Master's Degree

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Your New Skills

The MS track in Environmental Studies trains students for careers in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. Graduates will have:

  • The ability to deal with real-world problems;
  • The ability to evaluate policy goals in the context of competing societal objectives;
  • Fundamental knowledge of the relevant environmental sciences to be intelligent users of scientific information;
  • The ability to integrate knowledge from multiple disciplines in the context of complex environmental issues;
  • An understanding of the local, state, and federal decision processes that shape environmental issues;
  • The ability to think critically, creatively, and holistically about environmental issues;
  • The ability to work in interdisciplinary teams; and
  • Skill in public speaking and writing for nonspecialist audiences.

Coursework and Other Requirements

The degree requires completion of 36 course credit hours as follows: a common core consisting of two broad introductory three-credit courses (ENVS 5000, Science Policy and Values and ENVS 5100, Theory and Methods in Environment), two semesters of ENVS Colloquium (2 course credits), one of three secondary core areas, each of which includes 12-15 credit hours (4-5 courses), and 12-15 credits of electives chosen to broaden and deepen the graduate training.  Both a thesis (Plan I) and a non-thesis (Plan II) option are available.
Secondary Core Curriculum emphases

Plan I (thesis)

Plan I requires that you write and successfully defend a thesis worth 6 of the 36 credit hours required for the MS degree.
Plan I Guidelines and Requirements. 

Plan II (internship, no thesis)

Please note the internship option is no longer available, beginning Fall 2016.  Students who opt for Plan II need to complete 36 graduate credit hours including a 2-credit Internship for which a substantial internship report is written.
Plan II Guidelines and Requirements. 

Graduation Forms and Information

The Graduate School has gathered all important information required for graduation on its website. Students should consult this website starting the semester before graduation in order to avoid missing important deadlines that will delay graduation.

Non-thesis students (Includes deadlines)
Thesis students (Includes deadlines)

Faculty Advisor

Because of the potential for individually tailoring one’s graduate degree work in ENVS, it is essential to establish and maintain a relationship with one’s faculty advisor. All graduate faculty members, if willing, are eligible to be ENVS faculty advisors.


All ENVS graduate students are encouraged to include a 2-credit internship as part of their degree plan. Plan II, non-thesis MS students are required to do so.

Independent Study

Independent Study credits may be included in the student’s MS degree plan with the approval of the faculty advisor.

Transfer Credit

Transfer credits from accredited institutions are accepted by CU Boulder only after approval by the faculty advisor and ENVS Graduate Director. A maximum of 9 transfer credits are accepted towards the MS degree. Transfer credit is defined as any credit earned at another accredited institution, credits earned on another campus of the CU system, or credits earned as a non-degree student within the CU system.  Course transfer credit from courses taken at other universities or for online courses taken at the University of Colorado cannot be counted toward the fulfillment of Common Core Requirements, Secondary Core Requirements, or Required Interdisciplinary Electives.

Time Limit

Master’s degree students have 4 years to complete all degree requirements. Students who fail to complete the degree in this four-year period may be dismissed from their program with the concurrence of the advisor. To continue, the student must file a petition for an extension of the time limit with the Dean of the Graduate School.

Admission to Candidacy

During the semester in which a student plans to complete the requirements for the MS degree, an Admission to Candidacy Application must be completed and approved by the advisor and Graduate Director and submitted to the Graduate School by the posted deadline. A copy must be submitted to the Graduate Program Assistant. Dates and forms are available in the appropriate Masters Packages:

Masters Packet -- Thesis Plan
Masters Packet -- Non-Thesis Plan

Online Graduation Application

Students must apply online to graduate. To do this, logon to On the Student tab, select the Apply for Graduation link under Academic Resources. This notifies the Graduate School and your department that you intend to graduate, and it provides necessary information to the Commencement Office for ordering and shipping diplomas. If you do not complete requirements for the graduation you indicate on the online application, you must apply online to graduate for the new graduation date. You must apply to graduate online whether or not you plan to attend the ceremony.

MS to PhD Procedures

Revised September 16, 2011

Students who are pursuing a MS degree but would like to continue in the ENVS PhD program need to formally apply to the program for admission. The MS to PhD Graduate School Form must be completed.

Master’s degree students who would like to apply to the PhD program should apply during their second year in the M.S. Program. PhD applications from first year M.S. students will not be considered. Admissions to the PhD Program is provisional until the student completes the M.S. degree. PhD application packets should be submitted by December 19 in order to be considered for the following fall.

The application packet should be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator and should include:

  1. CU transcript
  2. A PhD Degree Prospectus which should include:
    -an outline of proposed coursework,
    -research plans,
    -career plans and
    -possible funding plans.
  3. A letter from the student’s PhD advisor indicating support of the student’s application.
  4. The MS to PhD Graduate School Form.

The student should work with his or her advisor to secure funding for the PhD with the understanding that it is not the responsibility of the Environmental Studies Program to do so. The ENVS Program is unable to make any funding guarantees. The Graduate Committee, using similar criteria to those used in evaluating external applications, will review the application.