What is graduate study?
Graduate programs provide opportunities for advanced study in an academic discipline, following the completion of a bachelor’s degree. Graduate study commonly includes completing advanced-level academic courses along with a research project. The most common graduate degrees are the master’s degree (usually awarded after two years of study beyond the bachelor’s) and the doctoral (Ph.D.) degree (commonly awarded three years after completion of the master’s). A limited number of graduate programs combine the master’s and Ph.D. programs.
The marine affairs department provides four options for master’s/Ph.D. programs.
Master of Marine Affairs (M.M.A.)
Applicants for this program must have either a graduate degree in a field useful in coastal and ocean management, such as the behavioral sciences, ocean science or engineering, resource economics, law, political science or public administration, or have at least five years of experience in some ocean-related activity.
Master of Arts in Marine Affairs (M.A.M.A.)
Potential applicants who do not have a prior graduate degree or the requisite marine experience to qualify for study toward the M.M.A. degree may make application for the degree of Master of Arts in Marine Affairs.
M.M.A./J.D. Joint Program between URI and Roger Williams Law School
The Roger Williams University J.D. program requires 90 credits that can be completed on a full-time basis in three years. The M.M.A. degree at URI requires 30 credits that can be completed on a full-time basis in one year. A student matriculated in the joint program will take some credits in one program that will also help satisfy the overall credit requirements of the other degree program. The effect of these credit transfers generally reduces the total time needed to complete both degrees from four to three and one-half years.
M.M.A./Ph.D. Joint Degree Program between Marine Affairs and the URI Graduate School of Oceanography
The Graduate School of Oceanography and the Department of Marine Affairs of the College of Environment and Life Sciences offer a Joint Degree Program in which students simultaneously take an Oceanography Ph.D. and a Master of Marine Affairs (M.M.A.) degree.
A detailed description of each of these degree opportunities is provided under the “Available Programs” Tab to the left of this page.
Why should I consider graduate school?
Although job opportunities exist for those with a bachelor’s degree, students who pursue a graduate degree will have the most potential for career advancement. Employees with a graduate degree typically advance faster and farther than employees who only have a bachelor’s degree. Moreover, an advanced degree is required for anyone who wants to pursue a career teaching and/or doing research at a college or university.
In marine affairs, it is important to consider graduate school because a graduate degree will help you get a job in the field and advance in your career. The URI Marine Affairs Graduate Program is among the best in the country and is well known and recognized by those who work in the field. Many marine affairs-type jobs give preference to those with advanced degrees, and sometimes will only hire someone with an advanced degree. A master’s or Ph.D. will be very beneficial if your goal is to work in the ocean and coastal policy field.
When pursuing a marine affairs master’s degree, you will learn how many people in the coastal and ocean policy field have received their master’s in marine affairs from URI. You read articles written by alumni, hear about them in the news, learn about their research, and encounter many alumni at networking events and while seeking jobs. A master’s degree in marine affairs from URI will encourage you to develop and refine research skills, provide a wealth of information and guidance regarding various ocean and coastal management topics, and allow you to concentrate in an even more specialized field such as coastal hazards and climate change, fisheries, or ports and transportation. To learn about the graduate degrees available in marine affairs, see the Graduate Studies Overview page by clicking on the “Overview” link to the left.
What should I do now as an undergraduate?
Graduate programs are intended for top students with high academic potential. Thus, your first step is to earn good grades in your classes as you complete your bachelor’s degree. Graduate programs commonly require applicants to have graduated from their undergraduate institution with at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA.
However, your degree does not need to be in marine affairs. In fact, graduate students in marine affairs have bachelor’s degrees in a wide variety of fields, including biology, political science, economics, sociology, environmental studies, history, fisheries science, and maritime studies.
