Environmental Studies, Department of

MS - Environmental Studies

Graduate Coordinator: Will Russell

Advisors: Katherine Cushing, Kathryn Davis, Jason Douglas, Gary Klee, Dustin Mulvaney, Rachel O'Malley, Will Russell, Lynne Trulio

The Master of Science in Environmental Studies program is designed to prepare students for careers as environmental professionals or to pursue further academic training in Ph.D. and other advanced degree programs. Global and local perspectives are integrated in the coursework and the faculty and students embrace a diversity of perspectives. Faculty members work closely with graduate students within the above areas of specialization to execute a program of study. For additional information, review the list of faculty thesis advisors and contact those with focus areas of interest to you. See the department website for more information:

Our interdisciplinary curriculum embraces both quantitative and qualitative research, and some of the topics that it focuses on include:

California Wild (Protected) Lands

Forest Ecology and Conservation

Climate Impacts Research

Human Ecology

Coastal Environments


Insect Conservation

Corporate Sustainability

Marine Environments


Nature and Conservation Photography

Environmental Education

Political Ecology

Environmental Impact Assessment

Pro-environmental Behavior

Environmental Justice

Sustainable Food Systems

Environmental Policy

Water Resources Management

Environmental Restoration

Wetlands Ecology, Restoration, and Management

Wildlife Conservation and Management

Admissions Requirements

Applicants must submit a complete graduate application by applying through the CSU Cal State Apply system at and meet all the university admission requirements. Applicants apply separately to the department to obtain admission into the Environmental Studies Program. For general information about graduate admissions at SJSU. The Department of Environmental Studies admits students to the Master of Science programs in Classified or Conditional Standing.

Requirements for Admission to Classified Standing

Basic requirements for admission to the Graduate Division are outlined in the Admissions section of this catalog. Contact the department or see our admissions materials for specific application deadlines. For admission to classified standing the department requires the following:

  1. An undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies or related field from an accredited institution;
  2. An overall grade point average of 3.0 ("B") or better for the last 60 semester units of academic study;
  3. The capability, in the opinion of the graduate committee, of successfully completing degree requirements;
  4. The removal of deficiencies if preparation differs markedly from the BS - Environmental Studies at San José State University. (BA students may be required to complete a general science background.) Courses used to remove such deficiencies cannot be used to fulfill MS requirements. For further information, see graduate coordinator;
  5. Two letters of recommendation from university faculty members or professionals in the field;
  6. A personal statement of purpose that describes your background and objectives for seeking the MS - Environmental Studies at SJSU. This letter should also convey a sense of focus and direction for thesis research and potential faculty thesis advisers in the department; and
  7. Applicants from countries in which the native language is not English must achieve a minimum score of 580 (Paper Based), 237 (Computer Based), or 92 (Internet Based) on the TOEFL exam for foreign students.

Requirements for Admission to Conditionally Classified Standing

If not accepted into classified standing, the applicant may qualify for conditionally classified status for which the following will be required: the ability, in the opinion of the departmental graduate committee, to remove deficiencies in a period not to exceed the equivalent of one full-time semester of coursework. The individual admission letter will explain required terms and conditions for attaining Classified standing.

Requirements for Advancement to Candidacy

Once a student has completed all required courses, with the exception of ENVS 299: Master's Thesis or Project, and has submitted a completed and signed thesis proposal to the Graduate Coordinator, a Petition to Advance to Candidacy must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator and GAPE office. The application to candidacy should be submitted a year prior to the expected graduation date. The University requires that all graduate students complete the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) as a condition for advancement to candidacy. Please refer to the SJSU catalog section titled "Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement" for details. For graduate courses that meet the GWAR, please refer to the Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations website at In addition, students must secure a commitment of three faculty members of the university, two of whom must be members of the permanent faculty, to serve as members of the student's Plan A (thesis) or Plan B (Project) committee, with one permanent faculty member agreeing to serve as chair. The committee must approve the student's thesis or project proposal for the master's degree no later than one month prior to the end of the semester preceding the one in which enrollment in the final project or thesis course(s) is planned.

Requirements for Graduation

University Graduation Requirements

Students must complete all residency, curriculum, unit, GPA, and culminating experience requirements as outlined in the Graduation Requirements section of the Graduate Policies and Procedures.

In consultation with the department graduate coordinator, the candidate will develop and pursue a program of study. The candidate must successfully complete all requirements of the selected plan including the course work specified in the Master's Degree Approval Program.

Course Requirements

Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement
At SJSU, students must pass the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR). For information on the GWAR, please see
Requirements of the Masters30
ENVS 200. Seminar: Environmental Methods3
ENVS 250. Seminar: Environmental Thought and Philosophy3
ENVS 297. Research and Proposal DevelopmentGWAR3
100 or 200-level courses in Environmental Studies or related fields selected with advisor's approval. At least 9 elective units must be in the form of field analysis, laboratory work, or other form of application science. The maximum number of upper-division undergraduate units that can be applied toward the master's degree is 15.
Culminating Experience6
Complete one option (Plan A or Plan B):
Plan A (with Thesis)30
ENVS 299. Master's Thesis or Project1-6
Plan B (without Thesis)30
ENVS 298. Special Study1-4

Total Units:30

Elective courses must be planned in consultation with the Graduate Advisor.

The maximum number of upper-division undergraduate units that can be applied toward the master's degree is 15.

Upon completion of the degree requirements, the student must have achieved minimum candidacy and SJSU Cumulative grade point averages of 3.0 in order to graduate.

Culminating Experience

Plan A (Thesis)

The thesis will include original research on a topic approved by the thesis committee, and must meet university requirements as stipulated in this catalog and in the SJSU Master's Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation Guidelines. It will undergo a thorough review and revision process under the guidance of the candidate's thesis committee chair with the assistance of the thesis committee. In addition, the candidate for the MS degree must successfully pass a final oral defense of the thesis.

Plan B (Project)

Under rare circumstances, a very strong project of appropriate scope and depth for master's level work might be approved in lieu of the thesis. This option requires the written consent of at least three graduate advisors, the graduate coordinator, and the department chair. In addition to the required coursework, Plan B students will take comprehensive examinations on three topics to be arranged by the student's project committee.