Natural Resources Master's Degree
Taking advantage of the growth in interest and need for environmental sustainability and protection, several colleges and universities in the USA now offer postgraduate degrees in a range of related subjects. Most students who study online master's degrees in natural resources will work in sustainability and land management for the benefit of the ecology and the people who live on the land. Students who opt for this postgraduate degree type will require an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject such as ecology, sustainability, environmental studies and human geography.
Studying a master's degree in Natural Resources, the student will develop an advanced understanding of human systems such as urban planning and development, the ethics of environmental protection and the relationship between capitalism and environment. They will also develop a solid understanding of climate science and its mitigation, and the role of science and scientists in developing US and international policy. Some of these course options will be compulsory; some will be optional for further tailoring of the student's interests.
This will be a growth area over the coming years in line with international requirements of environmental protection such as the Paris Agreement. As this is largely a practical area of study, students will often find options to work abroad or on an ongoing domestic project to develop their working skills towards a future career.
Featured Online Programs
Virginia Tech offers a world-class online Master of Natural Resource degree. Designed for the flexibility of modern students, it combines 30 credit hours of online classes while still offering the vital fieldwork that can help the student develop practical skills to take into their career. There are four compulsory modules and 18 hours of electives with many choices for the student. Their organized fieldwork projects are held in one of six countries: China, Croatia, India, Indonesia, Morocco, and South Africa.
Also on offer from this institute is a course in Global Master of Natural Resources degree. This program provides a more comprehensive view of the global picture on sustainability. Students will gain more of a cultural understanding of the countries in which they may work while developing further skills.
The third option is the Executive Master of Natural Resources Degree designed for executive level employees with experience. It is also for those looking to enter careers as decision maker either in government, in the charitable sector or for businesses. Students examine real-world problems and seek solutions to the issues of today.
Finally from Virginia Tech is the World Executive Master of Natural Resources. These are global problems requiring global solutions from professionals on-site and at boardroom level. This master's degree will teach the business leaders and decision makers of tomorrow to understand sustainability problems in their global context.
Students should apply through the Virginia Tech website for the graduate school. Applicants require a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Oregon State E-Campus
Oregon State's online education service is just one of a small number of online Master of Natural Resources degrees. The student will study the 45-credit program entirely by online correspondence. OSE is recognized as one of the best and most prestigious e-courses currently available in the US. Students will develop both practical and theoretical problem-solving skills for solutions for today's natural resources challenges and develop a strong focus on the economic, health and environmental implications of proper and effective natural resource management. Compulsory modules include ecology and production, human systems and MNR methodology. You will also choose your own focus from the list of graduate certificates or come up with your own. Existing modules include GIS, fisheries, urban forestry and water management among others.
Choosing an Online MNR Program
Online study is a popular method for students of all ages and from all backgrounds to study at their own pace and in a manner conducive to their own preferences. The main advantage here is that the student is able to be flexible with their study program and access resources in times and ways beneficial to their learning style. Online master's degrees are no longer the exclusive preserve of parents, older students in work and those caring for sick relatives, but for those who want a more cost-effective method of earning their degree.
Before choosing the right online MNR degree program, the student should consider a number of factors relating to the college and the course:
- Ask the college or university about details of the requirements of the final project - what they expect and what a typical project might entail
- Ask about the percentage of students that graduate and their potential employability upon finishing their degrees
- Ask the college or carry out independent research on the types of job role open to you. If some require specific skills (such as GIS), explore your options for studying this within the course
Look at the range of options of electives. Some courses allow you to incorporate elements from the postgraduate certificates they presently offer or allow you to trade programs from other degree programs. If you're looking for a specific niche, it is worth enquiring with the college about taking courses from other school or department areas.
Is an Online Degree Right for You?
Students should think carefully about whether any online degree program is right for them. There are unique challenges along with the benefits of the flexibility of studying MNR online. Students of e-courses require discipline and organization beyond that required of a campus-based degree. The courses discussed above involve practical application of skills. This means fieldwork programs and research projects with practical elements, especially the Virginia Tech degree. This means you will need to have the flexibility of your other commitments that may have led to your studying your master's degree online in the first place. In some cases, you are able to spread your studies over several years. While this gives you the flexibility of extra time, it may not be right for all students.
