Environmental Science Master of science degree

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Overview

The multidisciplinary approach taken in this program produces skilled professionals who are able to tackle the biggest problems plaguing our environment using a holistic approach.


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: cellular and molecular biology, chemistry, ecology and field biology, economics, mathematics, organismal biology and evolution, public policy, remote sensing, and digital image processing, 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.

Cooperative education

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.

Course of Study

Students may apply to the accelerated dual degree (BS/MS) option, which provides them with a considerable advantage over other environmental science graduates in the job market. In order to function as an environmental scientist, an individual must have an extensive background in mathematics, physical science, and life science. The BS/MS program is one of the strongest programs available with respect to mathematics and science and may be completed in five years.

Real World Experiences

In addition to getting involved in research, optional cooperative education opportunities offer students a great way to get a head start on their career with paid, professional work experience. These co-op experiences may be with local, state, or federal government agencies, nonprofit environmental organizations, and a host of environmental consulting firms. To learn more or review co-op position openings, visit the RIT Office for Cooperative Education and Career Services.

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)

Training Qualifications

A bachelor’s degree is adequate for some entry-level positions, but environmental scientists and geoscientists increasingly need a master’s degree in a natural science. A master’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for most entry-level research positions in private industry, Federal agencies, and State geological surveys. 

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics O.O.H.) 

Types of Jobs

Environmental Scientist, Conservation Scientist, Forester/Preserve Superintendent, Atmospheric Scientist, Field Technician, Compliance Manager, Consultant, Salesman (equipment), GIS Specialist, and Lobbyist. 

Industries


  • Environmental Services

  • Forestry

  • Natural Resources

  • Scientific and Technical Consulting

Typical Job Titles

City Research Scientist Education Presenter
Environmental Analyst Environmental Scientist
Field Biologist Graduate Research Assistant
LiDAR Technician Philanthropy and Operations Coordinator
Physical Scientist Pump and Process Operator Trainee
Remote Sensing Technician Research Engineer

Featured Work

Latest News

  • May 3, 2019

    Person crouches near side of road and corn field to collect clover samples.

    RIT researchers contribute to massive Global Urban Evolution Project

    RIT environmental science students turned some heads when they stopped to pick white clover plants near a gas station along New York State Route 33A in October. But little did onlookers know that they were helping to conduct the largest evolution study outside of human genomics.

  • April 20, 2018

    Imagine RIT preview: Explore green infrastructure

    The Environmental Science in your own Backyard exhibit at Imagine RIT will feature issues facing the next generation of environmental professionals and innovative techniques, like green infrastructure, for mitigating environmental impacts.

Curriculum

Environmental science (thesis option), MS degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
ENVS-601
Environmental Science Graduate Studies
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.
3
MATH-655
Biostatistics or Equivalent Course
This course is an introduction to the probabilistic models and statistical techniques used in the analysis of biological and medical data. Topics include univariate and multivariate summary techniques, one and two sample parametric and nonparametric inference, censoring, one and two way analysis of variance, and multiple and logistic regression analysis.
3
ENVS-670
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.
3
BIOL-675
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.
3
ENVS-650
Hydrologic Applications of GIS
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.
4
 
Graduate Public Policy Core Elective 
3
 
Graduate Science Core Elective
3
Second Year
ENVS-790
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.
6
 
Professional Elective
3
Total Semester Credit Hours
34

Environmental science (project option), MS degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
ENVS-601
Environmental Science Graduate Studies
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.
3
MATH-655
Biostatistics or Equivalent Course
This course is an introduction to the probabilistic models and statistical techniques used in the analysis of biological and medical data. Topics include univariate and multivariate summary techniques, one and two sample parametric and nonparametric inference, censoring, one and two way analysis of variance, and multiple and logistic regression analysis.
3
ENVS-670
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.
3
BIOL-675
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.
3
ENVS-650
Hydrologic Applications of GIS
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.
4
 
Graduate Public Policy Core Elective
3
 
Graduate Science Core Elective
3
 
Graduate Science, Technology and Society Core Elective
3
Second Year
ENVS-780
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
6
 
Professional Elective
3
Total Semester Credit Hours
34

Admission Requirements

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

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited university or college in environmental science, biological science, or a related discipline.
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (or equivalent) overall and in math/science.
  • Applicants with undergraduate degrees from foreign colleges and universities are required to submit GRE scores.
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives outlining the applicant’s research/project interests, career goals, and suitability to the program.
  • Submit three letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 79 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.

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 and financial aid 

Additional Info

Facilities and equipment

The program provides a wide range of research opportunities. Many faculty members are engaged in field-based projects and the college boasts excellent laboratory facilities that support field research, including wet laboratories and computer facilities (traditional and geographic information systems). For a list of past and present projects, and faculty research interests, please visit the program website.

Monitoring, mapping, and field equipment: ArcGIS and IDRISI GIS software, ENVS and ERDAS Remote Sensing software, Garmin and Trimble GPS receivers, soil sampling and analysis equipment, water sampling devices, multisonde water quality probes and dissolved oxygen meters, SCT meter, ponar dredges, Li-Cor light meter, plankton samplers, macroinvertebrate nets/samplers, and a library of field reference texts.

Other equipment: Fluorimeter, Raman Spectrometer, UV-Vis-IR, GC-MS, ICP, atomic absorption, polarimeter, centrifuge, electrochemical equipment, gas chromatographs, HPLC, viscometer, ESR (built in-house), confocal microscope, infrared carbon dioxide analyzer, Unisense microelectrode system, Lachat autoanalyzer, incubators, capillary electrophoresis, DSCs, DMA, NMR, drying oven, Wiley mill.