Environmental Science Master of Science Degree

An environmental science master's degree that produces skilled professionals who are able to tackle the biggest problems plaguing our environment.


Outcome Rate of RIT Graduates


Merit scholarship

Average award given to accepted students


Habitat loss, global climate change, water and air pollution, ozone depletion, species invasions, loss of biodiversity, and the accumulation of toxic wastes are among the many environmental dilemmas our society faces each day. These complex problems pit environmental limits against economic development, diverse cultures, ethics, values, and social stability, and therefore require an understanding of science, policy, society, history, and economics in order to address problems realistically and effectively. Environmental scientists must use integrated and holistic approaches to understand and find sustainable solutions to these problems. Graduates of the environmental science masters are well prepared for a variety of environmentally sustainable careers including consulting, research, policy, and outreach, or further graduate work in a doctoral program.

The program's curriculum provides students with a deep understanding of the science behind our environmental problems, the complex set of circumstances that impact environmental issues, and how environmental decisions and policies must attempt to find a balance between environmental conservation, human well-being, and economic development. Students augment their hands-on classroom work with in-depth experiential learning through an individual thesis or project that provides students with the chance to work on real-world environmental problems under the guidance of skilled environmental scientists.

Plan of Study

The practice of environmental science demands that students be well-rounded specialists. To accomplish this, each student is required to complete a concentration in one of the following areas: environmental microbiology/molecular biology, chemistry, ecology and field biology, economics, geographic information systems, organismal biology and evolution, public policy, remote sensing, or statistics. Students also may develop a self-designed concentration in an area of personal interest, subject to approval from an environmental science review committee.

Nature of Work

Environmental scientists and geoscientists use their knowledge of the physical makeup and history of the earth to protect the environment; locate water, mineral, and energy resources; predict future geologic hazards; and offer environmental site assessments and advice on indoor air quality, hazardous waste site remediation and construction and land-use projects. Most of their time is devoted to office or field work and often includes data analysis and report/proposal writing. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook)

National Labs Career Fair

Hosted by RIT’s Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education, the National Labs Career Fair is an annual event that brings representatives to campus from the United States’ federally funded research and development labs. These national labs focus on scientific discovery, clean energy development, national security, technology advancements, and more. Students are invited to attend the career fair to network with lab professionals, learn about opportunities, and interview for co-ops, internships, research positions, and full-time employment.

Students are also interested in: Environmental, Health and Safety Management MS, Sustainable Systems MS


Careers and Cooperative Education

Typical Job Titles

Environmental Analyst Fish and Wildlife Tech
Field Biologist Physical Scientist
GIS Analyst Health Policy Coordinator

Salary and Career Information for Environmental Science MS

Cooperative Education

Cooperative education, or co-op for short, is full-time, paid work experience in your field of study. And it sets RIT graduates apart from their competitors. It’s exposure–early and often–to a variety of professional work environments, career paths, and industries. RIT co-op is designed for your success.

Cooperative education is optional for environmental science majors, however, it offers students a great way to get a head start on their career with paid, professional work experience. Students can participate in cooperative education as soon as the summer after their second year of study. Co-op placements are typically with local, state, or federal government agencies, nonprofit environmental organizations, and a host of environmental consulting firms.

