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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Doctoral Program (PhD)

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the Environment and Natural Resources Graduate Program is an advanced research degree that prepares students to pursue high-level, independent, scholarly research. Students will contribute to the body of knowledge in environmental sustainability and the management of natural resources through the completion of their dissertation.

To do so, doctoral students will formulate research questions that probe the limits of what is known, identify the major issues involved, and develop a thorough understanding of the relevant theory bases and methodologies. They will demonstrate creativity in research design and critical rigor in analyzing and discussing their findings, culminating in the defense and publication of their dissertation.

Students graduating with this degree will be well-prepared to pursue academic careers as well as research careers in government and the private sector. Alumni pursue careers as leaders in academia, industry, government, policy development, or research innovation.

Paths to pursue a PhD in ENRGP

There are two tracks that students can pursue to earn a PhD in the Environment and Natural Resources Graduate Program depending on their background.

Regular-Admit Track: Students who have completed or are in the process of completing a research-based master’s degree may enter on the regular-admit track. This is the typical track to complete a PhD in our program, after students have completed a master's degree in ENRGP or elsewhere.

Direct-Admit Track: Exceptional students who have not completed a research-based master's degree but are academically prepared to begin the long-term goal of completing a doctoral dissertation may be considered for admission to the direct-admit track. This includes those who will enter with only a bachelor's degree and those who have completed a master's degree that did not require the completion of original research (e.g., a professional or applied science degree, such as a Master of Business Administration or our own Master of Environment and Natural Resources).

Direct-admit PhD applicants must have demonstrated excellent academic potential and have completed relevant research experience in an academic or professional setting that has undergone peer-review or defense, such as a defended undergraduate or honors research thesis, presentations at scientific conferences, a funded scientific research grant, or authorship of an accepted scientific journal publication. Applicants who do not meet these requirements but are otherwise prepared for graduate study may be offered admission to the Master of Science and can pursue the PhD under the regular-admit track following the completion of the master's.

Program Structure

The time to degree completion will vary depending on the track followed, the student's preparation, and the demands of fieldwork and data collection. Full-time students can earn a PhD in three to four years under the regular-admit track or four to five years in the direct-admit track. Part-time students may exceed five years but will be expected to complete graduation requirements within five years after entering doctoral candidacy, and they may have to justify the continued relevance of any courses taken over five years ago.


Completing the PhD under either track requires the completion of at least 80 credits, but regular-admit PhD students will receive 30 transfer credits for their previous master's degree and will only need to complete 50 post-master's credits. Direct-admit PhD students with previous graduate credit may earn up to 30 transfer credits for relevant master's-level coursework.

The required credits will come from these categories:

  • Core credits in the study of scientific research paradigms and in semesterly seminars focusing on current issues across disciplines (8 credits);
  • Specialization courses to develop a depth of understanding in the research area (13 hours regular-admit; 27 credits direct-admit);
  • Methodology courses to develop the methods and skills to pursue original research (9 credits regular-admit; 15 credits direct-admit);
  • Research credit, which will be earned each semester under the supervision of the student's advisor (up to 20 for regular-admit; up to 30 for direct-admit).

The choice of specialization and methodology courses will be developed between the student and the advisor.

Students can follow one or more of our seven specializations, which can then be designated on the transcript upon graduation, or pursue a unique program tailored around their research interests. Additionally, students are encouraged to devote a portion of their studies to enhancing their research through academic breadth by pursuing a graduate minor or a graduate interdisciplinary specialization (GIS). Students can even pursue a dual or combined degree to develop breadth and depth and enhance their credentials for future employment.

All doctoral students must demonstrate a basic level of interdisciplinary training through the Interdisciplinary Requirement, which requires that a student take a course in a field of science outside of their own: students focusing on natural sciences must take a social science course, and vice versa. Students who have already taken such a course before entering the doctoral program may be able to use that course to complete this requirement.

Additional requirements

All doctoral students will complete the Verbal Communication Requirement, which will prepare students for science communication through presentations to three different types of audiences: to a specialized audience in a scientific meeting; to an interdisciplinary audience in an academic setting; and to a lay audience in a non-academic setting. You will work with your advisor to find and prepare for such opportunities, and students are encouraged to begin seeking these opportunities early.

Direct-admit students have an additional requirement to complete a scholarly paper, which will include empirical data or be a substantive review and critique of a significant problem in the student’s area of study.


Click here to find out how to apply!