Traditional Disciplinary PhD Programs
Many traditional disciplinary graduate programs offer students the opportunity to do interdisciplinary coursework and research. For example, Michigan State University offers a “graduate specialization” in Environmental Science and Policy. Graduate students in any department can pursue such a specialization. You should investigate individual programs to find out how welcoming it is to interdisciplinary projects.
Interdisciplinary Environmental PhD Programs
Interdisciplinary environmental programs usually involve coursework in environmental science and social science, particularly those social science disciplines related to public policy (economics, policy analysis, and political science). Most programs require students to focus on a more or less narrowly defined area, like conservation biology, environmental justice, risk analysis, environmental informatics, land-use planning, etc.
The more competitive programs will look for research experience, favorable recommendations, a high GPA and strong GRE scores, but they vary quite a bit in the kinds of undergraduate preparation they require. Most will expect 1-2 terms of college-level natural science –– either chemistry, biology, or physics (or some combination thereof). The majority of these programs require at least one term of calculus. Familiarity with statistics is usually desired if not strictly required—but be aware that virtually all graduate programs in environmental studies and sciences will demand strong statistical skills. Economics is sometimes required, and is always useful as a foundation for graduate-level public policy courses.
Choosing a school:
Given the variety of interdisciplinary environmental programs, it may be difficult to know how to choose one. There are no national rankings of programs, but some have been around long enough to develop a good reputation. The top programs by reputation are:
University of Michigan SNRE
Yale School of Forestry and the Environment
Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment
UC-Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science and Management
Other strong and well-established programs include:
University of Colorado-Boulder Graduate Program in Environmental Studies
Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs
University of Oregon Graduate Program in Environmental Sciences, Studies and Policy
- Some helpful links and tips to assist you with your graduate program search.