Ecological Economics PhD Programs

Ecological economics is the study of how the environment affects business practices and the cost-benefit analysis therein. Read on for sample curriculum and job opportunities in this exponentially expanding field. Schools offering Economics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Ecological Economics PhD Coursework

Ecological economics, often referred to as environmental economics, PhD programs are intensive and last five years or more, ending in a dissertation and defense of research. These programs focus specifically at the intersection of business practice and ecological conservation, and students are heavily invested in the cost-benefit analysis as it pertains to the environment, so coursework will focus equally on economics, such as microeconomics, and ecology, such as natural resource policy. Admission into a program may require faculty sponsorship of a student's research interests, so prospective ecological economics doctoral students are encouraged to research the bios of the faculty at their prospective schools and align their applications accordingly.


Students will be expected to analyze econometrics as other economists do. These classes may be in micro or macroeconomics, statistical analysis, or market studies. Courses may also look at entrepreneurial ventures and business opportunity analysis.

Microbiology and Biochemistry

These courses require the student to understand the microbial processes relevant in an ecosystem. Some subjects students might study could be the treatment of wastewater and how it affects the environment or understanding biochemistry and how it relates to the land, water, and other resources in an ecosystem.

Environmental Economics I and II

These courses introduce students to the overall concepts of ecological or environmental economics. They examine how the environment and business intersect. Students learn about statistical analysis as it pertains to the environment and the impacts business decisions have on the ecosystem.

Water Resource and Watershed Policies

These courses look at groundwater and watershed protection, maintenance, and sustainability. They also look at water policy and law, how it affects economic decisions and the local environment. Water, as a natural resource, and thus commodity, is examined in these courses both from an environmentalist perspective as well as an economist.

Natural Resource Policy and Ecology

Courses in ecology for PhD students will focus on specific environments and tools. For example, a course might cover grazing lands and their politics, while another course will look at species population protection. Ecology courses focus on resources like groundwater, fuels, timber, minerals, and animal populations, and the entire biosphere.

Environmental Law

Policy courses might look at state and federal regulations concerning commerce and environmental law, and how regulations play into the larger economic picture. Students will study policy as it pertains to climate change, natural resource law, conservation policies, and other policies which affect the economic sphere. Some examples of subjects studied include fisheries, mineral rights, fossil fuels, as well as other exhaustible and sustainable energy products on the energy market.

Environmental Valuation

Valuation courses apply a cost-benefit model to economic situations as it pertains to the environment. Students in these courses might study the economic pros and cons of ecosystem protection, or how pollution control affects the local economy. Case studies are often a large part of the curriculum in these courses.

Field Research

In these courses, students will learn how to collect and evaluate data. They might focus on a specific environment (e.g. coastal wetlands, marine environments, grasslands, etc.) or specific case studies. PhD students usually assist faculty with their research projects and collect data in this phase for their own dissertations.

Careers in Ecological Economics

Here are a few sample jobs someone with a PhD in environmental economics might consider:

Environmental Economics Professor

Obtaining a teaching position at a university is one of the primary goals someone might have in achieving his or her PhD. There are many job postings for ecological economic PhDs including post-doc positions, university research and teaching, as well as numerous adjunct instructor positions. Some jobs are tenure track as well.

Environmental Economics Analyst

Someone with a PhD in this field might consider working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through The National Center for Environmental Economics (NCEE) or another government agency such as a state ecology department doing environmental economics analysis. Working here, someone would go over cost-benefit assessments on environmental policy and decision making as well as work on economic research impacting the environment. They would model risk analysis and do other statistical analysis to help with the EPA's or state's mission of responsible environmentalism.

Ecosystems Economist

Working for agencies such as the Environmental Defense Fund might be a career someone with a PhD in this field might consider. An ecosystems economist would provide strategic input, conduct economic analysis, and help shape policies that affect the ecosystem. They might represent the agency at policy and public meetings, oversee research projects, and liaise with the academic community, as well as supervising and mentoring younger ecologists and economists in the agency.

Environmental Consultant

Someone with a PhD in environmental ecology might work for the government, a university, or a private firm doing environmental research and consulting. Environmental consultants collect and analyze data, conduct research, and expound upon society's connection to the environment. A consultant working for a private company would analyze projects' impacts on the environment and policy pertaining to each.

Job Title Median Salary (2018-2019) Job Growth (2018-2028)
Environmental Economics Professor$78,470 (for all university professors)11%
Environmental Economics Analyst$104,340 (for economists in all fields) 8%
Ecosystems Economist$104,340 (for economists in all fields) 8%
Environmental Consultant$71,130 (for all environmental specialists)8%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Obtaining a PhD in ecological economics takes quite a bit of time and dedication, but the job opportunities are boundless. It is a hotly growing field with openings in research, business, and post-secondary education.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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