Bloomington Campus

Master of Science in Environmental Science

The Master of Science in Environmental Science (M.S.E.S.) program educates professionals who combine specialization in an area of environmental science with the analytical and policy skills necessary to apply that knowledge in a broader context. This degree program includes an experiential requirement, usually fulfilled by an internship, but also allows for a research focus culminating in a traditional master’s thesis.

For students desiring more in-depth study in environmental science, the M.S.E.S. program is an excellent preparation for entry into the Ph.D. in Environmental Science program. Alternatively, students desiring more in-depth preparation in policy, law, or other related fields can combine their M.S.E.S. degree with a degree in Public Affairs (M.P.A.–M.S.E.S), law (M.S.E.S.–J.D.), or a number of other disciplines in Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Geological Sciences, Journalism, or Physics.

Program Qualifications

The M.S.E.S. Admissions Committee looks for applicants with an adequate background in quantitative and natural science subjects. As a minimum, you must have completed at least one (1) semester of Calculus and Chemistry with a lab. Familiarity with statistics and biology/ecology is considered desirable. An applicant who does not meet these minimum requirements may be admitted with a calculus and/or chemisty deficiency. In these cases, SPEA is interested in assisting you with options to address the deficiency(ies) that may have been identified by the M.S.E.S. Admissions Committee. 

Prior Professional Experience Credit

The M.S.E.S. program director of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs may grant up to 12 credit hours toward the M.S.E.S. degree for students who have had significant technical or administrative work experience in their backgrounds. Credit will be granted for work experience gained until the end of the semester in which the student completes 24 credit hours according to the following guidelines.

  • To receive 3 credit hours, a student must have a minimum of one year’s technical or administrative work experience.
  • 6 credit hours will be awarded for one to four years of experience in environmental science or environmental management.
  • Those with four or more years of executive assignment may be awarded 9 to 12 credit hours. Applicants must have had responsibility for environmental science or environmental management.

Application Process and Policies

Students are eligible to apply for prior professional experience credit up to the completion of 24 credit hours, which usually occurs before the close of their second semester of M.S.E.S. graduate study. Applicants may appeal the initial professional credit decision by submitting a request, in writing, for reconsideration and providing additional information to the appropriate program or campus director.
Determination of professional credit is made separately from decisions about transfer of credit. Under no circumstances will the prior professional experience credit and transfer credit total more than 21 hours of the 48 required for the degree. Students receiving prior professional experience credit should carefully plan the balance of their program with a faculty advisor.


(Typically 18–21 credit hours) Each student should select one of the following concentrations. Topics courses and independent study credits may be included in any concentrations with the approval of a faculty advisor.

Tool Skill Courses

(Typically 3–9 credit hours) Students are encouraged to acquire competency in analytical methods by focusing on tool skills appropriate to their concentration. Courses should be selected in consultation with a faculty advisor.

SPEA-E 512 Risk Communication (3 cr.)
SPEA-E 518 Vector-based Geographic Information Systems (3 cr.)
SPEA-E 519 Applied Remote Sensing of the Environment (3 cr.)
SPEA-E 529 Applications of Geographic Information Systems (3 cr.)
SPEA-E 560 Environmental Risk Analysis (3 cr.)
SPEA-V 506 Statistical Analysis for Effective Decision Making (3 cr.)
SPEA-V 507 Data Analysis and Modeling for Public Affairs (3 cr.)
SPEA-V 539 Management Science for Public Affairs (3 cr.)
SPEA-V 541 Benefit-Cost Analysis of Public Environmental Policies (3 cr.)
SPEA-V 547 Negotiation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (3 cr.)
SPEA-V 562 Public Program Evaluation (3 cr.)
Capstone Course

(3 credit hours) Each candidate for the M.S.E.S. degree should take a course during which they participate in a team to carry out an integrative project that addresses a multidisciplinary problem. This requirement may be met in one of the following ways:

  • SPEA-V 600 Capstone in Public and Environmental Affairs, sections with an environmental focus.
  • An alternative course with a similar structure, such as SPEA-E 546 Stream Ecology or SPEA-E 560 Environmental Risk Analysis or other approved course.
  • SPEA-E 625 Research in Environmental Science (work with an advisory committee to complete a research project).

All capstone projects are expected to culminate in a formal report and public presentation.

Thesis Option

(Typically 18–24 credit hours) For this option, the student pursues a research project culminating in a master’s thesis. This research is done under the supervision of a principal advisor and thesis committee, whom the student selects preferably in their first semester, but no later than at the start of their third semester. The thesis committee must be approved by the M.S.E.S. Program Director. The amount of course work and selection of specific courses is determined by the student’s background, research topic, and the recommendations of the thesis committee. Completion of this option requires approval of the thesis and a successful oral defense of the project.

Accelerated Master of Science in Environmental Science

This program allows highly qualified undergraduate students in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs to complete both their undergraduate and graduate degrees in five years. To be considered for this program, a student must have earned a minimum GPA of 3.5 (3.0 for B.S.E.S), completed 96 undergraduate credit hours, and satisfied all general-education and SPEA undergraduate core requirements. Because of the specialized nature of this program, potential applicants should contact the M.S.E.S. program director for details.

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