Featured Work

Featured Profiles

Curriculum for Environmental Science MS

Environmental Science, MS degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Environmental Science Graduate Studies I
This course helps graduate students learn how to assess journal articles, government reports, whitepapers, and essays as well as other relevant sources of information. Students will also refine their discussion and presentation skills and gain experience in effective communication to a diverse audience. This course will introduce students to careers in environmental science, to graduate studies in environmental science at RIT, and to the process of defining, conducting, presenting, and defending a thesis proposal. (This course is restricted to students in the ENVS-MS, ENVS-BS/MS program.) Lecture 2 (Fall).
Environmental Science Graduate Studies II
A continuation of Grad Studies I, which helps graduate students learn how to assess journal articles, government reports, whitepapers, and essays as well as other relevant sources of information. Students will continue to refine their discussion and presentation skills and gain experience in clarifying their comments and responding to questions from an audience. Student will complete the process of defining, creating, presenting, and defending a thesis proposal. (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Lecture 1 (Spring).
Environmental Science Graduate Research
This course is a graduate level, faculty-directed, student project or research involving laboratory or field work, computer modeling, or theoretical calculations that could be considered of an original nature. The level of study is appropriate for students in Environmental Science graduate program. Thesis (Fall, Spring, Summer).
Graduate GIS Elective
Graduate Statistics Elective
Graduate Public Policy/STS Elective
Graduate Science Core Elective
Professional Electives
Second Year
Choose one of the following:
   Environmental Science Project
This course will result in an Environmental Science project accomplished by the MS student for an appropriate topic as arranged between the candidate and the project advisor. Credit 1-6 (This course requires permission of the Instructor to enroll.) Project (Fall, Spring, Summer).
   Environmental Science Thesis
The thesis option will be available to environmental science graduate students only with prior written approval of program faculty. Students will submit a proposal to a faculty member who agrees to serve as the student's thesis committee chair. The proposal will describe the basic research question to be investigated and the experimental protocols to be employed. Proposals will be reviewed by the program faculty who will give permission to register for thesis credit. This course may be taken several times over the course of a student's graduate program, for variable credits. A written thesis and oral defense are required at the completion of the thesis research. (Enrollment in this course requires permission from the department offering the course.) Thesis (Fall, Spring, Summer).
Total Semester Credit Hours
Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
Graduate Public Policy/STS Electives
Technological Innovation and Public Policy
Technological innovation, the incremental and revolutionary improvements in technology, has been a major driver in economic, social, military, and political change. This course will introduce generic models of innovation that span multiple sectors including: energy, environment, health, and bio- and information-technologies. The course will then analyze how governments choose policies, such as patents, to spur and shape innovation and its impacts on the economy and society. Students will be introduced to a global perspective on innovation policy including economic competitiveness, technology transfer and appropriate technology. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Energy Policy
This course provides an overview of energy resources, technologies, and policies designed to ensure clean, stable supplies of energy for the future. The course evaluates the impacts of fossil fuel, renewable energy, and hydrogen technologies on society and how public policies can be used to influence their development. The development of U.S. energy policy is of particular concern, although a global perspective will be integrated throughout the course. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Readings in Public Policy
An in-depth inquiry into key contemporary public policy issues. Students will be exposed to a wide range of important public policy texts, and will learn how to write a literature review in a policy area of their choosing. (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Seminar (Fall).
Graduate Policy Analysis
This course provides graduate students with necessary tools to help them become effective policy analysts. The course places particular emphasis on understanding the policy process, the different approaches to policy analysis, and the application of quantitative and qualitative methods for evaluating public policies. Students will apply these tools to contemporary public policy decision making at the local, state, federal, and international levels. Lecture 3 (Fall).
Graduate Decision Analysis
This course provides students with an introduction to decision science and analysis. The course focuses on several important tools for making good decisions, including decision trees, including forecasting, risk analysis, and multi-attribute decision making. Students will apply these tools to contemporary public policy decision making at the local, state, federal, and international levels. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Evaluation and Research Design
The focus of this course is on evaluation of program outcomes and research design. Students will explore the questions and methodologies associated with meeting programmatic outcomes, secondary or unanticipated effects, and an analysis of alternative means for achieving program outcomes. Critique of evaluation research methodologies will also be considered. Seminar (Spring).
Technology, Policy and Sustainability
This course introduces students to public policy and its role in building a sustainable society. The course places particular emphasis on the policy process; the relationship among technology, policy, and the environment; and policy mechanisms for addressing market and government failures that threaten sustainability. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
Graduate Biodiversity and Society
This course explores the problems, issues, and values stemming from the current massive loss of biodiversity. Various justifications for preserving or conserving biodiversity will be examined. Although principals of conservation biology are presented, the social/cultural dimensions of the issue will be emphasized. (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Graduate Science and Technology Policy Seminar
