Environmental Studies, MES

The Masters of Environmental Studies (MES) program offers a rigorous academic grounding in environmental science and exceptional opportunities to conduct research in the field. In addition, students gain the professional networks and individualized professional development needed to excel in the environmental field, whether as a researcher, policy advocate, teacher or business executive.


The Master of Environmental Studies program provides the knowledge base needed to understand complex environmental issues— and allows the flexibility to develop unique expertise and professional experience in a chosen field. With the help of a dedicated academic adviser, a curriculum suited precisely to the student’s goals is developed.

Students will complete 12 course units (CU) that reflect a balance between disciplinary focus and interdisciplinary knowledge. The course of study includes the following elements: 

Complete each of the following:
ENVS 5100Proseminar: Contemporary Issues in Environmental Studies1
ENVS 6998Masters of Environmental Studies Capstone Seminar1
Research Methods course1
Foundation courses4
Professional concentration courses5
Total Course Units12

Research Methods Course (1 CU)

The research methods course prepares students to ask, and confidently answer, the innovative questions they will pose in their capstone project. The requirement can be fulfilled by taking a methodology course that provides students with the data gathering and analysis skills they will use to begin their research projects.

Foundation Courses (4 CU)

Foundation courses help broaden students’ knowledge in areas outside of their chosen concentration, and complement their chosen field. For example, if they are studying sustainability, their foundation course credits are an opportunity to learn about environmental law and policy, or become versed in business, which will be necessary while working in the sustainability sector. Foundation courses allow students to make connections between different sectors and offer the opportunity to discover unexpected synergies and resonances in fields beyond their own. Students choose courses from broad areas such as:

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Biology
  • Environmental Geology
  • Environmental Law
  • Environmental Policy
  • Environmental Business

Professional Concentration Courses (5 CU)

While foundation courses give students a broad understanding of environmental issues, the professional concentration courses help develop the expertise needed to pursue a career in a sub field of environmental studies.

Concentration courses may be taken in any of the 12 graduate Schools at the University (School of Engineering and Applied Science, Graduate School of Education, School of Design, School of Social Policy & Practice, The Wharton School of Business, Penn Law, etc.). Students work with an assigned academic adviser to select courses that best fit individual goals and skills gaps. Students choose from the following concentrations:

If the student’s professional aspirations are not reflected in one of the above concentrations, they can develop an Individualized concentration in conjunction with their academic adviser and with the approval of the Faculty Advisory Committee.

Capstone Seminar (1 CU)

The capstone project is the culmination of the Master of Environmental Studies program, blending academic and professional experiences and serving to emphasize the skills and knowledge developed in the program. Students design a project drawing from their learning in and outside the classroom to demonstrate mastery of their concentration area.

Time Frame

Master of Environmental Studies students may enroll on either a part- time or full-time basis. Time to graduation will vary depending on how many classes are taken each semester and whether summer classes are taken. Full-time students can complete the program in two years, taking three or four classes per semester. Part-time students typically complete their work in three years, taking one or two classes per semester. Individuals working full time are advised to take no more than two courses per term.

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2023 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.