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Master’s Degree Programs

Two-Year Master’s Degree Programs

The School of Forestry & Environmental Studies offers four two-year master’s degrees: the professionally oriented Master of Environmental Management (M.E.M.) and the Master of Forestry (M.F.), and the research-oriented Master of Environmental Science (M.E.Sc.) and Master of Forestry Science (M.F.S.). The master’s degree programs vary in their level of prescription, but all are sufficiently flexible to accommodate the diverse academic backgrounds, professional experiences, and career aspirations of a large and vibrant student body. The program curricula draw from more than one hundred courses taught by fifty F&ES faculty, as well as from courses taught elsewhere at Yale. Each student’s course of study is customized through consultation with a faculty adviser who guides the student’s learning experience from the first week at Yale until graduation. The master’s degree programs require a minimum of two years in residence, 48 credits of course work at Yale, a summer internship or research experience, and completion of the Training Modules in Technical Skills prior to the student’s first term (see below).

Master of Environmental Management

The Master of Environmental Management degree prepares students for careers in environmental policy and analysis, green business, design and planning, conservation and stewardship, education, consulting, or journalism. The program requires course work from the diverse perspectives of the natural and social sciences, with a focus on the complex relationship among science, management, and policy. The purpose of the program is to provide students with a scientific understanding of ecological and social systems that can be applied in a policy or management context. Students are also expected to hone their capacity as leaders and managers through summer internships, professional skills courses, and other opportunities.

The M.E.M. curriculum is designed to ensure that F&ES graduates continue to be competitive in the ever-changing job market and ready to distinguish themselves as the next generation of leading environmental professionals. The M.E.M. curriculum consists of four main components: Foundations, Electives, Professional Skills, and a Capstone in applied problem solving.


Six Foundations courses in five subject areas—(1) biological and ecological sciences, (2) earth and atmospheric sciences, (3) environmental economics, (4) statistics, and (5) social and policy sciences—cover the essential knowledge and theory that every environmental manager should have, regardless of his or her intended areas of specialization. F&ES elective courses build on these Foundations in addressing long-standing and emerging environmental problems in the later stages of the curriculum.

Students are strongly encouraged to take a Foundations course in each of the five areas, as they cover concepts and principles that serve as starting points for F&ES’s advanced elective offerings. Students may be proficient in the subject areas of one or more of the Foundations courses. This proficiency should be determined through discussion with the student’s academic adviser and through consultation with the School’s Foundations Advisory Committee (FAC). This faculty committee considers a student’s prior course work in relationship to the content of a Foundations course (specified by the student) to determine proficiency and the appropriateness of proficiency-based exemption from that course. A student seeking FAC counsel on proficiency exemption should submit a completed Foundations Course Exemption form to the registrar by August 29, 2014.

The Foundations courses are offered during the fall terms. Students are encouraged to take two or three Foundations courses during their first term and the remaining Foundations courses—those less central to their intended areas of specialization and hence less essential as prerequisites for their upper-level course selections—in their third term.


The main body of the curriculum consists of elective courses that present advanced-level treatments of topics and disciplines. Students can choose from approximately 130 courses in developing expertise in an area of specialization relevant to their career goals, with the assistance of their adviser, the Career Development Office, and other mentors. Collectively, these courses explore the social, political, ecological, and physicochemical processes that affect freshwater, atmospheric, land, industrial, urban, and energy systems. Most elective courses assume student command of the knowledge and concepts covered in one or more of the Foundations courses and may list other courses as prerequisites.

Professional Skills

The Professional Skills component of the curriculum is intended to provide management, communications, and leadership training that is essential to success in environmental management and many other professions. Consisting of four 1-credit half-term courses, the optional Professional Skills Core lays a groundwork of professional training in project management, conflict resolution, communications, and financial management. These courses are supplemented by elective courses focusing on particular professional skills.


The final component of the M.E.M is a Capstone course or project focusing on applied problem solving, and relying on the application of knowledge, methodological approaches, and interpretive techniques gained from courses taken during the earlier stages of the M.E.M. To fulfill this requirement, students work alone or in groups on a faculty-supervised Capstone project. This may involve service to a client (e.g., a government agency, company, not-for-profit, or individual); applied, nonacademic approaches to exploring environmental problems, such as filmmaking, journalism, or community-based projects; or a research project that culminates with a paper suitable for publication in a scientific or trade journal. The Capstone provides students with an opportunity to integrate academic study and research with real-world, hands-on problem solving. As the Capstone relies on integration of a body of knowledge, most Capstone courses have prerequisites.

