Although it is more common to find graduate degree programs that focus on a particular natural resource, such as forestry or fisheries and wildlife, there are some graduate degree programs available in the broader subject of natural resources. These degree programs include Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Natural Resources programs, as well as Master of Natural Resources (MNR) programs. Learn more about these programs and their requirements.
Information for Graduate Degree Programs in Natural Resources
Master of Natural Resources programs are generally offered online and do not require a thesis, but some programs may require on-campus residency periods and/or a capstone project, while MS and PhD degree programs are typically offered on-campus and require a thesis or dissertation. Courses for a master's or doctoral degree in natural resources often vary based on a student's particular interests and career goals, but some common coursework is discussed below.
Sustainable Natural Resources
Courses in sustainable natural resources may include a global perspective as students explore a variety of sustainability issues related to different ecosystems. Students examine the environmental, ethical, cultural and economic factors that need to be considered for natural resources management. These courses often include group projects, case study analysis, readings and presentations.
Students in conservation ecology courses explore various ecological processes and learn how to develop management plans to maintain diversity and ecosystem health. They also examine the benefits that nature offers and how to incorporate those benefits into human use, all while maintaining ecological integrity. Other topics students look at include global ecosystems, ecological sustainability and environmental change.
Natural Resources Policy and Law
Courses in natural resources policy and law examine social and legal aspects of sustainable natural resources management. Students may study international policies and laws that cover a wide range of environmental topics, including pollution, regulation of trade in endangered species, climate change and more. These courses typically involve a lot of reading and class discussion to allow students to share their own experiences and discuss the effectiveness of policies.
Some programs may offer a course in environmental change that focuses on the science behind environmental change and/or a course that focuses on policies strictly related to climate change. The courses that focus on the science behind climate change explore the human impacts on the environment and land use practices, as well as natural factors, like natural disasters, global biogeochemical cycles and threats to biodiversity. Courses in climate change policy explore current policies addressing the issue at local, national and international levels.
Courses in environmental ethics explore the causes and consequences of a wide range of environmental issues. Students explore the ethical systems in place in natural resources management, as well as the general cultural and economic structures in our society that dictate many environmental practices. Students discuss responsibility, justice and accountability as they examine issues in pollution, carrying capacity, overconsumption, climate change and more.
Common Entrance Requirements
Applicants for degree programs in natural resources typically need a minimum GPA of 3.0 and must hold a bachelor's degree if they are applying to a master's program or hold a master's degree if applying to a doctoral program. Some programs may recommend that students have work experience related to natural resources and/or require prior coursework in biology, chemistry, the social sciences, math and natural resources. Typical application materials for these programs include official transcripts, letters of recommendation and a cover letter or resume. Some programs may also require GRE scores and/or ask that students have selected a faculty advisor.
Students interested in learning about the conservation and management of natural resources may pursue a Master of Natural Resources or an MS or PhD in Natural Resources. These degree programs d cover a wide range of topics in ecology and the environment.