University of Montana Catalog 2023-2024

Environmental Studies M.S.

The M.S. in Environmental Studies is flexible. Students, with their academic advisors, design their own study programs by choosing from courses within Environmental Studies and throughout the University.

The UM Graduate Student Advising Guidelines, designed to help both students and faculty and to offer best advising practice resources, are available for review and reference at Graduate Student Advising Guidelines.

Master of Science - Environmental Studies

Degree Specific Credits:

  • Thesis option: 33 credits        
  • Professional paper option: 33 credits                        
  • Portfolio option: 36 credits

Required Cumulative GPA: 3.0


Students have three options for demonstrating their critical and analytical abilities and their written communication skills: thesis, a professional paper, or portfolio. The formulation of a topic is encouraged by April of the first year of study.

Thesis Option

Students choosing this option must develop a substantive, original scholarly work that includes either the collection and analysis of data to answer a research question (as in original field research in the natural sciences or survey research in the social sciences) or the production of an innovative, interpretive, or critical work (as in the humanities or fine arts). Upon completion of the thesis, students are given a one-hour oral examination.

Professional Paper Option

Students choosing this option must develop a substantive report directed to a specific audience that demonstrates the student's ability to participate in professional discourse. Upon completion of the professional paper, students are given a one-hour oral examination.

Portfolio Option

In consultation with an Environmental Studies advisor, students choosing this option select courses, internship experience(s), and portfolio project(s) directed toward specific career goals. Portfolios include three discrete elements, one of which is an internship or work experience, and demonstrated coherence between these pieces, the student's course of study, and the student's goals. Upon completion of the portfolio, students are given a one-hour oral examination that focuses upon the integrity of each portfolio piece and coherence between the pieces.


In consultation with the graduate advisor, the student will recruit a graduate committee. The committee must be composed of Montana University System faculty (including emeritus/retired faculty) and/or relevant professionals who serve as faculty affiliates.
  • For the thesis and professional paper options, the graduate committee must have at least 3 members with at least one from outside EVST.
  • The portfolio option committee must have at least 2 members, one of which must be an EVST faculty member.  The other could be from EVST or from outside the department.


  • Environmental Studies graduate students who do either a thesis or a professional paper must register for at least one credit of ENST 599ENSC 599 or ENST 597, respectively, in the semester during which they defend.  The minimum number of credits required for graduation with a thesis or professional paper is 33.
  • Portfolio-option students must take a total of 36 credits, but there are no semester specific credit requirements nor any portfolio credits per se. Their only requirement, which applies to all students, is that they must abide by the continuous registration rule of the Graduate School, registering for at least three credits each semester.
  • An approved natural systems ecology is required if a student has not taken a biologically-grounded ecology course(s) as an undergraduate equivalent to ENSC 360.
  • Students are required to take at least one 3-credit class from each of four distributional area requirements (our core areas of study): Scientific Approaches, Policy Approaches, Thought & Writing, and Engagement. Additional courses meeting the distribution requirements are offered periodically. 
Core Requirements
Complete the following course:
ENST 519Foundations of Change1
Scientific Approaches - Complete one of the following courses:3
Scientific Approaches to Environmental Problems
Environmental Health of Indigenous Peoples
Research Methods for Social Change
Graduate Seminar
Special Topics
Policy Approaches - Complete one of the following courses:3
Environmental Issues of Indigenous Peoples
Environmental Impact Analysis
The Politics of Food
Environmental Justice Issues and Solutions
Graduate Seminar
Special Topics
Thought and Writing - Complete one of the following courses:3
Earth Storytelling: Nature, Climate, Resistance
The Greening of Religion
Ethics & Restoration
Environmental Writing
Graduate Seminar
Special Topics
Engagement - Complete 3 credits of the following courses:3
Supervised Internship PEAS
Graduate Seminar
Special Topics
Complete 9 credits of the following courses:
Watershed Conservation
Natural Resource Conflict Resolution
Social Issues:The Mekong Delta
Environmental Negotiation Mediation
Foundation in Environmental Education
Local Climate Solutions
Land Use Law
Introduction to Environmental Law
Public Land & Resources Law
Water Law
Collaborative Conservation
Graduate Seminar
Special Topics
Any of the core courses listed above not taken as a core requirement can count as an elective.
Additional Course Requirements11-14
Consult with your advisor about additional course requirements.
Total Hours33-36

Minimum Required Grade: C