M.S. in Environmental Studies -- Program Requirements

The M.S. in Environmental Studies is flexible; students, with their academic advisors, design their own study programs by choosing from courses within Environmental Studies or throughout the University. Students are required to take at least one 3-credit class from each of our core areas of study, but students are encouraged to take more than one in each area: Scientific Approaches, Policy Approaches, Thought & Writing, and Engagement.

All students are required to take "Foundations of Change" in their first semester, as part of our core curriculum.

  • ENST 519 Foundations of Change -- required during first semester

Note: Not all courses are offered every year, please see Current Area Offerings for this year's offerings. 

Scientific Approaches - One (1) course required

Examines methods and limits of scientific inquiry and critical analysis of information:

  • ENSC 501 Scientific Approaches to Environmental Problems
  • ENSC 551 Environmental Field Study
  • ENST 555 Research Methods for Social Change
  • ENSC 594 Environmental Health of Indigenous Communities

Policy Approaches - One (1) course required

Examines socioeconomic and political processes: 

  • ENST 510 Environmental Issues of Indigenous Communities
  • ENST 560 Environmental Impact Analysis
  • ENST 580 Politics of Food

Thought and Writing - One (1) course required

Explores environmental writing, literature and relationships between humans and the natural world:

  • ENST 505 The Literature of Nature Writing
  • ENST 530 The Greening of Religion
  • ENST 570 Ethical Issues in Ecological Restoration
  • ENST 573 Environmental Writing

Engagement - One (1) course required

Develops leadership, organizational and participatory skills through civic and other forms of hands-on involvement:

  • ENSC 501 Scientific Approaches to Environmental Problems
  • ENST 502 Environmental Law for Non-Lawyers
  • ENST 520 Environmental Organizing
  • ENST 531 Citizen Participation in Environmental Decisions
  • ENST 535 Local Climate Solutions
  • ENST 542 Transboundary Environmental Issues
  • ENSC 590 Supervised Internship: Ethnobotany & Native Plant Stewardship
  • ENST 590 Supervised Internship PEAS (Summer Only)
  • Or other engagement-based course as approved by Advisor

Natural Systems Ecology (required, but...)

Biologically grounded ecology course(s) should have been taken as an undergraduate. If not, students are required to take one while in residence at Environmental Studies. See your Advisor.

Total credits required for graduation:

  • Thesis: 33 semester hours              
  • Professional Paper: 33 semester hours                        
  • Portfolio: 36 hours

Thesis, Professional Paper or Portfolio

Students have three options for demonstrating their critical and analytical abilities and their written communication skills: thesis, professional paper or portfolio. The formulation of a topic is encouraged by April of the first year of study.

Thesis Option:

Development of a substantive scholarly work that includes either the collection and analysis of data to answer a research question (as in original field or laboratory research in the natural sciences or survey research in the social sciences) or the production of an innovative, interpretive or critical work (as in the humanities or fine arts).

Professional Paper Option:

Development of a substantive report that targets a specific audience and demonstrates the student's ability to participate in professional discourse.

Portfolio Option:

In consultation with an Environmental Studies advisor, students select courses of classroom study, internship experience(s) and portfolio projects directed toward specific career goals. Portfolios include three discrete portfolio pieces, one of which usually involves an internship experience, and demonstrated coherence between these pieces, the student's course of study and the student's goals. Upon completion of the portfolio, students are given a one-hour oral examination that focuses upon the integrity of each portfolio piece and coherence between the pieces.


Environmental Studies graduate students who do either a thesis or a professional paper must register for at least one of those credits in the semester that they defend. They must register for at least one of those credits in the semester that they defend. The minimum number of credits required for graduation with a thesis or professional paper is 33.

Portfolio-option students must take a total of 36 credits, but there are no semester specific credit requirements nor any portfolio credits per se. Their only requirement, which applies to all students, is that they must abide by the continuous registration rule of the Graduate School, registering for at least three credits each semester.

The UM Graduate Student Advising Guidelines, designed to help both students and faculty and to offer best advising practice resources, are available for review and reference at Graduate Student Advising Guidelines.

Forming a Graduate Committee

In consultation with the graduate advisor, the student will recruit a graduate committee. For the thesis and professional paper options, the graduate committee must have at least 3 members (at least one from outside EVST). The Portfolio option committee must have at least 2 members (one must be an EVST faculty member, the other could be from EVST or from outside the department). The committee must be composed of Montana University System faculty (including emeritus/retired faculty) and/or relevant professionals who serve as faculty affiliates.