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Master's in Environmental Studies

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Master of Science (M.S.) in Environmental Studies Program

The M.S. program entails a minimum of 30 credit hours of graduate-approved courses, one year in residence, and a research-based thesis. Students select a major professor and form an advisory committee of at least three faculty, the majority of these advisors must be from the natural sciences, with the remaining from either the humanities, and/or social sciences (see affiliate faculty list). 

Given the nature of the Environmental Studies degree programs, students will draw upon courses offered from a variety of natural science, humanities, and social science departments, in addition to the unit's own courses that are specifically designed to provide interdisciplinary exposure to important environmental issues facing society today. To obtain the M.S. degree, a student with Full Graduate Standing must complete at least 30 hours of graduate courses beyond the bachelor's degree, must complete a thesis based on original research, and pass a final oral examination.

Students who seek an M.S. degree in Environmental Studies will designate a faculty member from the natural sciences as committee chair (subject to approval by the Environmental Studies Graduate Studies Committee), a majority of the committee will consist of faculty in the natural sciences.

The student, in consultation with the Major Professor, will determine an area, termed the Specialty Field, that is of prime interest to the student and in which the student wishes to attain a high degree of expertise. The student and Major Professor will also choose at least one Supporting Field that relates to and supplements the field of specialization such as water studies, biological conservation, or society and the environment. The final oral examination covers the area of specialization, supporting fields, and the defense of the thesis.

How to Apply


Students are accepted during the Spring semester for enrollment in the Fall. Applications for Fall enrollment should be filed with the Graduate Selections Committee by February 15 with confirmation of this submission sent to the Environmental Studies at Later applications may be considered through March 15 from the Graduate College as long as the original submission deadline of Feb. 15 was met.


When a student is accepted into the OU Environmental Studies Program, the student is accepted directly into the laboratory of an individual faculty member or has at least one faculty member who is willing to serve as a potential sponsor. Therefore, there are three key things to keep in mind before applying.

First, introduce yourself to any/all Environmental Studies Affiliate Faculty with whom you share strong research interests, and make sure they have a chance to get to know you. It is important to communicate with a faculty member and to get that person interested in having you as a student. If there is more than one faculty member that would be interested in you, be sure to introduce yourself to all of them. Don't be afraid to contact faculty. They want to hear from you! 

Secondly, spend some time to really get to know the faculty. This faculty member will need to agree to serve as primary sponsor and thesis committee chair. Completion of the research thesis or dissertation, as well as your success in your career after you leave the program, will depend on the quality and creativity of the science that you do while you are here. Therefore, you need to make sure that you find a faculty mentor who is a good fit for you. Consider several things: Do you share research interests? Does the faculty member have space for you? Also, does your learning style fit the structure or independence offered by a particular faculty member?

Finally, and this is critical, talk to other graduate students in the program to help you make the aforementioned decisions. More than anyone else, the students know what it is like to be in the program. Ask students about their experiences working with the faculty member whom you are interested in as a potential mentor. Be sure to speak with several students, since different people can have very different opinions.

Admission to the Environmental Studies graduate programs is based on the standards for admission established by the Graduate College. Applicants for admission to the Environmental Studies graduate program must submit an application to Environmental Studies, an application to the university, official copies of all previous transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. An official copy of the Report of Scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) are not required but can be included with the application, if desired.

Students whose native language is not English must submit scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (iBT) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The Graduate College considers the recommendation of the department in arriving at its decision on the admissibility of an applicant. This recommendation is officially made by the director of Environmental Studies. Admission to Environmental Studies can be either "Admission in Full Standing" or "Conditional Admission."


You will need to submit the OU Graduate Admissions application via the online form. You are encouraged to submit portions of your application as soon as they are ready.

  1. Complete the OU application at the Office of Graduate Admissions webpage.

    As part of the application, you will need to upload the following documents:

    • Curriculum Vitae/resume that includes information related to your educational and professional background, such as positions held, honors and awards, honors research topic and any presentations or publications.
    • Personal Statement that describes what area(s) of specialization you would like to pursue as a graduate student in our program, what generated your interest in this area and in OU, and your eventual career plans.
    • Unofficial copy of transcript(s) from the school where you earned or will earn your undergraduate degree and any graduate degree.
    • Unofficial copy of your Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores may be included but are not required.
    • Applicants whose native language is not English, an unofficial copy of your TOEFL iBT or IELTS exam score.
  2. Arrange for letters of reference (at least three) to be submitted via the online OU application form.

  3. Arrange for a complete set of official college transcripts to be sent to:

    University of Oklahoma
    Office of Graduate Admissions
    1000 Asp Avenue room 127
    Norman, OK 73019-4076

  4. Applicants whose native language is not English: Arrange for official score reports for one of these tests to be sent to OU:
    -TOEFL internet-Based Test (iBT) - The institution code for OU is 6879, Department of Biology code is 35.
    -International English Language Testing Service (IELTS)

    OU’s English language proficiency requirements for teaching assistantships are described here.


The Graduate College and Graduate Admissions staff would be happy to answer your application questions. Click the link to view the Graduate College website.

To obtain additional information about our graduate program, you may send a request to or write to:

Chair, Graduate Selections Committee 
Environmental Studies Program 
University of Oklahoma 
625 Elm Ave., Sutton Hall 304
Norman, OK  73019