Natural Resource Management Degree Program Overviews

Degrees in natural resource management are available from the associate's to the Ph.D. level. There are many different areas that students may choose to specialize in, from environmental management to wildlife science.

Essential Information

These programs teach students about natural resources, such as water, minerals and animals, and prepare graduates for a variety of careers. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are often focused on training for work in fields such as animal husbandry, forest conservation or government administration. Program specializations include environmental management, park and recreation administration, water conservation, fisheries, and wildlife science.

On the other hand, graduate degree programs, such as Ph.D. and master's degrees, prepare students to work in scientific research and academia. Those interested in this discipline should have a strong understanding of the natural sciences and mathematics for undergraduate studies, or previous higher education and professional experience for graduate study. A myriad of career options are available to these graduates, but job competition may be intense for those positions.

Associate of Science in Natural Resource Management

The 2-year associate degree program focuses specifically on the basic knowledge and skills needed for entry-level positions. Most associate degree programs in natural resource management are offered through community or technical colleges, particularly those near resources such as rangelands and forests. Students are expected to complete a high school diploma program or similar certification before admission to these programs. Students take general education classes as well as courses specifically related to natural resource management. Examples include:

  • Basic sciences related to resource management such as chemistry and geology
  • Wildlife conservation and range management
  • Introduction to soil science and soil fertility
  • Animal science
  • Principles of accounting and agribusiness management

Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management

A 4-year degree program in natural resource management covers topics such as natural vegetation, wildlife, minerals and soils, water and natural recreation. Many programs include management or business classes as well as practical training outside the classroom in forests and rangeland. B.S. degree applicants must first have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Most schools require the standardized tests, such as the SAT.

Curricula vary depending on the school and concentrations may include subjects from park and recreation administration to environmental management. Possible courses may include:

  • General biology and chemistry
  • Environmental science and ecosystem management
  • Field studies
  • Natural resources policy
  • Forest ecology
  • Management principles and economics

Master of Science in Natural Resource Management

Individuals who have already gained a solid foundation in the management processes that affect natural resources may seek a master's degree in natural resource management. Graduate programs in the field are typically interdisciplinary and combine techniques from the subjects of business, economics, resource policy and conservation. Students are typically encouraged to choose a particular track, such as policy management related to the environment, international resources or technical conservation skills.

Most applicants to master's degree programs in natural resource management already hold a bachelor's degree in natural resource management, conservation or natural resources policy. In some cases, a background in environmental resources, soil sciences or parks and recreation will suffice. Common courses may include:

  • Advanced natural resources management
  • Issues in natural resources management
  • Policy and administration
  • Ecological restoration
  • Economics and management

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Natural Resource Management

A doctoral program in natural resource management is expected to instill in students an advanced understanding of the economic principles that will most likely affect the management and conservation of the environment. A doctoral program in natural resource management typically requires that students select a particular track on which to focus, ranging from natural resource management and economics to natural resource management with a concentration in sustainable development.

Requirements for admission to a Ph.D. in natural resource management program include a Master of Science in the field and submission of GRE exam scores. Students should have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and a solid background in resource management and economic theory. Core courses may include:

  • Microeconomics, production economics and econometrics
  • Mathematical economics
  • Natural resources policy analysis
  • Natural resources and environmental economics
  • Project analysis and assessment
  • Field courses

Popular Career Options

Career options range widely depending on the degree level and the area of concentration. Associate degree holders typically have practical skills and seek entry-level positions in business or the public sectors. B.S. graduates go into careers that enable them to protect the environment or the planet's natural resources in some way. Master's degree holders typically enter the same fields as B.S. graduates, but more likely at the management level. Doctoral level graduates have the opportunity to advance to the highest positions available in the field or to enter academia and branches of research. Popular career options include:

  • Wildlife conservation or wildlife biology
  • Range or park management
  • Wildlife habitat enhancement
  • Ecological research
  • Parks management or parks administrator
  • Non-profit administration
  • Wildlife scientist
  • Professor of natural resources management
  • Technical adviser and specialist

Natural resource management is a field with a multitude of career options that will require an undergraduate or graduate degree level education. After graduating, students will likely have to compete with other well-educated individuals to find the position they want.

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