What to Expect
The featured online master's degrees and others focus on both practical and theoretical aspects of modern natural resource management and sustainability. The Oregon State degree option's curriculum includes a capstone project of independent research. Students will look at a problem in their area or nationally and undertake their own fieldwork. This is a 9-credit course. Virginia Tech has a program of fieldwork where students will travel to one of six destinations for practical work. Largely, which of these courses the student applies for is a choice between practical and research - but there are subtle nuances between each.
MNR Topics You'll Study
No matter which course you study, at Virginia Tech, Oregon State online or elsewhere, there are core modules essential to the master's education in natural resources. Typically, you will study modules that center on sustainability in water and food resources, the ecology of urbanization, landscape system, globalization and natural resource management, agriculture and much more.
- There will often be a set of compulsory programs with such titles as "Introduction to Sustainability", "Landscape Systems" and those focusing on domestic or international policy and law.
- There will also be a number of optional electives covering individual themes. The student should carefully choose these based on the strengths, interests and intended career path. They will cover subjects as sustainability and ethics, human landscapes, urbanism, climate change and biodiversity.
- A capstone research project, fieldwork, a dissertation, or any combination of these. Such projects often fulfills a significant proportion of the master's degrees final grade.
- Some will offer fieldwork or internship, others may not.
Natural Resource Degree Professional Organizations
This is a broad study area with a wide variety of professional organizations. Students of a master's degree in natural resources will find the following bodies, organizations and associations particularly useful for information and networking.
Despite its name, the American Geophysical Union is a global body with a mission to promote discoveries in Earth sciences with rigorous methods, the dissemination of information and new technologies, co-operation and diversity with global partners and in the education system. They aim to support scientists in the field and in research with the right tools and methods.
Ecological Society of America's strong code of ethics is in everything they do and they expect their members to respect and promote their values when representing the organization. Whether in a research, promotion, policy or public education, their members are ambassadors for the organization. They celebrated their centenary in 2016.
National Association of Environmental Professionals is a multidisciplinary, all-encompassing professional body for anyone who works in resource planning and management, and for researching solutions to the problems of today's world. Whether working in management, policy or on the ground with practical solutions, this representative body is for you.
Society for Conservation GIS promotes the use of this valuable tool to researchers on the ground and in labs. Digital mapping has permitted researchers to extract greater volumes of useful information to make better decisions. GIS technology (Geographic Information Systems) is now a subject in its own right with uses in all areas of life.
Tuition Cost Estimates
Costs to the student will vary depending on their state of residence. Costs for in-state residents are lower than those who live out of state. However, some online courses incur a distance education fee. Oregon State charges $521 per credit. This means an average cost of $23,445 for the whole course. This is the fee whether you are from the state or from elsewhere in the country.
The Virginia Tech course offers a special cost to graduate students for this online course. Each credit hour costs $850 (at 30 hours) with additional costs for administration fees and library fees. Total cost for this online course is $25,615. This is still a growing subject in most of our colleges with only a handful of other options. Students may find that tuition costs vary but will tend towards the range currently on offer from Virginia Tech and Oregon State.
What You Will Learn
Students entering a master of natural resources degree will already have a solid grounding in environmental planning, policy, conservation, the effects of climate change, sustainability and ecology. This postgraduate qualification will further enhance the methods and tools developed at the undergraduate level. Further, it will allow the student to learn new tools such as Geographic Information Systems and geospatial analysis for better planning, analysis and decision-making. You'll take your research, analysis and processing skills to an advanced level too. These will be core to your future career as a manager of natural resources.
Each course will have a capstone project - whether that is an academic dissertation, practical fieldwork or a program of analysis and research using the practical tools at your disposal. Which you choose depends entirely on your intended career course, so think carefully about whether you are looking to a role in policy and decision-making, finding practical solutions to the problems of the modern world or developing the technologies and methods of tomorrow.
Related Natural Resources Degree Career Paths:
- Environmental Resource Manager
- Geospatial Analyst
- Environmental Economist
- Environmental Planner
- Land Use Planner