Most graduate programs also require that you complete a standardized entrance exam that’s the graduate school equivalent of the SAT or ACT. Students considering a law or business graduate program would take either the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Most graduate programs, including marine affairs, usually require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Visit the GRE Website for test information and advice on preparing for the exam. Applicants to the graduate program in marine affairs are required to either take the GRE, have five or more years of experience in a related field, or already have another advanced degree, such as a master’s in a related field or a Juris Doctor (J.D.).
Gaining professional and/or research experience in your field is also strongly encouraged. Starting your freshman year, look for opportunities that will give you a range of experiences outside the classroom including:
- research projects and/or independent study opportunities;
- volunteering with local environmental, science, or management organizations or consulting firms;
- paid professional positions with businesses or with a research group; and/or
See the Experiential Learning Tab for more information and ideas.
Finally, read the admission requirements and watch the application deadlines carefully for whatever programs you choose to apply to; these vary from one university to another.
Where should I begin my search?
Students should attend graduate programs that specialize in their area of interest. You will need to research the programs first to see if they are right for you. Many Websites, such as those listed below, offer descriptions of graduate programs:
GradSchools.com – This site lists descriptions of graduate programs in the environmental and natural resource economics field that are available throughout the world.
The Chronicle of Higher Education – You can find rankings of the various U.S. departments specializing in the field on this site.
For marine affairs, there are many related programs at numerous schools. However, one of the best is right here at the University of Rhode Island, where you can earn a Master, Master of Arts, or Ph.D. in marine affairs. See the department Website for more information: http://cels.uri.edu/maf/Default.aspx.
Another great way to learn about the opportunities available in graduate school is brainstorming with friends or colleagues who already have graduate degrees or who are currently attending graduate school. You can search online for individual programs near where you live or in areas where you would like to live. Your undergraduate program faculty and advisor are great sources of information regarding graduate programs and graduate study in general.
Prior to sending out applications (which costs you time and money), it is a good idea to visit potential programs to meet faculty and graduate students and to get a sense of “fit” for your specific interests and needs. If you are unable to physically visit campus, ask a faculty member for contact information of current students so you can talk to them and ask questions. It is common for current marine affairs graduate students to get contacted by prospective graduate students with questions about the program and student life.
Will I be able to afford graduate school?
You can attend graduate school full- or part-time, so the cost may not be as high on an annual basis as for your bachelor’s degree. If you are working, find out whether your employer will pay for you to take graduate-level classes. If you are a New England resident and you are attending a public institution outside of your home state, you may qualify for Regional Tuition. See the New England Board of Higher Education’s “Tuition Break” website for more information.
Universities also offer a limited number of graduate teaching and research assistantships. Many highly qualified marine affairs graduate students receive a funding offer as part of their admissions packet. These positions pay a portion of your tuition and provide a stipend in exchange for working 10 to 20 hours per week during the academic year, assisting in teaching classes or on a research project. If your assistantship is 20 hours (full-time), then your tuition is completely waived. If your assistantship is 10 hours (part-time), then half of your tuition is waived. Requirements for receiving either full or half assistantships vary depending on the need in your department and at the University at the time of your application and enrollment.
Prospective students should also consult the Graduate School’s Web page for potential grants. Loans and other financial aid are also available.
What is available at URI?
The Department of Marine Affairs offers four graduate programs:
Master of Marine Affairs (M.M.A.)
Applicants for this program must either have a graduate degree in a field useful in coastal and ocean management, such as the behavioral sciences, ocean science or engineering, resource economics, law, political science or public administration, OR have at least five years of experience in some ocean-related activity. In this program, students acquire knowledge and analytical skills through required and elective courses.
The core courses are: Ocean Uses and Marine Science (MAF 511), Economics of Marine Resources (EEC 514), International Ocean Law (MAF 577), and the Marine Affairs Seminar (MAF 651). The fall Seminar is the focus of interdisciplinary exchange; it relies heavily on outside speakers and resident faculty members and requires student presentations on specific selected problems.
