Three researchers using equipment in a grassy field.

Program overview

The field of environmental science encompasses all regulatory areas that work to protect human health through applied science, create a sustainable balance between society and the environment, and develop preventative healthcare methods.

A graduate degree in environmental sciences provides opportunities to contribute to our field in impactful ways. Through comprehensive research and interdisciplinary studies, our students are challenged to address a wide-ranging assortment of rapidly changing environmental issues and concerns that are posing significant tests to the world today.

Classes are taught by respected faculty members who are environmental experts and passionate about effective management and safeguarding of natural resources.

Our students’ research is targeting areas such as:

  • industrialization or technology impacts on the environment,
  • economics and resource availability,
  • regulation and law,
  • environmental ethics,
  • land conservation,
  • political ecology, and
  • ecosystem management.

Who should apply to our program?

If you’re the type of person who wants to address real world problems by finding and applying practical solutions, our program will be a good fit for you. Our students are taking specific research output and applying it to environmental and health issues of the world. Taking very specific research findings and applying them requires the capability to perform in-depth investigations of issues and the ability to apply knowledge to develop solutions.

There are many avenues to take within our program due to the interdisciplinary collaboration of our faculty and the broad field of environmental science and health. Here are some examples of the wide ranging characteristics our students have:

  • A desire to get away from bench work and apply research to the outside world
  • An interest in influencing policy and working to make changes—to have a significant impact through regulatory work
  • Opportunities to travel and make meaningful connections world-wide—connecting with the environment they inhabit; ex. in our region we work on projects to reclaim and clean-up Lake Tahoe

We have students who love to work outdoors and look for a balance in their work between field studies and data analysis, and other students who enjoy modeling and computer work, for example, creating air quality modelers, doing GIS mapping, or finding health solutions through analysis of data from the county and state level.

Degree overview

Doctoral degree

The University's Environmental Sciences Ph.D. is research-focused, multidisciplinary degree track with more than 35 participating faculty members from 14 departments across four institutions. The program encourages students to adapt the course of study to their academic interests. Successful students will practice applied science that addresses real world problems such as:

  • Health-based issues
  • Environmental contamination
  • Remediation of environmental damage
  • Air quality
  • Agricultural sustainability
  • Nutrition and nutritional health and sustainability
  • Renewable resource issues

Given the wide range of possible specializations, Environmental Sciences offers many potential career paths.

While students work individually on research projects in this program, opportunities exist to network with peer groups and train undergraduates and other students in their areas of expertise. They also work closely with advisers on structuring research and reviewing results. Due to the flexible nature of the program, some students may work exclusively in laboratories, while others spend a large portion of time in the field collecting data.

Strong communication and presentation skills are critical for success, particularly in framing technical and scientific concepts for the general public and community stakeholders. The program conducts a seminar series that is open to campus and the community, giving students opportunities to network with speakers, fellow students, and community members who are interested in their field.

Master's degree

Our environmental science master’s degree takes about two to three years and involves taking courses and performing thesis research (for the standard thesis-track students). The environmental science M.S. track is more structured than the Ph.D. and students’ projects are often part of a larger research program. Although many of our master’s students are contributing new knowledge to the field and the option to do research is not limited, more research productivity is expected of a doctoral student. The environmental science master’s degree is more focused on the thesis research than on publications, but students generally have the opportunity to participate in published work or to publish their own research if they choose. Students complete at least 30 credits of acceptable graduate courses, with at least 18 credits at the 700 level, which includes six thesis credits.


Admissions information

Application deadline for Ph.D and M.S.: Fall: March 1, Spring: Nov 1

Admission requirements 

In addition to the general requirements required by the Graduate School, the Environmental Sciences graduate program requires the following:

  • Undergraduate and/or graduate school transcripts reflecting a GPA of 3.00 or greater
  • Copies of graduate record exam (GRE) scores reflecting a verbal plus quantitative score of 297 or greater
  • TOEFL score of at least 600 for the paper version, 250 for the computer version or 100 for the internet-based version (international students only)
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • A letter stating goals and choice of disciplinary interest
  • Documentation from an Environmental Sciences Graduate faculty member who agrees to be the student's research adviser (this can be submitted after application, but must be submitted prior to entrance to the program)
  • A lower-level degree in a related science with coursework in calculus, organic chemistry, biology, and physics is desirable but not required.

Finding a Research Adviser

During the admissions process, each prospective student must be matched with an Environmental Sciences faculty adviser. To begin this process, you are encouraged to review our faculty's profile pages and email the faculty members you are interested in working for.

You’ll want to find a faculty member who shares your scientific interests and determine if the match between you and your adviser will make a good partnership. You’ll also want to learn about possible funding options available through your adviser.


Program resources

External view of the Fleischmann College of Agriculture building at the south end of campus.


The handbook provides the necessary information for students to understand the requirements, expectations and opportunities associated with this graduate program.

The University campus in the evening.

Funding your degree

Learn about the cost of a graduate degree and the different types of funding available.

Three researchers standing in a grassy field with equipment.


Learn more about the wide spectrum of career paths available with an Environmental Sciences education.


Ready to apply?

You can start your application through The Graduate School website, which provides detailed instructions on the application process.