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Environmental and Energy Policy—PhD

Contribute to developing policy solutions to complex environmental concerns and challenges, such as facilitating the transition to sustainable energy resources, addressing and adapting to climate change, and effectively managing our increasingly scarce water resources. The PhD in Environmental and Energy Policy expands upon the master's-level curriculum, providing opportunities for further study and analysis and emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach to research in support of sustainable development.

More specifically, the doctoral degree program trains students to integrate multidisciplinary tools and approaches in conducting research that supports societal decisions in environmental- and energy-policy goals, strategies, and programs. Areas of study include the environmental facets of sociology, geography, anthropology, political science, history, ecological economics, sustainability science, ecology, and hydrology—all framed within the context of policy analysis and development.


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

  • hold a bachelor of science or, preferably, a master of science in a field related to social sciences, public policy, or the environment, and
  • have completed at least one microeconomics course and one statistics course

Degree Requirements and Policies

Review the detailed explanation of the requirements for a PhD in Environmental and Energy Policy. In general, once admitted to the PhD program, a student must meet the following requirements:

Course Work

Complete at least 60 credits of course work past the bachelor’s degree. (Half, or 30, of these credits may come from the student’s master’s degree work.)

If you have an MS degree in environmental or energy policy or a related field, the course work requirement can be completed in approximately two years. Without an MS degree in one of these areas, you will be expected to take three years of course work in research methods, research design, policy theory, and advanced environmental policy analysis, as well as at least three courses in a specialty area to prepare for the dissertation focus.

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 completion of all course work in three selected subfields within environmental and energy policy, and the subject area of the dissertation.

This usually takes place early in the third year of study in the PhD program; however, the examination can be held sooner for an especially advanced student. This examination will be administered by a committee of at least four faculty members, with at least one being an external faculty member from outside the department.

Research Proposal Examination

Pass an oral  and written research proposal examination, which will include a public presentation of the research proposal.


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

Dissertation and Oral Examination (Dissertation Defense)

Write and defend a dissertation as a final product.

For comprehensive degree requirements and policies, see the PhD Program Guidance and the Graduate School PhD degree requirements.

Required Courses

All students must fulfill the following course work requirements. For students who entered the program in 2013 or earlier and have taken courses not listed here, refer to the document EEP Curriculum Options for guidance.

Methods (3 credits)

Choose any course from the list:

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

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

Academics and Researchers

The doctoral degree program prepares students to conduct research in support of societal decisions regarding environmental and energy-policy goals, strategies, and programs, as well as to transition to faculty appointments in academia. Research positions are available at universities, in industry, and in government.

Environmental- and Energy-Policy Specialists

Abundant employment opportunities exist in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors for specialists and managers in environmental and energy policy.

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 Government

The public sector recognizes the need for environmental managers with broad interdisciplinary training in both policy processes and social or natural sciences. For example, 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.

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 and energy policy programs. As lobbyists and public education organizations, nonprofits often mediate between large questions of public policy and the environmental concerns of everyday citizens.