Master of Forestry

The Master of Forestry program trains professionals for the protection, management, and restoration of native forests and woodlands and associated human-made forest ecosystems (urban trees, agroforests, plantations); and for mediating and resolving the conflicting values of society that concern these forests and associated ecosystems. Forest systems cover one-third of the terrestrial surface of the earth. More important than this expansive distribution, however, are the numerous and critically important values that forests provide to human societies. Currently the pressures of economic development, population growth, and energy use challenge the sustainability of forest values as never before in human history.

Since 1900, the Master of Forestry program has provided leadership in the education of professional foresters. It is the oldest continuing forestry program in the Western Hemisphere. Almost all the early foresters in North America had their roots at Yale. Graduates include such notables as Aldo Leopold, M.F. ’09 and Starker Leopold, M.F. ’38; the fathers of forest ecology and silviculture in North America (Clarence Korstian, M.F. ’26; Harold Lutz, M.F. ’27; Stephen Spurr, M.F. ’40; David Smith, M.F. ’46); and nine of the first twelve chiefs of the USDA Forest Service. This program is designed for individuals who want to be at the forefront of forest resource management and policy. The Master of Forestry curriculum is a truly interdisciplinary approach rooted in the biological basis of ecosystems.

Master of Forestry graduates have pursued a variety of professional opportunities in forestry. Most start as general practitioners in management and with experience move through management to become policymakers and organizers. Employment can be characterized as follows: (1) government and public land management agencies (e.g., Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service); (2) international development and conservation organizations (e.g., Food and Agriculture Organization, CARE, OXFAM, USAID, Winrock International, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International); (3) industry, finance, and investment in timber, ecosystem services, and forest carbon (e.g., World Bank, The Forestland Group, John Hancock Insurance Co.); (4) urban forestry and community development in cities; and (5) town land use planners, land trusts, and conservation organizations (e.g., The Nature Conservancy, Wilderness Society). Some graduates use the degree as preparation for advanced study in doctoral programs.

The broad objective of the two-year M.F. program is realized by requiring a multidisciplinary suite of formal course work coupled with a progressive synthesis of knowledge in a significant project. Course work is supplemented through an array of local, regional, national, and international field trips to witness the practice of forestry in diverse settings. Real-world professional experience is provided through the Yale Forest and summer internships at a wide variety of resource management and policy organizations. Opportunities to engage in discussion with forest leaders are provided through workshops, meetings with visiting speakers of national and international repute, and involvement in the School’s programs such as the Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry, the Forests Dialogue, the Tropical Resources Institute, and the Urban Resources Initiative.

The teaching objectives of the M.F. program are (1) to integrate knowledge about forests, natural resources, and society to form a sound basis for making management decisions; (2) to provide electives and other educational opportunities to specialize by focusing on a particular land use or management issue concerning forest ecosystem management; and (3) to provide opportunities for independent problem solving, critical thinking, and self-development. Students take a mixture of natural, social, and quantitative science courses, culminating in the second year with courses in integrated resource management and leadership. Flexibility in the choice of courses within the core curriculum as well as choice of electives allows each student to tailor his or her program to a desired specialization. Sample specializations have included community development and social forestry; protected areas management; extension and education; consulting forestry; business; watershed health and restoration; tropical forest management; agroforestry; and industrial forest management.

The Master of Forestry degree is accredited by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). The SAF was founded in 1900 by Yale College graduates Gifford Pinchot and Henry S. Graves and five other pioneer foresters, and its role as accrediting body for forestry in the United States is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Post-Secondary Accreditation. For this reason, the degree is widely accepted in other regions and countries with similar professional standards. In recent years there has also been a growing recognition of required professional licensing and registration for all resource managers in the United States, particularly in the Northeast and West Coast regions, or for individuals working in any of the federal agencies, e.g., U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. In most of these states and agencies, resource management can be practiced only by individuals who have met certain educational and experience standards. An accredited professional degree is usually the first requirement. A minimum of two full years in residence and sixteen full courses (48 credits) is required for completion of this program.