Examines how federal and international policies are developed to influence research and development, innovation, and the transfer of technology in the United States and other selected nations. Students in the course will apply basic policy skills, concepts, and methods to contemporary science and technology policy topics. (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Seminar (Fall).
Graduate Sustainable Communities
The concept of sustainability has driven many national and international policies. More recently, we have become aware that unless we physically build and rebuild our communities in ways that contribute to sustainability, making progress toward that goal is unlikely. It is equally important to recognize the social/cultural context of sustainability. In addition, it is at the local level that the goals of equity (a key consideration in community sustainability), most often achieved through citizen participation and collaborative processes are most easily realized. This course will broaden students understanding of the concept of sustainability, particularly the concept of social sustainability. This course focuses on sustainability as a way to bring light to the connections between natural and human communities, between nature and culture, and among environmental, economic, and social systems. Working closely with local organizations, students will explore the applicability of theoretical concepts. (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Graduate Science Core Electives and Professional Electives
This course is the study of the distribution of biodiversity on the earth. Patterns of past and present animal and plant distributions are used to help understand the mechanisms of basic biological processes including speciation, dispersal, divergence and extinction. This course will cover the character and history of the science of biogeography, as well as its basic principles and applications. We will also examine the assumptions, methods and conclusions of historically significant biogeographic studies. (Prerequisites: BIOL-240 or BIOL-265 or graduate student standing in the ENVS-MS program.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Database Management for the Sciences
Students will learn to create and maintain efficient relational databases for use in modeling and analysis in the sciences. Topics will include an introduction to relational algebra, SQL, and advanced relational designs. (Graduate Science) Lecture 2, Studio 2 (Spring).
Computational Statistics and Data Science Methods
This course will introduce traditional multivariate statistical methods and multi-model inference, as well as iterative computational algorithms (i.e. Bayesian methods and machine learning) appropriate for graduate students conducting or planning to conduct a graduate research project. The course will focus on the proper application of methods to a sample data sets using statistical programming software and graphics and will forego the more in-depth analytical mathematical exposition that you might see in a math course, so that we can cover a larger variety of methods and spend more time implementing them in code. Practical examples will often derive from the fields of biology, environmental science, or medicine, however the statistical methods we cover will also have much broader application within modern data science. The ultimate goal will be to learn when and where to correctly apply a given method to real questions about real data. Class time will be devoted to introductory lecture, programming language demonstrations with a common dataset, and open discussions of potential applications, including in-class studio hours to help with homework. Students should be prepared to learn to write code scripts that will manipulate statistical tests and graphical output. However, no background experience with programming is assumed. All software used in the course is open-source and students will be required to set up and run weekly assignments on their own laptop computer or on a computer borrowed from the library or RIT’s computer lab. (Prerequisites: STAT-145 or equivalent course or graduate student standing.) Lecture 2, Studio 2 (Fall, Spring).
Marine Biology
This course explores marine biology by focusing on the diversity of life and influence of oceanographic phenomena on the various ecosystems. Morphological and physiological adaptations along with environmental threats will also be investigated. The course will explore marine conservation issues, in depth. (Prerequisites: BIOL-240 or equivalent course or graduate student standing in the ENVS-MS program.) Lecture 4 (Fall).
Advanced Conservation Biology
This course focuses on the application of ecological principles to conservation issues. Human impact on species diversity will be emphasized as it relates to agricultural, forest, coastal and wetland ecosystems. Case studies of management practices used to manage and restore disturbed ecosystems will be included. Students will explore a topic in depth through writing a review paper of published literature. (Prerequisites: BIOL-240 or equivalent course or graduate student standing in the ENVS-MS program.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Solid and Hazardous Waste Management
An examination of strategies and technologies to move an organization toward environmental sustainability, including resource use reduction, material substitution, process and product modification, and waste minimization; and for handling and managing wastes including treatment, storage, transport, and disposal storing solid and hazardous waste. Associated environmental impacts, regulatory concerns, technical feasibility, and costs are considered. (Students who have completed ESHS-310 Solid and Hazardous Waste Management may not receive credit for this course.) (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Industrial Wastewater
This course investigates characteristics and sources of industrial wastewaters, related environmental impacts, regulatory implications, and technical considerations of current treatment and disposal methodologies. Students learn to identify appropriate methods, technologies, and sequences for source reduction, treatment and pretreatment, direct discharge, and management of treatment residuals. (Students who have completed ESHS-330 Industrial Wastewater may not receive credit for this course.) (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Air Emissions Management
This course will present an overview of industrial air pollution management: its sources, methods of reduction, control, and management. Students will become familiar with the history of air pollution, the chemistry and effects of pollutants, regulations and standards, and control technologies as well as developing analytical and quantitative skills necessary in air emissions management decision-making. By the end of the course, students will be able develop a comprehensive facility air emissions management plan. This course maybe co-listed with ESHS-525; students may receive credit for ESHS-525 or ESHS-615, not both. (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor. Students cannot take and receive credit for this course if they have taken ESHS-525.) Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