Students also take 15 credit hours of electives in marine affairs and in other fields, such as community planning, fisheries technology, geology, oceanography, political science, and resource economics. An additional three credits are earned with the preparation of a major research paper, the subject of which is determined by the student with the approval of the student’s major professor. Substantial independent effort is required in research projects and written work. The 30 non-thesis credits required for the degree may be earned in nine months of intensive, full-time resident study. The major paper is submitted toward the end of the spring semester. A written comprehensive examination is also required for the M.M.A. degree.
The Master of Marine Affairs degree program does not offer an intensive concentration but fills in the gaps left by narrow specialization.
Master of Arts in Marine Affairs (M.A.M.A.)
Potential applicants who do not have a prior graduate degree or the requisite marine experience may apply for the Master of Arts in Marine Affairs. This degree is a two-year, 45-credit program with the option of a thesis. Candidates for the M.A.M.A. take 18 required course credits (six courses) including those listed above under the M.M.A. program, as well as Research Methods in Marine Affairs (MAF 502) and Quantitative Methods in Marine Affairs (MAF 482). Additionally, a minimum of 21 credits (seven courses) is earned in elective courses. This program of study enables a student to specialize in a given area and still receive the multidisciplinary influence of the M.M.A. program. To complete the program of study, M.A.M.A. students have two options: a six-credit master’s thesis of an inter-disciplinary nature, or a three-credit major paper with written comprehensive exams (the same requirements for the M.M.A. degree).
M.M.A./J.D. Joint Program between URI and Roger Williams University Law School
The Roger Williams University J.D. program requires 90 credits that can be completed on a full-time basis in three years. The M.M.A. degree at URI requires 30 credits that can be completed on a full-time basis in one year. A student matriculated in the joint program will take some credits in one program that will also help satisfy the overall credit requirements of the other degree program. The effect of these credit transfers generally reduces the total time needed to complete both degrees from four to three and one-half years. Students in the joint program must complete MAF 511, 577, 589, 651, and EEC 514 or their equivalent as part of their 24-credit requirement at URI, in addition to six credits at Roger Williams University School of Law. The Department of Marine Affairs very strongly recommends that students take Ocean Uses and Marine Sciences (MAF 511), International Ocean Law (MAF 577), and the Marine Affairs Seminar (MAF 651) in their starting fall semester and Economics of Marine Resources (EEC 514) in the following spring semester. Roger Williams University School of Law students must complete the required law school curriculum and may apply nine marine affairs credits toward the J.D. Students should note that, as is the case with all students in the M.M.A. program, students in the Joint Program also take the written comprehensive examination for the M.M.A. degree.
Students must apply and be accepted into each program under the separate admissions requirements currently in effect at each university. Students already enrolled as J.D. candidates at RWU School of Law must submit their COMPLETED application for the URI M.M.A. degree by close of business (5 pm) on January 15.
Oceanography/Marine Affairs Ph.D./M.M.A.
The Graduate School of Oceanography and the Department of Marine Affairs of the College of Environment and Life Sciences are offering a Joint Degree Program in which students simultaneously take an Oceanography Ph.D. and a Master of Marine Affairs (M.M.A.) degree. The program in marine affairs focuses on ocean/coastal management, policy, and law and the joint degree program will prepare scientists with policy knowledge and skills needed in many contemporary professional positions, both inside and outside of government. At the discretion of the cognizant major professor, up to six credits from each degree may be counted toward the degree requirements of the other, thus, reducing the total requirements by up to 12 credits (to 66 + 24 = 90). Students wishing to enroll in the Joint Degree Program must apply to be admitted to both the Department of Marine Affairs’ M.M.A. program and the GSO Ph.D. program. To ensure adequate marine experience, a student in the program may not be nominated for the M.M.A. degree until the comprehensive examinations in the oceanography doctoral program are successfully completed.
To learn more about graduate degree opportunities in the Department of Marine Affairs, visit the Marine Affairs Graduate Program Website. Feel free to contact the graduate director, Dr. Richard Burroughs, with any questions you may have about the program.
For admissions information and to apply on-line, visit the URI Graduate School