Master of Environmental Science/Master of Forest Science

The Master of Environmental Science and the Master of Forest Science degree programs are expressly designed for students wishing to conduct research that contributes to basic and applied knowledge in any of the fields taught at F&ES, such as ecology, hydrology, social ecology, economics, industrial ecology, or policy. These degrees are intended to facilitate a deeper disciplinary focus than the Management degrees, while allowing students the flexibility in course election that will allow them to meet diverse educational goals. The Master of Environmental Science is intended for students who wish to work broadly in different fields of environmental science. The Master of Forest Science is intended for students who wish to work in forest-related topics.

The course of study for both degrees includes formalized School-level training in the philosophy and practice of science. Training is provided through key courses in combination with extended project research and disciplinary and nondisciplinary electives. The scientific research required for this degree will be conducted in close collaboration with an F&ES faculty adviser. Therefore students must have a commitment from a faculty adviser before being admitted to these degree programs. The Master of Environmental Science and Master of Forest Science programs require the student to produce a “scholarly product.” This product may take the form of a traditional master’s thesis or a paper submitted to a refereed journal.

Training Modules in Technical Skills (MODs)

All incoming master’s students participate in three weeks of summer modules, which introduce the students to a basic understanding of field data, the basis for all environmental science and policy. MODs have three goals: (1) introduce basic systems analysis techniques, the foundation for all environmental science, management, and policy, using three local ecosystems; (2) build F&ES community spirit; and (3) introduce new students to the landscape they will be living, studying, and working in for the next few years. MODs take place in three settings: the urban environment of New Haven, the Yale Myers Forest in northeast Connecticut, and the Great Mountain Forest in northwestern Connecticut.

These modules are required of all first-year master’s students enrolled in two-year programs as well as of all one-year midcareer degree program students. Course work is primarily in the field and covers three technical areas:

Ecosystem analysis Understanding the process of data collection, analysis, and interpretation is important for all natural resource professionals, from field researchers to resource managers and policy makers. The objective of this module is to improve the ability to evaluate ecosystem data by introducing/reviewing principles of and techniques for quantifying natural resources.

Urban The goal of this module is to acquaint students with field skills for characterizing and understanding urban ecosystems. It is designed to complement the Yale Myers Forest module, which uses an ecosystem framework and examines largely undisturbed systems. In contrast, the urban module explicitly considers how the actions of humans and the existence of the built environment alter ecosystem structure and function.

Reading the landscape The goal of this module is to provide a basic understanding of how to interpret landscapes, taking into consideration land use history, land management, ecological conditions, and geological features, and how they have combined to shape the land and ecosystems today. Students are also introduced to the fundamentals of navigation, surveying, and map making, leading to an understanding of how to interpret various representations of spatial information.

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One-Year Midcareer Master’s Degree Program

The midcareer M.E.M. or M.F. degree program is intended to permit environmental and forest managers to build on their work experience in order to acquire skills that will enable them to pursue their career goals more effectively. To this end, those admitted into the program must have at least seven years of directly relevant professional experience in the environmental or forestry field that is sufficient to provide a corpus of experiential learning equivalent to one year of academic study at F&ES. So that the admissions committee may fairly judge each applicant’s work record in light of this requirement, an applicant must detail his or her career work experience. Relevant work experience is not the sole criterion for admission into this degree program; the breadth of prior academic training is also considered, and those applicants who are better prepared (see Preparation for Admission, in the chapter Admissions: Master’s Degree Programs) are more likely to succeed in this competitive admission process.

The midcareer degree program is not appropriate for those seeking to make an abrupt career change, nor is it suitable for those who have acquired seven or more years of work experience that is tangentially related to environmental or forest management. Normally, voluntary service will not be considered equivalent to career experience needed for acceptance into this degree program.

The one-year midcareer Master of Environmental Management and Master of Forestry degree programs have less structured curricula than the two-year programs. Attendance at the Training Modules (see Training Modules in Technical Skills, above) is required, and the successful completion of 24 credits of course work and independent study is required. One year in residence is normally required, as is initial enrollment at the start of the fall term.

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Joint Master’s Degree Programs

The School of Forestry & Environmental Studies supports several curricula that work concurrently toward two degrees from different academic units of Yale University. Opportunities for development of joint-degree programs exist with the School of Architecture, Divinity School, Law School, School of Management, School of Public Health, the Graduate School of Arts and Science’s Global Affairs program coordinated through the Jackson Institute, the International and Development Economics program of the Graduate School’s Department of Economics, and three programs offered by the Graduate School and coordinated through the MacMillan Center (African Studies, East Asian Studies, and European and Russian Studies). Joint-degree programs with Pace Law School and Vermont Law School constitute additional options. Applicants are urged to apply to both units at the same time. All of these programs are subject to the following general guidelines.

