M.S. in Environmental & Natural Resource Economics

Applicants should have completed course work in microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics, and basic calculus, and must have a minimum B average in undergraduate work. The department has considerable experience in working with students who do not have undergraduate majors in economics or resource economics. In our experience, many who study resource economics for a M.S. degree in the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics have taken undergraduate degrees in fields other than economics, agricultural economics, or resource economics. In recent years, we have had M.S. students with backgrounds in physics, biopsychology, biology, zoology, history, English, psychology, and engineering. Some of these students have come to our program after job experiences or public service which have convinced them of the importance of resource and environmental economics in public policy formation. Others have developed their interests too late in their undergraduate careers to conveniently adjust their majors. We welcome these students because often they have insights, skills and knowledge about the physical and biological world that combines well with the subject matter of resource and environmental economics. We take pride in having the program flexibility that allows us to develop individual programs for such students and then to produce graduates who are competitive with their peers at other first-rate departments throughout the world.

Following subsections provide basic information on the requirements for M.S. degree program. For more details and up to date requirements, please refer to Graduate School Manual (GSM), which can be foundĀ here. Please note that while we make every effort to keep the contents below up to date, where there are any discrepancies the contents in Graduate School Manual will dominate.

Program Requirements

Master’s students can select between two options: the Thesis option or the Non-Thesis option.

Non-Thesis option:
Students in the non-thesis option are required to complete a total of 34 credits, 33 of which must be formal course work. The remaining credit is awarded for completion of a major paper under the supervision of the major professor and acknowledgement by the Graduate Program Director. The student must complete the major paper under the Master’s Non-thesis Research course (EEC 598). Courses required are 501, 502, 528, 534, 535, and 576 (see also GSM 7.45).

Thesis option:
Students in the thesis option must complete a minimum of 30 credits. Of these credits, at least 24 are formal course work, with the remaining 6 credits comprised of Master’s Thesis Research (EEC 599). A Master’s thesis is typically more complete and rigorous work than a major paper. In addition, the Master’s thesis must be signed by a 3-member committee, and the student must defend the thesis. Courses required are 501, 502, 528, 534, 535, and 576 (see also GSM 7.44).

Course Credit

Basics: Total number of credits requirement differs between the Thesis and Non-thesis options; please see above. All courses taken for program credit must be at the graduate level, which is usually at the 500 or 600 levels. No more than half of the non-research credits (598 or 599) can be at the 400 level; and the remainder must be at the 500 or 600 level. As an example, if the total number of credits is 30 credits, and 6 of which are for master’s research credits (say EEC 599), then only 12 credits or fewer of 400-level coursework can be counted towards the required credits (see GSM 9.10). No courses below the 400 level can be taken for program credit. However, these courses can be taken for non-program credit, in order to fill deficiencies in preparation. Note, however, that all courses are included in determining the student’s grade point average.

EEC 501 (departmental seminar) must be taken each semester by full-time graduate students in residence, but only 1 credit may count toward the program.

Credit transfer: The total of transfer credits, which includes advanced standing credits and credits by examination or equivalent may not exceed 20% of the program’s total credits. Under unusual circumstances, master’s degree students may exceed the 20% rule on transfer credits; however, the total of advanced standing, transfer and credit by examination must still not exceed the 40% maximum (GSM 7.20 (a)).

The M.S. program in Resource Economics allows a great deal of flexibility for the student to pursue individual interests. Students frequently include courses from business, statistics, oceanography, marine affairs, community planning, engineering and natural resource science.

The usual semester course load for students not on an assistantship is 12 credits. Students not on an assistantship must take a minimum of 9 credits to be considered on full time status. A normal load is 9 credits for a student on an assistantship; 6 credits is the minimum for full-time students on assistantships.

Comprehensive Examination

Students in both Thesis and Non-thesis options are required to take Written Comprehensive Examinations at the end of their first academic year in the program, other than in cases of exceptional circumstances and with advanced permission from the Graduate Program Director. The exam is offered in May. The exam is composed of four parts: microeconomic theory, environmental economics, natural resource economics, and econometrics (GSM 7.44 and 7.45).


Thesis option M.S. students are required to submit typically during the first or second semester in which the student registers for research credits, but must be at least one semester before the semester in which the thesis itself is to be submitted and defended (GSM 7.44.3). Completed thesis is then must be defended (GSM 7.44.5).

Future Employment Opportunities

Our experience is that there is a strong demand for our M.S. graduates, both in the private and public sector. These include positions in government agencies, private consulting firms, non-governmental organizations, and private industry. Our M.S. graduates, several have been hired as researchers in environmental and natural resource economics by major consulting firms, some are working in government agencies which oversee regulations of natural resources, and others are employed by industries which harvest or otherwise utilize natural resource products. Many of our M.S. students go on for further graduate education, pursuing the Ph.D. degree.