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Environmental Science


Master of Science Degree in Environmental Science

The College of Sciences offers opportunities for advanced study and research leading to the Master of Science degree in Environmental Science. The regulations for this degree comply with the general University regulations as outlined in this catalog and indicated below.

Program Admission Requirements. In addition to satisfying the University-wide graduate admission requirements, all prospective students must have a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree from an accredited university and a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) in upper-division and graduate work. The degree should be in biology, ecology, environmental science, chemistry, geology, engineering, or some other related scientific discipline. Additionally, it is required that applicants will have taken coursework in the following areas: 1) one semester in general statistics; and 2) one semester of environmental science. Depending on research and career objectives, one semester of organic chemistry may also be required. Applicants lacking these requirements will be asked to complete these deficiencies within the first 12 credit hours. Applications for admission will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Applicants whose native language is not English must score at least 550 (paper version) or 79 (Internet version) on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or 6.5 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Applicants must submit a minimum of two letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic record, a personal statement of research interest as well as professional and academic goals, a résumé, and scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). A score of 300 (if taken after August 1, 2011) or 1000 (if taken before August 1, 2011) on the GRE general test (combination of verbal and quantitative sections) is considered competitive. All supporting documents should be sent to the Graduate School. Incomplete applications will not be considered until all required items are in an applicant’s file. When GRE scores are used to determine admission, applicants will be compared to applicants with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, to the extent such information is available.

The Graduate Studies Committee, comprised of members selected from the graduate faculty, will be responsible for recommending acceptance into the program. Some teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or research fellowships are available, but require a separate application; requests should be addressed to the Graduate Advisor of Record (GAR) for the Environmental Science program.

Degree Requirements. The Master of Science degree requires a minimum of 36 semester credit hours beyond the baccalaureate degree (exclusive of coursework or other study required to remove deficiencies). The thesis option is recommended for students who are planning a career in environmental education, research, or who are planning to go on and earn a doctorate degree.

The Master of Science in Environmental Science Program is multidisciplinary, and draws on faculty from many departments, including Biology, Chemistry, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Geological Sciences. Specific information about faculty research can be found through departmental Web sites or by contacting individual faculty members. The nature of the environmental science program allows students the opportunity to broaden their scientific background at the graduate level. Individual programs are organized around each student’s interests in consultation with the student’s Graduate Advisor and Graduate Committee.

Degree candidates are required to complete a minimum of 36 semester credit hours approved by the student’s Graduate Advisor and Graduate Committee. Final approval is made by the Graduate Advisor of Record. These credit hours are subject to the following conditions:

Core Curriculum Requirements. All candidates for the Master of Science in Environmental Science must complete the following 11 semester credit hours of coursework:

ES 5013    Survey Topics in Environmental Science*
ES 5023    Environmental Statistics
ES 5503    Environmental Policy and Law
ES 5981    Graduate Seminar in Environmental Science and Engineering
ES 6941    Environmental Science Colloquium

*This course must be taken in the first two semesters of the program.


  1. A minimum of 20 semester credit hours of graduate credit in organized classes must be earned within the College of Sciences in consultation with the student’s Graduate Advisor and Graduate Committee; 11 of these 20 credit hours must include the core curriculum listed above. Up to 6 semester credit hours of approved upper-division undergraduate coursework and a maximum of 2 semester credit hours in a graduate seminar or 2 semester credit hours in colloquium (ES 5981 Graduate Seminar in Environmental Science and Engineering or ES 6941 Environmental Science Colloquium) may be applied to the 20 semester credit hours.

  2. An additional 16 semester credit hours of approved graduate credit is required. This may include 6 hours of ES 6953 Independent Study. Students electing the thesis option must complete 6 semester hours of ES 6983 Master’s Thesis as part of this total and only 6 semester credit hours can be applied to the Master’s degree program.

Thesis Option Requirements. All candidates for the Master of Science in Environmental Science with thesis option must complete a minimum of 6 semester credit hours of the following:

ES 6983    Master’s Thesis

Candidates for the Master of Science degree electing the thesis option must first pass a research proposal examination in front of their Graduate Committee. The student should schedule the research proposal examination during the second semester but no later than the third semester of graduate work. The research proposal examination will be oral and will cover a written document that includes the thesis topic, objectives, and research proposed by the student, and will take one to two hours to complete. The research proposal examination may only be taken twice. If it is not passed the first time it may be scheduled again in the following semester. Finally, candidates in the thesis option must successfully defend their thesis before their Graduate Committee. The thesis defense will take two to three hours to complete. The thesis defense is normally scheduled in the last semester before the degree requirements are to be completed. Part of the thesis defense will be a public presentation in an open, advertised forum.

Nonthesis Option Requirements. A nonthesis option is available for those who want the opportunity to earn the Master of Science degree primarily through organized coursework. Nonthesis students should consult the Graduate Advisor of Record on their program of study and organize a Graduate Committee during the first semester of residence. Candidates are required to pass a written comprehensive examination that will cover at least four major areas of environmental science, and will take three to four hours to complete. This written examination should be arranged by the student with the Graduate Advisor of Record and their Graduate Committee. In addition, an oral examination will be administered by the student’s Graduate Committee. The oral examination will focus on academic material that the student is expected to have mastered during his or her course of study. The examinations are taken after the student has completed at least 30 semester credit hours of coursework. The written and oral examination may only be taken twice. If it is not passed the first time, it may be scheduled again in the following semester. If ES 6961 Comprehensive Examination is taken, it does not contribute toward the 36-semester-credit-hour minimum (refer to the Course Descriptions section).

Graduate Committee. As specified by University regulations, candidates for the Master of Science degree must have a Graduate Committee. The Committee will be chaired by the student’s Graduate Advisor and will consist of a minimum of two other members. The Committee should be appointed by the end of the first semester of the student’s graduate program. Certain rules must be adhered to concerning the composition of the Master’s Thesis or Nonthesis Committee. Only tenured or tenure-track faculty members can chair these committees, and no more than one member can be a nontenure-track faculty member or be from another university.

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Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Environmental Science and Engineering

UTSA offers a graduate-studies program leading to the Ph.D. degree in Environmental Science and Engineering. This program is administered by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Most of the participating graduate faculty are in the College of Sciences (including Department of Geological Sciences) and College of Engineering (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering); additional faculty in this interdisciplinary program are from other colleges. Please refer to the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering section of this catalog for details about this program.

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