Ph.D. in Environmental Science | Environmental Science

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Ph.D. in Environmental Science


The Doctoral degree in Environmental Science is a research degree that requires successful completion of an innovative dissertation project. A five- to six-faculty member Doctoral Committee will help the student select courses for a degree plan. Students entering the Ph.D. program without a MS degree are required to take a minimum of 72 hours of graduate-level course work, while students entering the Ph.D. program with an MS degree are required to take a minimum of 42 additional hours. The Ph.D. degree requires the entire Foundation Core (4 hours), 12 credit hours from at least 3 of the distribution groups, 7 organized elective courses (incoming w/o Master's) or 4 organized elective courses (students w/ previous Master's in related field, such as biology, chemistry, or environmental science), as well as 12 hours of dissertation research. Organized electives do not include special problems credit hours or research credit hours, and may be selected from the core groups as electives or from non-core options as agreed upon by the student's advising committee. Here is a flow chart/diagram that illustrates the requirements. See the Environmental Sciences Curriculum page for further information.

For further information concerning the PhD application process, please visit here.


The core and distribution requirements are describe under environmental science curriculum. The remaining hours in the curriculum can come from one of the cores or from diverse perspectives across non-core electives at the direction of the student's graduate advising committee in addition to thesis/dissertation research hours.


Students may elect to specialize in one of five areas of concentration, such that the identified concentration is listed on their transcript when she/he graduates. The five concentrations are Ecology and Conservation Biology, Geoscience, Human Ecology, Toxicology, and Science Education Research. Please select the hyperlink to find more information about the requirements of each concentration.


These guidelines generally follow the requirements published in the Graduate Catalog for Biological Sciences (

Doctoral Degree

The PhD degree is a research degree that includes the requirement of a scholarly dissertation based upon original research.Students entering the Ph.D. program immediately after a Bachelor's degree are required to take a minimum of 72 hours of graduate-level course work, while students entering the Ph.D. program after the Master's Degree are required to take a minimum of 42 additional hours of graduate-level course work.

The Ph.D. degree requires the entire Foundation Core coursework (4 hours), one to two classes from three of the four distribution groups (12 hours), elective courses as agreed upon by the student's advisory committee, as well as 12 hours of Dissertation (e.g., BIOL 6950).

  • The degree plan should be completed by the end of the student's second semester.
  • Core requirements should be completed by the end of the 2nd year (doesn't mean it can't extend beyond, but student's eligibility for TA etc., may become jeopardized).
  • Comprehensive Exam and Proposal should be completed no later than 3.5 years upon entry (i.e., you have 18 mos. post completion of coursework to complete both qualifiers and proposal).
  • In total, a student should complete all coursework, qualifiers and proposal within 3.5 years of entry into the program.
  • The Comprehensive Exam and Proposal represent separate entities. The oral exam can include the student's proposed research but is not contingent on him/her having completed the proposal. In other words, the oral is open-ended - depending on performance of written exams, general questions or research-related questions.
  • Comprehensive exams include both a written section and a separate oral component. Both should be completed within a defined ~2 week period, with the student deciding how he/she wishes to space the 2 exams out over the defined period.
  • The proposal may be drafted any time but formal submission cannot be completed (i.e., signed off on by all committee members) until a student has completed the Comprehensive Exam. The proposal shall consist of a written document and whether it is to include a presentation by the student (for his/her committee or the academic public) shall be left to the discretion of the student's adviser and committee.
  • Failure to meet these requirements may result in probation and/or expulsion from the ES program by the EC.

At the end of each Spring Semester the ES graduate review committee will meet with students to assess their progress through the program. Review information will be used to guide progress and to make recommendations regarding teaching assistant funding (which is ultimately determined through the Department of Biological Science).

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