Graduate Program Requirements

The Masters Degree Program in Environmental Studies is flexible; students, with their academic advisors, design their own study programs by choosing from courses throughout the University. Within this diversity of choice, and because we believe a well-rounded perspective and range of skills are needed to be an effective environmentalist, a limited number of foundational courses are required. (Note: As EVST faculty refine and update our Program, the graduate program requirements may occasionally change slightly--for entering students only.)

Natural Systems Ecology

A biologically grounded ecology course taken either as an undergraduate or while in residence at Environmental Studies.

Please note: The lists below are comprehensive lists of courses that have served historically to satisfy area requirements, but they are not all offered and/or are not all approved as area offerings in any given year. For the current academic year's list of courses that satisfy area requirements, please see Current Area Offerings page.

Scientific Approaches

Examines methods and limits of scientific inquiry and critical analysis of information. A 3-credit course from:

  • ENSC 501 Scientific Approaches to Environmental Problems
  • ENSC 540 Watershed Conservation Ecology
  • ENSC 550 Pollution Ecology
  • ENSC 551 Environmental Field Study
  • ENST 555 Research Methods for Social Change

Policy Approaches

Examines socioeconomic and political processes. A 3-credit course from:

  • ENST 510 Environmental Issues of Native Americans
  • ENST 560 Environmental Impact Analysis
  • ENST 575 Rhetoric and Environmental Controversy
  • ENST 580 Politics of Food
  • ENST 594 Environmental Policy Analysis and Evaluation

Thought and Writing

Explores environmental writing, literature and relationships between humans and the natural world. A 3-credit course from:

  • ENST 504 Topics in Environmental Philosophy
  • ENST 505 The Literature of Nature Writing
  • ENST 530 The Greening of Religion
  • ENST 570 Ethical Issues in Ecological Restoration
  • ENST 573 Environmental Writing


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

The 3-credit Foundations of Change course during first semester in EVST Program PLUS 

Either any one of the following 3 courses:

  • ENST 520 Env. Organizing
  • ENST 531 Citizen Participation in Env. Decisions
  • ENST 542 Transboundary Env. Issues;

OR a 3cr Internship with significant Engagement component approved as such by Advisor;

OR a 3cr course from the following list approved as a Project Course by Instructor of course:

  • ENSC 501 Scientific Approaches to Env. Problems
  • ENST 502 Env. Law for Non-Lawyers
  • ENST 521 Foundations in Env. Education
  • ENST 525 Teaching Env. Science
  • ENST 535 Local Climate Solutions
  • ENSC 540 Watershed Conservation
  • ENSC 550 Pollution Ecology
  • ENST 560 Env. Impact Analysis
  • ENST 595 Supervised Internship: Ethnobotany and Native Plant Stewardship
  • ENST 590 Supervised Internship PEAS (Summer Only)

Other Requirements:

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.

Credits required for graduation:

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


Environmental Studies graduate students who do either a thesis or a professional paper must register for a minimum of three thesis or professional paper credits. 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.