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Environmental and Energy Policy—PhD Program

The PhD program in Environmental and Energy Policy provides opportunities for conducting interdisciplinary research in support of development that is sustainable and equitable. Your research will contribute to environmental goals such as facilitating the transition to sustainable energy resources, effectively managing the world’s scarce water and other natural resources, and sustaining the ecosystem services upon which we all depend. The opportunities for research exist at many scales, from projects involving local watersheds and urban recycling programs to global supply chains and international treaties.

More specifically, the doctoral degree program trains you to integrate multidisciplinary tools and approaches into research that supports societal decisions involving environmental and energy policy goals and programs. In your coursework, you will be exposed to approaches of various disciplines, such as sociology, geography, anthropology, political science, history, ecological economics, sustainability science, and ecology—all framed within the context of policy analysis and sustainable development.


To be considered for the PhD program in Environmental and Energy Policy, a prospective student must:

  • hold a MS degree in a field related to social sciences, public policy, or the environment, and
  • have completed at least one microeconomics course and one statistics course.

Once admitted to the PhD program, a student will be expected to meet the following requirements:

Course Work

Complete at least 30 credits of course work past your MS degree.

If pursing the degree full time, which is 9 credits per semester, the course work requirement (and significant progress toward your qualifying exams) can be completed in four semesters.

Advisory Committee

Identify a research advisory committee chair (an advisor) by the end of the second semester in residence.

Together with your committee chair, you will construct an advisory committee composed of at least three faculty members from the Department of Social Sciences, and at least one external faculty member from outside the department. See a list of core and affiliated Environmental and Energy Policy faculty members who are available to serve on a dissertation committee.

Qualifying Examination

Pass a written and oral qualifying examination.

Following the completion of all course work, you will demonstrate competency in three selected subfields within environmental and energy policy and within the subject area of your dissertation area. Qualifying exams are usually scheduled early in the third year of study in the PhD program; however, the examination can be held sooner for an advanced student. This examination is administered by a committee of at least four faculty members, with at least one being a faculty member from outside the department.

Research Proposal Examination

Pass an oral and written research proposal examination.

Before proceeding to your dissertation research, you will be expected to prepare a written research proposal, present it in a public forum, and defend it in a meeting of your advisory committee.


Conduct significant research supporting some aspect of a societal or organizational choice related to an environmental or energy policy/program.

Dissertation Defense

Write and defend a dissertation as a final product.

For a more detailed explanation of the requirements for the doctoral program in Environmental and Energy Policy, review the document EEP Ph.D. Requirements & Policies.

Required Courses

All students must fulfill the following course work requirements:

Electives (12 credits)

 A minimum of 6 credits must be Social Science (SS) courses:

0-6 credits of any 4000-level or higher course can also be applied as an elective, with the following being a program relevant list:

  • BA 5760 Corporate Social Responsibility & Business Ethics (3 credits)
  • CE 4740 Risk Analysis and Management (3 credits)
  • EC 5620 Energy Economics (3 credits)
  • EC 5640 Natural Resource Economics (3 credits)
  • EC 5650 Environmental Economics (3 credits)
  • EE 4590 Solar Photovoltaic Technology (3 credits)
  • EE 5260 Wind Power (3 credits)
  • MEEM 4200 Principles of Energy Conversion (3 credits)
  • MEEM 5220 Fuel Cell Technology (3 credits)
  • MET 4900 Alternative Energy Systems (3 credits)
  • UN 5540 Pan American Biofuels and Bioenergy Sustainability (3 credits)

Additional credits. For a student who is required to register for 36 credits so as to be full-time while in coursework (due to being a supported Research/Teaching Assistant or because of external requirements), six additional credits are available to be taken as research credits, reading courses, or additional electives.

Concentration Areas

All students are encouraged to consider the following three concentration areas to guide their choice of Electives from the Required Courses list above:


  • SS 5330 Special Topics in Energy Policy
  • SS 5635 International Environmental Energy Policy
  • SS 6100 Advanced Seminar in Energy and Climate Policy
  • EC 5620 Energy Economics
  • EE 5260 Wind Power
  • EE 5490 Solar Photovoltaic Science and Engineering
  • MEEM 4200 Principles of Energy Conversion
  • MEEM 5220 Fuel Cell Technology
  • UN 5540 Pan American Biofuels and Bioenergy Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development

  • SS 4390 Seminar in Sustainability Issues
  • SS 5310 Ecological Economics
  • SS 5313 Sustainability Science, Policy, and Assessment
  • SS 5550 Global Environmental History
  • SS 5315 Population and the Environment
  • SS 5340 Principles of Interdisciplinary Sustainability Research
  • EGR 5510 Sustainable Futures I
  • EGR 5520 Sustainable Futures II

Water and Resources

  • SS 4200 Environmental Anthropology
  • SS 5111 Advanced Natural Resource Policy
  • SS 5313 Sustainability Science, Policy, and Assessment
  • SS 5318 Public Sector Management
  • SS 5320 Special Topics in Environmental Policy
  • SS 5400 Sociology of the Environment
  • EC 5650 Environmental Economics or EC 5640 Natural Resource Economics

Career Pathways

The doctoral degree program prepares students to conduct research in support of societal decisions regarding environmental and energy-policy goals, strategies, and programs, with potential areas of employment being universities, government agencies, industry and consulting firms, and non-profit organizations.


The academic path makes most sense for graduates who seek to join an interdisciplinary department or research center focused on environmental or energy policy. A potential step along this path is a postdoctoral research position focused in your area of expertise.


The public sector recognizes the need for researchers and environmental managers with broad interdisciplinary training in policy processes and the social or natural sciences. For example, federal regulatory agencies and international environmental organizations often require professionals capable of conducting and assessing research in areas relevant to environmental and energy policy. State agencies, such as those responsible for managing environmental quality and the use of natural resources, are also potential employers.

Industry and Consulting Firms

Private-sector employment opportunities are typically in policy-related positions of consulting firms and industry trade groups. Industrial firms often require professionals who are capable of conducting and evaluating research and participating in regulatory hearings, policy-related conferences, and public meetings. Consulting firms, which work with large companies on a project basis, also need professionals with the same set of skills.

Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations often employ specialists in environmental and energy policy. In their role as lobbyists, watchdog organizations, think tanks, and public education organizations, nonprofits often mediate between large questions of public policy and the environmental concerns of everyday citizens.