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; this requirement can also be fulfilled by the M.S.E.S. thesis concentration or through prior professional experience.

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 Chemistry, Geological Sciences, 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 chemistry 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. 

Entrance Requirements

All students must have undergraduate coursework relevant to their intended area of focus in the M.S.E.S. degree program. Students are expected to have an adequate background in quantitative natural science subjects (e.g., mathematics, chemistry, and biology/ecology), which may vary according to the concentration the student selects.

Prior Experience:

A student’s experiential requirement may be satisfied through Prior Experience (PE). Depending upon the type and amount of experience, a student may qualify for a credit reduction as well. There are three categories of PE (Professional, Military, and Volunteer) available to MPA, MIA, MSES, MPA-MSES, and MES students. MAAA and MAAA-MPA students have different guidelines for PE, as they are governed by the University Graduate School.
Applications for the different types of PE may be picked up in the Master’s Programs Office (MPO – SPEA A304) or online via the Current Student Portal in the Forms section. Completed forms should be returned to the O’Neill Graduate Records Office (SPEA A328 or to be advanced to the appropriate Faculty Program Director for review.

  • PE waivers and credit reductions are granted for experience gained prior to taking courses in the MPA, MES, and MSES programs.
  • Applications for PE must be submitted within the first 24-credit hours or they will be denied.
  • Students may be approved for more than one type of PE, but the combined credit reduction cannot exceed 9-credit hours.
  • Credit reductions cannot result in the elimination of degree or concentration requirements. Students receiving prior experience credit reductions should carefully plan the balance of their program with an advisor.
  • A student may not apply for PE with any of O’Neill’s outside, dual degree programs (e.g., MPA-MA, MSES-JD). All of O’Neill’s outside dual degree programs reflect a discounted credit hour program in an effort to streamline the academic demands for the student. Further credit reductions are not negotiable. This does not apply to O'Neill's dual MPA-MSES and MAAA-MPA degree.
  • Determination of PE credit is made separately from decisions about transfer of credit. Under no circumstances will the prior experience credit and transfer credit total more than 18-credit hours.

Professional Experience:
Experiential waivers and credit reductions can be granted for prior professional or technical work experience. The appropriate Faculty Program Director determines if the experience qualifies for a waiver and/or reduction. In general, credit reductions require work experience above entry level that involves some independent managerial, analytic, or scientific responsibility and work that articulates with the student’s current field of study. Applicants may appeal a professional credit decision by submitting a request, in writing, for reconsideration and providing additional information. Students receiving prior professional experience credit should carefully plan the balance of their program with a faculty advisor.

General guidelines to qualify for Professional Experience:
  • Work must have been full-time, either paid or unpaid.
  • To receive a waiver of the degree’s experiential requirement, work experience should roughly equal or surpass that of a summer internship.
  • To qualify for credit reduction in addition to a waiver of the experiential requirement, at least two years of relevant full-time work is required.
  • Position may be with government, private firm, or nonprofit organization, but the work must be explicitly related to a MPA or MSES career path, regardless of the type of employer.
  • Employing entity may be domestic or international. Documentation from supervisors may be required.

MSES Guidelines:

  • To receive a 3-credit-hour reduction, a student must have 2-4 years of full-time technical, administrative, scientific, and/or science-based environmental policy experience with a government, nonprofit, or private agency.
  • To receive a 6 credit hour reduction, a student must have 4-6 years of relevant full-time analytic, technical, administrative, scientific, and/or science-based, environmental policy experience, with significant responsibilities, for example, in research design, program leadership, budgetary oversight, organizational or staff development, analysis, or planning.
  • A 9-credit-hour reduction is possible for five to seven yearsover 6 years of relevant full-time research, analytic, technical, administrative, and/or science-based policy experience. At this point, at least one higher-level, multi-year assignment is expected, including directing research, responsibility for supervision of staff, budget preparation, or organizational control of public or nonprofit agencies or private companies.
Military Experience:
Students who have experience with the United States military may qualify for a waiver of the experiential requirement and a credit reduction. See guidelines below:
  • 3-credit hour reduction and experiential waiver:
    • 1 year active duty or full-time guard/reserve service
    • 2 years part-time guard/reserve service
  • 6-credit hour reduction and experiential waiver:
    • 2 years active duty or full-time guard/reserve service
    • 4 years part-time guard/reserve service
  • 9-credit hour reduction and experiential waiver:
    • 4 years active duty or full-time guard/reserve service
    • 8 years part-time guard/reserve service

Volunteer Experience:
Students who have participated as a volunteer in Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or Teach For America are eligible for a credit reduction based on years of service, as well as a waiver of their experiential component. The O’Neill School will grant a 3-credit reduction for one year of service and a 6-credit reduction for two years of service. Proof of service will be required.

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