Applicants must apply to, and be accepted by, both units of the University according to normal admissions procedures. A minimum of one and one-half years (three terms) and 36 credits is required at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. For successful integration of the two programs, it is recommended that students spend a complete academic year (two terms) at one school, the following academic year at the other school, and then split the final year between the two schools.

Upon successful completion of the formal joint-degree program, the student will be awarded one of the four F&ES master’s degrees, together with the joint degree. The joint-degree programs, sponsoring Yale academic units, and associated residency requirements (which are in addition to the three-term requirement of F&ES) are as follows:

  • 1. School of Architecture: Master of Architecture I (five terms); Master of Architecture II (three terms).
  • 2. Divinity School: Master of Arts in Religion (3 terms); Master of Divinity (five terms).
  • 3. Schools of law (Yale Law School, Pace Law School, and Vermont Law School): Juris Doctor (five terms).
  • 4. School of Management: Master of Business Administration (three terms).
  • 5. School of Public Health: Master of Public Health (three terms).
  • 6. Global Affairs (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences): Master of Arts (three terms).
  • 7. Department of Economics, International Development and Economics program (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences): Master of Arts (two to three terms).
  • 8. African Studies (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences): Master of Arts (three terms).
  • 9. East Asian Studies (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences): Master of Arts (three terms).
  • 10. European and Russian Studies (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences): Master of Arts (three terms).

For questions about these joint-degree programs, please contact the F&ES Office of Admissions at fesinfo@yale.edu or 800.825.0330.

Joint-Degree Program with Tsinghua University

F&ES offers a three-year joint-degree program with Tsinghua University School of Environment in China. This program consists of one and one-half years (three terms) at Tsinghua working toward a Master of Environmental Engineering and one and one-half years (three terms) at Yale working toward a Master of Environmental Management, Master of Environmental Science, Master of Forestry, or Master of Forest Science. Students who begin their program at F&ES will spend one year (two terms) at F&ES, followed by one and one-half years (three terms) at Tsinghua, and then conclude their program with one-half year (one term) at F&ES. Students who begin their program at Tsinghua will spend one-half year (one term) at Tsinghua, one and one-half years (three terms) at F&ES, and then conclude their program with one year (two terms) at Tsinghua.

Applicants must apply to, and be accepted by, both F&ES and Tsinghua University under normal admissions procedures. For questions about this joint-degree program, please contact the F&ES Office of Admissions at fesinfo@yale.edu or 800.825.0330.

Joint Management Program with Universidad de los Andes

F&ES offers an additional joint program with the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. This program consists of two years (48 credits) at F&ES working toward the Master of Environmental Management, followed by fifteen months at the Universidad de los Andes working toward completion of the full-time Master of Business Administration. Upon successful completion of each program, the student will be awarded a Master of Environmental Management degree from Yale and a Master of Business Administration degree from Universidad de los Andes.

Applicants must apply to, and be accepted by, both F&ES and the Universidad de los Andes under normal admissions procedures. For questions about this joint-degree program, please contact the F&ES Office of Admissions at fesinfo@yale.edu or 800.825.0330.

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Part-Time Program

Students who wish to obtain a degree through the part-time option must complete the same curriculum as full-time students. Participants must enroll for at least two courses per term and must complete the degree requirements within four years of matriculation. Part-time tuition will be $11,296.25 per term for the academic year 2015–2016.

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Special Students

For those who do not wish to pursue a degree program, F&ES offers the option of special-student status. Special students may be registered for a period as short as one term and may enroll in a minimum of one course or elect to take a full program of four courses per term. Please note that international applicants who are not coming through a preestablished Memorandum of Understanding between a partner university and Yale University will likely not be able to participate in the special student program. Special students may not be eligible to participate in the summer Training Modules in Technical Skills. Under normal circumstances, no one may hold special-student status for more than one academic year. No degree or certificate is granted for special-student course work. Students will receive official transcripts of course work completed. For information on tuition for special students, see the chapter Tuition, Fees, and Other Expenses.

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