Ph.D. in Environmental & Natural Resource Economics

The Ph.D. program in the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics consists of 72 credits, including core courses in economic theory, with an emphasis on aspects pertinent to natural resource use. REN 501, 502, 528, 534, 535, 576, 602, 624, 628, 630, 634, and 676 are required courses. You can visit the Courses link on the left side of the page to see a list of the courses offered. Additional courses may be elected from appropriate offerings in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, as well as from other disciplines including Engineering, Geography, Natural Resource Science, Oceanography, Mathematics, Political Science, Statistics, Computer Science, and Management Science. A dissertation is written on a problem involving environmental and natural resources or in an associated industry. A dissertation defense is required. A Ph.D. qualifying examination is required of students admitted without the M.S. degree in a related field.

Following subsections provide basic information on the requirements for Ph.D. degree program. For more details and up to date requirements, please refer to Graduate School Manual (GSM), which can be found 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.

Course Credits

Basics: The Ph.D. degree requires a minimum of 72 credits. At least 42 credits must be taken at the URI (see GSM 7.54). For students who have received the master’s degree in the same field of study or in a closely related field, all coursework beyond the master’s degree towards the doctorate must be at the 500 or 600 levels. For students who have not been awarded the master’s degree by the time they enroll in Graduate School, a maximum of 12 credits within the minimum of 72 credits required for the Ph.D. may be taken at the 400 level (upper undergraduate courses). All other work for program credit must be at the 500 or 600 levels. (GSM 9.20)

Credit transfer: Students without a master’s degree in the same or closely related area may transfer up to 20% of the total credits required in the program (GSM 7.20 (b)). Students with a master’s degree in the same or closely related area may request that up to 30 credits from this master’s degree be applied to their doctoral program. If the degree is from another accredited institution up to 6 additional credits in any combination of advanced standing and/or transfer credits may be applied to the doctoral program with special permission of the Dean of the Graduate School (GSM 7.20 (b)). If the degree is from URI, a total of up to 9 credits combining transfer and advanced standing are allowed.

Full-time students not on an assistantship are required to carry a course load of 9 – 15 credits. The usual semester course load for students not on an assistantship is 12 credits. A normal load is 9 credits for a student on an assistantship; 6 credits is the minimum for full-time students on assistantships.

Comprehensive and Qualifying Examinations

All Ph.D. students must take the written and oral comprehensive examinations. Students are required to take Written Comprehensive Examinations at the end of their first academic year in the Ph.D. program, other than in cases of exceptional circumstances and with advanced permission from the Graduate Program Director. The exam is composed of three parts: microeconomic theory, environmental and natural resource economics theory, and quantitative methods (econometrics and dynamic optimization). The exam is offered in May. The oral comprehensive exam is given after successful completion of the written comprehensive exam. The exam committee is made up of the student’s dissertation committee and two additional members, one within the department and one outside the department (GSM 7.57).

Students without a master’s degree in the same or closely related area are also required to take the Qualifying Examination at the end of their first academic year in the graduate program, usually in May (GSM 7.55). Note that students with relevant master’s degree may still be required by the Graduate Program Director to take the Qualifying Examination under certain circumstances (e.g., number of years since the degree was obtained).


The Ph.D. dissertation is a major piece of independent research. The research is guided principally by the student and the major professor, with input from the remaining members of the dissertation committee. As soon as possible after the written comprehensive exam, students should complete a dissertation proposal (GSM 7.56). The proposal outlines the problem to be addressed and methods to be used in the thesis. See also GSM 7.58 for details about dissertation requirements and oral defense.

Future Employment Opportunities

Our experience is that there is a strong demand for our Ph.D. graduates both in the private and public sector. These jobs range from positions in academia, in government agencies concerned with resource management, in some of the nation’s best private consulting firms concerned with environmental issues, in industries harvesting our natural resource stocks, and in non-governmental organizations.