Program goal

The goal of the M.S. in Environmental Studies is to provide an interdisciplinary master’s degree program in environmental studies that emphasizes the critical links between environmental life sciences and public policy. This goal necessitates training that crosses disciplinary boundaries. Through a program of study combining environmental science, environmental technology and environmental policy, the successful graduate will gain a range of skills designed to facilitate a science-based understanding of the natural world and human interactions with it. The M.S. is specifically designed to prepare students for careers involving science and policy research through the completion of a culminating thesis project.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Graduates will be able to use emerging environmental technologies and apply them under real-world conditions.
  2. Graduates will be able to conduct objective research and/or interpret research findings, and apply scientific concepts and information to the decision-making process for environmental regulations and policies.
  3. Graduates will be able to effectively bridge the realms of policy and science on critical environmental issues and be able to make significant contributions in an interdisciplinary professional and academic environment.
  4. Graduates will possess a sophisticated and practical understanding of methods for collection, analysis, presentation and critical interpretation of environmental data using appropriate statistical and quantitative tools.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Apply online at

Admission requirements

Degree: Semester(s) of entry: Deadline dates: Test requirements:
M.S.FallJul 1GRE
SpringDec 1TOEFL required for international students
SummerMay 1

Special requirements

  • For students seeking fall admission, preference is given to applications received before March 15. Students wishing to be considered for funding must apply by April 1. See program website.

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, applicants must have successfully completed undergraduate training and hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution reflecting ability to perform at the graduate level.

While qualified students from any baccalaureate program will be considered for admission to the Master of Science in Environmental Studies (M.S.) program, due to the program goal of linking science and policy, students with narrow training in one field or the other may be required to complete some basic education in the alternate field prior to full admission. Moreover, admission to the M.S. program requires a sponsoring faculty adviser, who will function as a thesis adviser for the admitted student. Students without such sponsorship will be considered for admission to the Master of Environmental Studies (M.Envs.) degree program. If an appropriate adviser is identified following admission, the student’s program may be changed to the M.S. program.

Students admitted to the program are generally drawn from applicants with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale or equivalent) and satisfactory scores on a current standardized graduate admissions test (normally the GRE). Applicants holding an undergraduate degree from recognized foreign institutions should display an acceptable level of English proficiency by achieving a minimum score of 600 on the TOEFL paper-based examination or 100 on the Internet-based examination.

Degree requirements

In addition to general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, students must:

  1. Complete a minimum of 33 graduate credit hours, approved by the program director, with an overall minimum GPA of 3.0 on all graduate course work attempted after acceptance into the program (At least one-half of required course work must be at the 600 level or higher).
  2. Complete three required core courses (9 credit hours)
  3. Complete an additional 18 credit hours of approved graduate electives
  4. Develop a research proposal approved by a committee of three faculty members
  5. Qualify for degree candidacy based upon satisfactory completion of the above requirements
  6. Complete the proposed research culminating in a publication-quality thesis (6 research credit hours)
  7. Successfully defend the research thesis

Curriculum requirements

Core requirements
ENVS   601Survey in Environmental Studies3
ENVS   603Environmental Research Methods3
STAT   543Statistical Methods I (or equivalent)3
Select a maximum of six credit hours from the following ( M.S. degree only):6
Select from electives below 118
Total Hours33

Courses must represent at least two of the disciplines below. Listed courses are options and are not comprehensive of all electives. Other electives may be allowed with prior permission of major adviser and program director.


Environmental studies
ENVS   550Ecological Risk Assessment3
ENVS/ANTH 556Historical and Cultural Landscapes3
ENVS   692Independent Study 11-3
ENVS   693Internship in Environmental Studies 11-3
Environmental policy and administration
ENVS/PADM 628Environmental Policy and Administration3
ENVS/GVPA 640River Policy3
ENVS   660Virginia Environmental Law3
PADM   601Principles of Public Administration3
URSP   650Natural Resources and Environmental Planning3
URSP   652Environmental Analysis3
Environmental science/health
BIOL   510Conservation Biology3
BIOL   514Stream Ecology4
BIOL   532Water Pollution Biology3
BIOL   591Special Topics in Biology (applied and environmental microbiology)1-4
ENVS   650Pesticides, Health and the Environment3
ENVS   655Hydrogeology3
ENVS   670Pollution Physiology3
Environmental technology
ENVS/URSP 521Introduction to Geographic Information Systems3
ENVS   602Environmental Technology1-3
ENVS/URSP 654Environmental Remote Sensing3
ENVS   691Topics in Environmental Studies (environmental applications of GIS)1-3

Students may not apply more than three credit hours (total) of ENVS   692 and/or ENVS   693 to the degree without prior approval of the major adviser and program director.

Total number of graduate credit hours required (minimum) 33

Graduate program director
Stephen P. McIninch, Ph.D.
Professor, Center for Environmental Studies
(804) 828-7202

Program website: