Master's Degree Programs in Natural Resources

Natural resources master's degree programs can take around two years to complete and provide students with instruction on a variety of environment, resource, and sustainability topics. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How to Earn a Master's Degree in Natural Resources

Students can earn a master's degree in natural resources through various schools in as few as two years. Natural resource programs prepare students for various roles by focusing on sustainability and solutions for challenges in natural resources.

Human Dimensions

Human dimensions courses provide a foundational overview of frameworks and theories concerning what effect humans have on the ecosystem. Students may explore sustainability, systems theory, and the integration of ecosystems management and policy. Courses investigate direct and indirect links between humans and the planet such as land use, pollution, and attitudes. Overall students should develop a strong understanding of human attitudes, behaviors, and values towards the environment as well as human-environment effects and solutions.


Graduate programs in natural resources have one or more ecology courses as part of the curriculum; some programs may separate the subject into multiple courses such as fire ecology, wetland ecology, and ecology economics. Ecology courses explore how ecosystems function, what variables may affect them, and how these effects may be improved in the future. Students may develop an understanding of ecological principles at the community, population, and global levels. Courses may emphasize developing solutions for the sustainability and maintenance of ecological resources.

Analytical Methods

Analytical methods courses develop the mathematical skills of natural resources students. Courses typically explore qualitative and quantitative methods that can be used to monitor and measure various types of locations such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, and woodlands. Students may learn how to create measurable goals, analyze data, identify challenges and determine potential risks. Students may learn to measure and assess vegetation characteristics, design habitat measurement projects, and implement changes based on findings.

Law and Ethics in Natural Resources

In law and ethics courses, students may learn ethical and legal implications for environmental policies and natural resource operations. Courses may explore political, administrative, and legal implications and regulations including court cases and natural resource agencies' past interactions with governments. Courses may also discuss current and historic ethical and moral dilemmas in natural resources. Students should develop a solid understanding of the legal and ethical challenges that have occurred and still exist, and have the ability to recognize, discuss, and address those issues.


These courses discuss how natural resources are affected by recreational use on public and private lands. Students may learn the implications and effects of recreational use of public lands and wildlands including human and nonhuman elements. Courses may explore topics including wildlife, soil and water, plants, and the regulations involved in recreational land use. Students may also study the practices and theories involved in managing recreational environments.


Sustainability courses explore the challenges in resource management and sustainment. Students may learn about topics such as energy sustainability, water, and waste, as well as sustainability standards. Courses often present a global perspective on sustainability concepts, challenges, as well as opportunities for improvement.

Watershed Management

In these courses, students learn about water quality and erosion and how they are affected by land and ecological use. Courses may emphasize human interactions and how their effects can be managed and possibly reduced. Students may also learn about water markets, water rights, basins, and various watershed management regulations.

Wildland Management

Wildland management courses explore theories and concepts related to wildlife habitats, research, and management. Students may collect and analyze wildlife data to assess wildlife habitat conditions, challenges, and opportunities. Students may also learn regulations that apply specifically to wildlife environments and agencies, including those involving wildlife tourism. Other topics covered may include wildlife environment resources such as plants, water, and soil.

Admittance Requirements for Natural Resources Master's Degree Programs

Natural resources master's degree programs require students to have earned a bachelor's degree; some programs may prefer candidates with a natural-resources-related undergraduate degree or require some bridge courses to be completed with the program. Students may also need to have earned a specific undergraduate GPA, often a 3.0, and may need to have relevant work experience. Although many programs do not impose an entrance exam requirement, some schools may require a GRE or a similar entrance exam. Other requirements may include a statement of purpose, resume, and letters of recommendation.

Students can pursue a master's degree in natural resources to prepare for management or other leadership roles in natural resources. Natural resources programs may be completed in less than two years and include courses in wildland management, human dimensions, sustainability, and natural resources regulations.

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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