of thesis preparation

The program core is designed to integrate environmental policy with course work from the natural sciences.

Apply now

Contact one or more faculty advisors with ideas and questions regarding graduate study and should be prepared to discuss their backgrounds, specific areas of interest, and career goals. 

Apply online at the Graduate College.  The application deadline is February 1 each year for admisstion in the Fall semester of the same year. 

Admission requirements

There are no minimum test scores rather applications are considered in their entirety. Science prerequisites include at least one undergraduate chemistry, biology, or ecology course with a lab, though it is possible to be admitted provisionally while completing foundational coursework. Successful applicants come from a diversity of undergraduate programs ranging form engineering to biology to communications, and more. 

Degree requirements

The MS Program in Environmental Sciences and Policy combines study of required interdisciplinary core courses with a selection of specialized courses from across the University. The student must complete a thesis. This allows the graduate student to combine advanced academic training with original scientific research or with practical problem solving. The Program of Study is tailored to the specific needs and interest of each student.

The program consists of:

  • 12 core credit hours
  • 3 credit hours of quantitative analysis
  • 15 credit hours of graduate-level courses (specialty courses) selected by the student and his or her Program Committee
  • 6 credit hours of thesis

The program core is designed to integrate environmental policy with course work from the natural sciences.

Only two courses of 400-level credit will be accepted toward credit hour requirements.  Any 400 level courses must be approved by the advisor and the SESES Graduate Committee as part of the Program of Study. Courses previously applied to the requirements of a bachelor's degree cannot be used for graduate credit.

The Program Core (12 credit hours):

  1. ENV 555 The Environmental Science/ Policy Interface (3 credit hours):

This course brings together graduate students who have diverse interests, backgrounds, research projects, and career goals to study specific issues bridging environmental science and policy. The course explores the relationship between advances in the environmental sciences and the policy development process. The mission of this course is to set the tone for the core concepts of our program. A student will register for this course during his/ her first semester in the program.

  1. Advances in Environmental Sciences (6 credit hours):

Students will take one course each from two of the three areas listed below. While providing some flexibility to the student, the selected courses for each category provide the appropriate depth for advanced study in the environmental sciences. Additional courses may be added to these listings in the future, and students may propose substitutions in their Program of Study. Substitutions must be approved by the ENV Graduate Committee prior to student enrollment in the proposed substitute course.

              a) Water Resources:

    • BIO 572: Limnology (3 units)
    • FOR 506: Watershed Restoration (3 units)
    • FOR 563: Watershed Hydrology (3 units)
    • GLG 451: Hydrogeology (4 units)
    • GLG 575: Geochemistry of Natural Waters (4 units)
    • GLG 670: Advanced Hydrogeology (4 units)

              b) Atmosphere and Climate:

    • ENV 580: Atmospheric Change (3 units)
    • ENV 595: Global Environmental/ Climate Change (3 units)
    • ENV 596: Quaternary Climate Change (3 units)
    • CHM 440/ENV 430: Environmental Chemistry (3 units)

              c) Land Resources:

    • BIO 570: Plant Ecology, or BIO 573: Field Ecology (3 units)
    • BIO 660: Organic Evolution (3 units)
    • BIO 663: Biogeography
    • ENV 530: Arid Lands Geomorphology (3 units)
    • ENV 540 & 540L: Conservation Biology and Lab (3-4 units)
    • ENV 544: Landscape Ecology (3 units)
    • FOR 580: Ecological Restoration Principles, or FOR 582: Ecological Restoration Applications (3 units)
    • GLG 430: Geomorphology (4 credits)
  1. Environmental Laws, Regulations, and Policy (3 credit hours): 

Students will choose either an applied course in environmental regulations or a more theoretical course in environmental politics and policy.

  • CENE 540: Environmental Protection (3 units)
  • FOR 593: Natural Resource Economics (3 units)
  • FOR 605: Policy Process in Multi-Resource Management (3 units)
  • FOR 633: Ecological Economics (3 units)
  • GGR 574: Rural Economic Geography (3 units)
  • POS 659: Environmental Policy (3 credits)

Quantitative Analysis (3 credit hours): 

One course from the following list:

  • STA 570/571: Statistical Methods 1 and/or 2 (3-6 units)
  • STA 676: Experimental Design (3 units)
  • BIO 682: Quantitative Biology (3 units)
  • GGR 525: Geographic Information Systems (3 units)
  • MAT 542/543: Wildlife Population Modeling and lab( 3-5 units)
  • POS 601 Research Methods/ Analysis (3 units)
  • POS 605 Topics in Research Methods (3 units)

Specialty Courses (15 credit hours): 

Must be at the 500 level or above, and be chosen by students in consultation with their Program Committee. These classes will customize the program to individual needs. Courses may be drawn from graduate offerings across the NAU campus and may include courses listed in sections A and B, above.  The Program Committee will ensure that the selection of specialty courses is appropriate to the student's research and career objectives.