Corporate Social Responsibility
This course will introduce social responsibility concepts and approaches presented in key documents like the ISO 26000 Social Responsibility Standard, and will explore strategies for assisting an organization to identify and implement socially responsible initiatives appropriate to the nature and scope of its activities, products, and services. (This course is restricted to students in the EHSM-MS program.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Aquatic Ecology Seminar
This graduate seminar course in aquatic ecology will focus on reading and critical evaluation of the peer-reviewed literature, formal and informal communication skills, and discussion of ongoing research in aquatic ecology. This discussion-based course is student lead, and may be retaken for credit. (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Lecture 1 (Fall, Spring).
Climate Change: Science Technology & Policy
This multidisciplinary course will provide students with diverse perspectives on global climate change issues, providing a survey of important aspects of the problem augmented by readings in the primary literature. Topics include atmospheric chemistry, climate modeling, ecological impacts and feedbacks, economics of climate change, international climate policies, and social and environmental justice. The course will include a variety of instructors and guest lecturers, providing an overview of the complex and inter-related nature of global climate change. The course will culminate in a project based on finding solutions to the real-world problem of climate change. Students will be required to take a leadership role in bridging the multiple disciplines presented (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Hydrological Applications of Geographic Information Systems
Aerial photography, satellite imagery, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are extremely useful tools in hydrologic modeling and environmental applications such as rainfall runoff modeling, pollution loading, landscape change analyses, and terrain modeling. This course will: 1) introduce students to spatial analysis theories, techniques and issues associated with hydrologic and environmental applications; 2) provide hands-on training in the use of these spatial tools and models while addressing a real problem; 3) provide experience linking GIS and model results to field assessments and monitoring activities; 4) enable students to solve a variety of spatial and temporal hydrologic and environmental problems; and 5) provide tools useful for addressing environmental problems related to the graduate thesis or project. (Prerequisites: ENVS-250 or equivalent course or graduate standing in the ENVS-MS program.) Lec/Lab 6 (Spring).
Advanced Concepts of Environmental Chemistry
This course will build on previous chemistry courses to expand knowledge of biogeochemical cycles, environmental toxicology and applied methods of environmental analysis. The course will be conducted in a workshop format at the graduate level. (Prerequisites: CHMO-231 and CHMO-235 or CHMO-331 and CHMO-335 or equivalent courses.) Lec/Lab 3 (Spring).
Advanced Environmental Applications of Remote Sensing
This course will focus on a broader selection of analytical techniques with an application-centric presentation. These techniques include narrow-band indices, filtering in the spatial and frequency domains, principal component analysis, textural analysis, hybrid and object-oriented classifiers, change detection methods, and structural analysis. All of these techniques are applied to assessment of natural resources. Sensing modalities include imaging spectroscopy (hyperspectral), multispectral, and light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors. Applications such as vegetation stress assessment, foliar biochemistry, advanced image classification for land use purposes, detecting change between image scenes, and assessing topography and structure in forestry and grassland ecosystems (volume, biomass, biodiversity) and built environments will be examined. Real-world remote sensing and field data from international, US, and local sources are used throughout this course. Students will be expected to perform a more comprehensive final project and homework assignments, including literature review and discussion and interpretation of results. (This course requires permission of the Instructor to enroll.) Lab 3, Lecture 2 (Spring).
Introduction To Geographic Information Systems
This course introduces students to the world of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Course lectures, reading assignments, and practical lab experiences will cover a mix of conceptual, practical and technical GIS topics. Topics include GIS data models, basic cartography, geodatabases, spatial analysis, GIS software, and theory and concepts from the Geographic Information Science and Technology domain. Lec/Lab 3 (Spring).
Industrial Ecology
Industrial ecology is the study of the interaction between industrial and ecological systems. Students in this course learn to assess the impact and interrelations of production systems on the natural environment by mastering fundamental concepts of ecology as a metaphor for industrial systems and the resultant tools from industrial ecology, including life cycle assessment, material flow analysis, and energy and greenhouse gas accounting. This is a core course within the Sustainability Ph.D. program. Lecture 3 (Fall).
Applied Statistics
Statistical tools for modern data analysis can be used across a range of industries to help you guide organizational, societal and scientific advances. This course is designed to provide an introduction to the tools and techniques to accomplish this. Topics covered will include continuous and discrete distributions, descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, power, estimation, confidence intervals, regression, one-way ANOVA and Chi-square tests. (This class is restricted to degree-seeking graduate students or those with permission from instructor.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Applied Linear Models - Regression
A course that studies how a response variable is related to a set of predictor variables. Regression techniques provide a foundation for the analysis of observational data and provide insight into the analysis of data from designed experiments. Topics include happenstance data versus designed experiments, simple linear regression, the matrix approach to simple and multiple linear regression, analysis of residuals, transformations, weighted least squares, polynomial models, influence diagnostics, dummy variables, selection of best linear models, nonlinear estimation, and model building. (This course is restricted to students in APPSTAT-MS or SMPPI-ACT.) Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).


Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the MS program in environmental science, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete an online graduate application. Refer to Graduate Admission Deadlines and Requirements for information on application deadlines, entry terms, and more.
  • Submit copies of official transcript(s) (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work, including any transfer credit earned.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or US equivalent) from an accredited university or college in environmental science, biological science, or a related discipline.
  • Recommended minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (or equivalent).
  • Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Three letters of recommendation are required. Refer to Application Instructions and Requirements for additional information.
  • Not all programs require the submission of scores from entrance exams (GMAT or GRE). Please refer to the Graduate Admission Deadlines and Requirements page for more information.
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives. Refer to Application Instructions and Requirements for additional information.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit official test scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. Students below the minimum requirement may be considered for conditional admission. Refer to Graduate Admission Deadlines and Requirements for additional information on English requirements. International applicants may be considered for an English test requirement waiver. Refer to Additional Requirements for International Applicants to review waiver eligibility.

Students are strongly encouraged to contact program faculty before applying to discuss thesis topics and research projects. Students are matched with a potential thesis adviser at the time of admission.

Learn about admissions, cost, and financial aid 


Faculty in the College of Science receive grant awards from organizations such as the National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide you with unique opportunities to conduct cutting-edge graduate-level thesis research. Environmental science faculty from the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences conduct research on a broad variety of topics including:

  • ecology and evolution
  • soil science
  • plastic degradation
  • climate change

Learn more about these and other research priorities by exploring our life science research areas.

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