Social Sciences

Environmental and Energy Policy—MS

Students enter the Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy program with bachelor’s degrees in an array of disciplines, including the various social sciences and disciplines like biology, environmental science, and engineering. The intent of the master’s program is to provide students skills and knowledge necessary in solving present and future environmental and energy challenges, regardless of the specific organization with which they become involved—whether it is a non-governmental agency (NGO), a business that needs to manage its environmental uses, a consulting firm, or a local, state, or federal agency—our faculty prepare graduate students like no other.

In coursework, students develop an understanding of:

  • The existing policy framework that governs social relationships to the environment, including policies that influence energy choices and the use of natural resources;
  • How and why an existing policy, legal, and regulatory framework has come to be structured in its current form;
  • Methods for analyzing policy choices and for facilitating decision-making processes involving a range of participants including the general public;
  • The sociopolitical facets of environmental and energy policy issues.

In addition, students complete a research project allowing them to investigate a specific topic in detail.

Funding and Research

Students in the MS program can receive up to two years of funding via assistantships that cover the costs of tuition and provide a stipend. Students are actively involved in a wide array of research projects on topics such as energy transitions, household resource consumption, water resources governance, and food justice. Program faculty members have expertise across issues of energy systems, forest resources, food sovereignty, among other environmental issues, particularly the social, legal, and political contexts influencing resource governance and access.

Career Pathways

Industry and Private Firms

Companies, 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.

Private sector employment opportunities are typical in policy-related positions of manufacturing corporations and large engineering firms. Companies require technical professionals who are also trained to participate in regulatory proceedings, 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. Because of their experience and expertise, our graduates have been hired at environmental consulting and industrial firms.

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. Our graduates are employed by agencies like the US Environmental Protection Agency, the USDA Forest Service, and the United Nations Environment Programme.

In addition, state agencies are an important site for making, implementing, and enforcing environmental and energy policies. State environmental offices are in a unique position to mediate the sociopolitical demands of many stakeholders in disputes as they are often situated between the demands of national and international environmental policies and the needs of local communities and businesses. State agencies, such as the Michigan Department of the Environment and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, are also active in local communities. Our graduates are employed in state agencies as well as in local organizations such as the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

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 public relations, advocacy, and education organizations, nonprofits often mediate between large questions of public policy and the environmental and energy concerns of everyday citizens. Our graduates work for nonprofit organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Trustees for Alaska.

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 top-quality degree programs.

Progressing Through the Program

Prerequisites

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

Degree Requirements

Typically, the program involves two years in residence. During the first year, students take the required core coursework 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. Plan your curriculum.

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.

Year 1
MS: Program Objectives Summer Year 0 Fall Year 1 Spring Year 1 Summer Year 1
Orientation X      
Diagnostic Meetings   X    
Courses   X X X
Field School (if applicable) X     X
Proposal     X X
Thesis Research/Writing     X X
Department Presentation     X  
Conference Presentation     X X
Thesis Submission        
Defense        
Year 2
MS: Program Objectives Fall Year 2 Spring Year 2
Orientation    
Diagnostic Meetings X  
Courses X  
Field School (if applicable)    
Proposal X  
Thesis Research/Writing X X
Department Presentation   X
Conference Presentation X X
Thesis Submission   X
Defense   X