PhD Degree Requirements

About the Doctoral Program 

Our doctoral program in Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Policy (ESSP) offers a unique opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary research on environmental topics and issues while gaining a thorough grounding in the methods and knowledge base of a traditional discipline. Each student designs an individualized curriculum responsive to their educational and career goals. 

Our program prepares students for academic positions in their focal discipline or in interdisciplinary programs, for research occupations, and for leadership roles in creating and implementing environmental solutions in the private sector. Recent graduates of our program now hold academic positions at Oberlin, University of Alaska, Ursinus, Villanova, and Yale.  

ESSP students gain a foundation in the methods of a particular discipline through their “focal” department courses. Any PhD-granting department at the University of Oregon (except for Environmental Studies) may serve as a focal department. Since our program requires close collaboration between Environmental Studies and the focal department, applicants must be approved by both programs. For more information about the focal department structure of our program, visit About Focal Departments.

To gain interdisciplinary breadth, our students also complete a secondary concentration area (16 credits, usually four courses) outside of the focal department. The secondary concentration provides an opportunity to gain perspectives from other disciplines, leading to a richer grasp of complex issues and the opportunity for interdisciplinary innovation. Any areas of graduate study that complement the student’s main research may be pursued as concentration areas. 

Our doctoral students are generally supported by teaching or research assistantships (Graduate Employee appointments) that provide a tuition waiver, a stipend, and benefits. Most students have the opportunity to teach a course at some point in their doctoral program. Read more about graduate student funding and research support.

In addition to the flexible and interdisciplinary nature of our curriculum, students are attracted to our doctoral program by the world-class environmental resources of our university, the strong sense of community among the Environmental Studies students, faculty, and staff, and the environmental research opportunities and natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. 

Degree Requirements 

Environmental Studies Core Courses: Two courses taken in the first year that provide a foundation for interdisciplinary environmental studies. 

Focal Department Course Work: Graduate course work required by the focal department, including graduate-level proficiency in research methods of the focal discipline. 

Secondary Concentration Course Work: Sixteen graduate-level credits (typically four courses) in a department or an interdisciplinary theme outside the focal department and outside Environmental Studies. 

Assessments of Competence: After coursework is completed, completion of exams, papers and/or proposals assessing the student’s research preparation in interdisciplinary environmental studies and the focal department. 

Doctoral Dissertation: Completion of 18 credits of ENVS 603 Dissertation. Completion and defense of a written dissertation.  Approval of the dissertation by a dissertation committee of four faculty members representing the Environmental Studies Program, the focal department, and other departments. 

The degree requirements are detailed in the Environmental Sciences, Studies and Policy Doctoral Handbook.

Environmental Studies Courses