Doctoral Program (PhD)

The SENR PhD provides high-level research and scholarly training for individuals who wish to pursue independent, original thinking and careers in academia or high-level research. PhD students conduct independent, innovative and scholarly research within the field of environment and natural resources and are expected to make an original contribution to the body of knowledge. They 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, demonstrate creativity in research design, use critical rigor to analyze and discuss their findings, and disseminate their research.

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 a graduate minor or a graduate interdisciplinary specialization (GIS) to enhance their research within ENR.

Alumni pursue careers as leaders in academia, industry, government, policy development, or research innovation.

The Environment and Natural Resources Graduate Program offers two PhD tracks:

Regular-Admit Track: Admits students who have completed or are in the process of completing a thesis-based master’s degree. The expected time to degree for full-time students is three years and seven years for part-time students after beginning the program.

Direct-Admit Track: Admits students who have earned a relevant bachelor's degree, or a bachelor's degree with a professional or non-thesis-based master's degree. Applicants must meet rigorous academic standards. This option allows outstanding students to focus on long-term academic goals and can be completed in as little as four years of full-time study. Direct-admit students are expected 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, and to complete the candidacy examination within the first three years of the program.

Program Structure

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, but time to degree may increase depending on the student's preparation and the duration of field work. 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.

The required number of credits depends on the track: 50 for regular-admit or 80 for direct-admit. These credits will be earned through:

  • 8 credits of core courses in research paradigms and current topics;
  • 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);
  • and credit for independent research (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.


Click here to find our admission requirements!