Master's Degree Requirements
“…this program is exactly what I want to do, and such dynamic and committed professors and advisors keep me motivated.”
— Marion Blair, Graduate Student
Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator
For more information about the MS degree in Environmental Studies, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator at email@example.com.
- Conditionally Classified Status
- Choosing Your Thesis Committee Chair
- The Thesis Proposal
- The Thesis Committee
- Advancement to Candidacy
- Completing the Master’s Thesis
- The Oral Thesis Defense
- Applying for Graduation
- Academic Standing
- Leave of Absence
- Important Deadlines and Forms
Thirty (30) units of approved coursework are required for the Master’s degree, and must include the following:
Required Seminars (9 units total)
Students should plan to take EnvS 250 their first Fall semester, and EnvS 200 and 297 their first Spring semester, unless conditionally classified (see clearance of conditional status below).
- EnvS 250, Environmental Thought and Philosophy (3 units) — An in-depth critical analysis of significant works in the field of environmental studies. Topics covered include preservation versus conservation, biocentrism, environmental justice, eco-feminism, deep ecology, and environmental activism.
- EnvS 200, Environmental Methods (3 units) — A rigorous analysis of methods used by social, physical, and natural scientists in assessing a region's natural resources and quality of environment; application of such techniques as field methods, maps, social surveys, and project evaluation.
- EnvS 297, Research and Proposal Development (3 units) — Students develop their thesis
topic through extensive literature research. The product will be a draft thesis proposal
to be circulated among potential committee members.
Advisor-Approved Electives (15 units total)
Electives can include courses in Environmental Studies or related fields selected with advisor's approval within the following limits. In general, the purpose of elective courses is to help students complete their thesis research.
- Must be 100 or 200 level courses
- At least 3 units must be in EnvS
- At least 9 units must be field methods, analytical methods, laboratory work (in EnvS and/or related departments), as approved by thesis chair and graduate coordinator
- Up to 6 elective units may be taken CR/NC
Thesis Units (6 units total)
Once a student has advanced to candidacy (see “Advancement to Candidacy” below) they
are required to complete a total of six (6) thesis units (EnvS 299: Master of Science Thesis or Project) under the direction of the Graduate Coordinator and the Thesis Committee Chair.
Students admitted as conditionally classified may be required to take additional prerequisite
courses to fulfill departmental requirements.
Students are encouraged to engage in internships that help them complete their thesis research. Internships may include paid or unpaid work, and are an important entryway into many environmental careers. Course credit will be given for internships and can be used as elective course credit.
Students who are admitted as conditionally classified will have received a list of prerequisite courses that they must take prior to fully entering the graduate program. Students should plan to complete these courses within their first and second semesters. Once these courses are completed, the student submits a Change of Classification (PDF) form first to the Graduate Coordinator, and subsequently to the GAPE office.
The collaboration between graduate student and Thesis Committee Chair can be profoundly creative and prolific. While many graduate students enter the program with a good idea of who their advisor will be, others are not certain, or may need to change Chairs during the course of their study. The following tips can help:
- Take the time to study the research program of each Environmental Studies Advisor.
- Schedule appointments with potential advisors. Remember, it is equally important that potential advisors be impressed by you as it is for you to be impressed by them; so, come prepared!
- Talk with other graduate students about their experiences with their advisors.
- Ultimately, it is the student's responsibility to find an appropriate advisor and convince them to serve on the committee.
- Once a Thesis Committee Chair has been selected, the advisor should be consulted on
every part of the academic plan.
Prior to beginning work on their thesis project, each student must produce an in-depth proposal including extensive literature review and detailed methods. This proposal must be submitted and approved by the Thesis Committee Chair and the rest of the Thesis Committee, and then submitted to the Graduate Coordinator.
The first step on the road to completing the Master of Science thesis is the recruitment of a faculty Thesis Committee Chair and a Thesis Committee. The Thesis Committee Chair must be a tenure-track member of the Environmental Studies Department. In addition to the Thesis Committee Chair, the Thesis Committee includes two other members. The second member of the committee must be a SJSU faculty member with a PhD. The other member can be drawn from outside of the university, but must hold at least a Master of Science (or equivalent) degree in the student’s field of study. Have any outside Thesis Committee members read and sign the Thesis Committee Member Form and Information (PDF) document.
Once a student has completed all required courses, with the exception of EnvS 299: Master of Science Thesis or Project and has submitted a completed and signed thesis proposal to the Graduate Coordinator, a Petition to Advance to Candidacy (PDF) must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator and GAPE office. The application to candidacy should be submitted a year prior to the expected graduation date.
After advancing to candidacy, the focus of the program turns toward the completion of the Master of Science thesis. Conducting research and writing the thesis can be one of the most enjoyable, and yet one of the most difficult tasks a graduate student undertakes. To facilitate student progress, the department requires that graduate students remain enrolled during the entire thesis process.
Students are encouraged to begin planning their thesis work as soon as they enter the program. For some students, thesis research begins the moment they set foot on campus, and they are able to complete the process by the end of their second year. Others use the first year as an exploratory period, during which they may be completing prerequisites and considering various research questions. These students may complete the thesis during or after their third year of study.
The process of developing and completing the thesis includes the formation of an original
study question, extensive literature review, data gathering, data analysis, and the
writing of the thesis. Once the thesis is complete it will be reviewed by the Thesis
Committee and revised by the student.
Once the Thesis Committee has reviewed and accepted a candidate’s written thesis, the student must publicly present an oral defense of the research. In order to schedule your thesis defense, contact firstname.lastname@example.org before the beginning of the semester in which you plan to defend. If the Thesis Committee determines that the work has been satisfactorily defended, the Verification of Culminating Experience form (PDF) must be submitted.
At the beginning of the semester in which a student plans to submit their thesis, they must also submit an Application for Award of Degree (PDF). Students are responsible for checking the GAPE website for deadlines.
All graduate students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA or risk being placed on academic
If a student plans on not registering for more than one semester, a Request for Leave of Absence must be approved prior to the second semester that will be missed.
Deadlines frequently change and students must check the graduate studies website to ensure that they meet all deadlines. Please check the following links: