Environmental and Energy Policy—MS

Blend your technical or scientific knowledge with training in policy analysis and socio-environmental systems. The Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy (formerly Environmental Policy) at Michigan Tech offers an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to environmental management education, drawing on the expertise of faculty in economics, ecology, engineering, forest resources, and the social sciences.

Our master’s students develop a broad skill set through studies incorporating

  • citizen participation;
  • social sciences;
  • policy analysis methods;
  • collaboration among groups; and
  • the sociopolitical facets of environmental policy issues.

Professionals with integrated expertise in these areas are sought after by governmental agencies, consulting firms, corporations, and private nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations.

Prerequisites

Students enrolled in the Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy have entered the program with bachelor’s degrees in an array of disciplines, including geography, biology, environmental science, and engineering.

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of environmental policy and the rigorous curriculum plan, students accepted into the MS program must have strong undergraduate credentials and a high level of proficiency in written and oral communication skills. We expect applicants to have taken at least one undergraduate-level course in the environmental sciences, one in statistics, and one in microeconomics; however, if necessary, students can complete these courses during their first year of graduate study.

Degree Requirements and Options

The Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy requires 30 credits.

  • At least 20 of the 30 credits must be taken in courses at or above the 5000 level.
  • No more than 12 credits at the 3000–4000 level may be counted toward degree requirements.

Thesis Option

This option requires a research thesis prepared under the supervision of the advisor.  The thesis describes a research investigation and its results. The scope of the research topic for the thesis should be defined in such a way that a full-time student could complete the requirements for a master’s degree in twelve months or three semesters following the completion of course work by regularly scheduling graduate research credits. The thesis must be prepared following the current procedures.  

At least two weeks prior to the oral examination, students must

The Degree schedule form (M4) must be approved before a defense is scheduled.

Students must also report the results of the oral examination and submit a final thesis to the Graduate School prior to completing their degrees.

The minimum requirements are as follows:

Course work (minimum)20 credits
Thesis research6–10 credits
Total (minimum)30 credits
Distribution of course work credit 
5000–6000 series (minimum)12 credits
3000–4000 level (maximum)12 credits

Report Option

This option requires a report describing the results of an independent study project. The scope of the research topic should be defined in such a way that a full-time student could complete the requirements for a master’s degree in twelve months or three semesters following the completion of course work by regularly scheduling graduate research credits. The report must be prepared following the current procedures.

At least two weeks prior to the oral examination, students must

  • Schedule their examination using the Pre-defense form
  • Distribute the report to the examining committee

The Degree schedule form (M4) must be approved before a defense is scheduled.

Students must also report the results of the oral examination and submit a single paper copy of the corrected and approved report in a sturdy binder including an original signature page to the Graduate School.

Of the minimum total of 30 credits, at least 24 must be earned in course work other than the project.

Course work24 credits
Report2–6 credits
Total (minimum)30 credits
Distribution of course work credit 
5000–6000 series (minimum)12 credits
3000–4000 level (maximum)12 credits

Coursework Option

This option requires a minimum of 30 credits be earned through coursework. Research credits may be used on a case-by-case basis following the approval of the graduate program director. 

A graduate program may require an oral or written examination before conferring the degree.

Distribution of coursework credit 
5000–6000 series (minimum)18 credits
3000–4000 level (maximum)12 credits

Timeline

Typically, the program involves two years in residence. During the first year, students take mostly required core course work in environmental policy analysis and the social context of environmental issues. Most of the second year is devoted to concentration courses and to the project or thesis.

Sample Curriculum Plan

This is not an official list of degree requirements.
Adjustments may be required due to curriculum changes.

Year One: 18 Credits
FallCreditsSpringCredits
SS5300 Environmental and Energy Policy3Concentration Elective or Methods3-4
SS5400 Sociology of the Environment3SS5350 Environmental Policy Analysis3
SS5550 Global Environmental History3Concentration Elective3
 
Year Two: 12–18 Credits
FallCreditsSpringCredits
Methods or Concentration Elective3–4Free Elective3
Concentration Elective3Report3
Concentration Elective3or Thesis6

Degree Components

Methods (3–4 credits)

Students will select one methods course, typically from among the following depending upon their background and interests:

Concentration (6–9 credits)

In the second year, students, in consultation with their guidance committee, will identify at least two courses (thesis option) or three courses (report option) that are most appropriate for their needs. These elective courses comprise the concentration area, providing further depth in some aspect of environmental policy or related skills and techniques. The concentration courses, which are drawn from departments across the University, will often link policy interests, internship activities, and students' particular skills.

Concentrations might include

  • Resource management
  • Policy and regulation
  • Environmental technologies
  • Energy policy
  • Ecosystems management
  • Pollution control
  • Organizations
  • Communications

Report or Thesis (3–6 credits)

Much of the second year is devoted to a report or thesis. Each student will conduct research under the supervision of an advisor. The student must submit a written proposal describing the report or thesis for approval by the graduate committee and will give a brief public presentation on the project. The completed report or thesis will be examined by a committee of at least three faculty members including one from outside of the program.

Generally, theses and reports are linked to work done during a student's internship, a funded research project, or another topic of special interest to the student. The master's report (3 credits) identifies and represents the student's major area of interest and concentration, and demonstrates the student's competence in that area. The thesis (6 credits) is designed to demonstrate the student's grasp of a complex problem in environmental management or policy through original research. The these and reports of our students have often led to external publication.

Career Pathways

Industrial firms, governments, and nonprofit organizations recognize the need for professionals with combined technical and sociopolitical expertise. Those with skills in environmental policy analysis and citizen participation fill an important niche.

Industry and Private Firms

Private sector employment opportunities are typically in policy-related positions of manufacturing corporations and large engineering firms. Industrial firms require technical professionals who are also trained to participate in regulatory hearings, policy-related conferences, and public meetings; and national business leaders have reported a need for managers possessing technical proficiency blended with an understanding of policy development, decision-making, and the interests of community groups and members.

Federal, State, and Local Government

The public sector recognizes the need for environmental managers with broad interdisciplinary training in both policy processes and social or natural sciences. Federal regulatory agencies and international environmental organizations often engage with community-based groups and must address citizens’ needs outside of the mandated, formal hearing process. State agencies, such as the Michigan Department of the Environment and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, are also active in local communities.

Situated between the demands of national and international environmental policies and the needs of local communities and businesses, state environmental offices are in a unique position to mediate the sociopolitical demands of many stakeholders in disputes. County, city, and tribal governments in the Great Lakes region must respond to new environmental programs and policies. Graduates holding a bachelor’s degree in engineering, social science, or natural science combined with a professional degree in environmental policy are very attractive candidates for local positions.

Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations and consulting firms need technically trained policy and environmental specialists. This sector is an important source of employment for graduates of environmental policy programs. As lobbyists and public education organizations, nonprofits often mediate between large questions of public policy and the environmental concerns of everyday citizens.

Advanced Degrees

Our MS program provides excellent preparation for an advanced degree. Many of our MS graduates have gone on to PhD programs—including our own—as well as law school programs, sometimes after working with a public or private organization. We support students in the development of indispensable research skills and in finding and transitioning into a top-quality degree program of the want to continue their education elsewhere.

Where have our graduates been hired?

  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Industrial Firms
  • Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
  • US Environmental Protection Agency
  • USDA Forest Service
  • United Nations Environment Programme
  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • Nonprofit organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund and Trustees for Alaska
  • Numerous Universities