Natural Resources Ph.D.

All students must meet the Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree


The Ph.D. program provides the opportunity for focused, in-depth research in any of the specialties of the school, while fostering an interdisciplinary appreciation and perspective through course work and interactions with ecological, physical, and social scientists in an integrated academic setting. Students can develop programs in areas such as pollution ecology, recreation and tourism, conservation biology, and environmental policy, as well as any of the traditional natural resource disciplines featured in the master's program. In addition, formal course work and practical experience in college-level teaching are an important component of the doctoral curriculum.

Specific Requirements

Requirements for Admission to Graduate Studies for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Completion of the Graduate College Application form. A potential faculty advisor holding an appointment in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and the Graduate College who will agree to serve as the student's primary mentor. Applicants with a Master of Science degree are preferred. As of 2018, the Rubenstein School no longer requires a GRE exam for admissions.

Minimum Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy requires 75 total credits (including NR 6070 Applied Ecology, Environment and Society, and NR 6060: Envisioning a Sustainable Future). For students entering the program with a completed Master's Degree, 15 total graded course credits are required. For students entering the program without a Master's Degree, 30 total graded credits are required. Credits must include no less than 20 and no more than 45 credits of dissertation research. In addition, students must complete a public proposal defense, an approved research proposal, a written and oral comprehensive examination, and a teaching/professional skills requirement. An oral defense of the dissertation is required of all students.

Comprehensive Examination

Both a written and oral comprehensive examination are required for all Ph.D. students. The examination will cover broad knowledge of the student's discipline. The exams should be taken and passed during the second year of matriculation. The Graduate College requirement stipulates that the examination must occur at least six months before the dissertation is submitted.

The format of the exam will be as follows:

  • In no instance will the written exam period be less than 2 days or more than 7. The committee members will specify whether students will have access to outside materials such as books, lecture notes, articles, reading notes, etc., to develop responses. In order to encourage succinct and focused writing, committee members are encouraged to specify a maximum page length for answers to each question.
  • A student's primary advisor will collect the questions from each committee member and provide the student 1 set of questions per day (day defined as 8-12 hours). The student will send the answer(s) to the full committee at the end of each day.
  • The written exam should include questions that probe four areas:  a) the philosophy of science; b) theory in the student's area of specialization; c) methods in the student's area of specialization; and d) integration of social and natural science dimensions of the environment and natural resources. 
  • The oral exam will focus on the subject areas from the written exam, particularly any weak areas. The oral exam will follow within 1 month of satisfactory completion of written exam. The underlying intent is to examine the student's ability to think and express themself extemporaneously. Therefore, questions need not be limited to the subject areas originally designated, but rather may seek to discern if students have the knowledge that is essential to understand information in their field of study.
  • The oral exam shall be presided over by the Chair of the Studies Committee. Its recommended duration is 2 hours and should not exceed 3.

Requirements for Advancement to Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

It is ordinarily expected that a student will complete the following requirements for advancement to candidacy prior to the end of the second year in the program:

  • Successful completion of any required courses, and at least 15 - 30, as required, graded graduate credits acceptable to the student's graduate studies committee
  • A GPA of 3.00 or greater is required
  • Satisfactory performance on a comprehensive examination;
  • Delivery of a public proposal seminar; and
  • A dissertation proposal accepted by the student's graduate studies committee.