Master's & PhD Programs in Water Resource Management

This article walks you through the general areas of knowledge you may expect to cover during a graduate program in water resources management, and what expectations institutions have of their applicants. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can You Expect from a Graduate Program in Water Resource Management?

To be considered for these types of programs you will need to complete a bachelor's degree in a related field. A master's program generally requires between 30 and 45 credits, depending on whether you do a thesis or not. Since many PhDs focus on the dissertation, the timeline for completing the program is highly dependent on what you research, however many programs do ask students to take classes. Since both levels of programs tend to have a high level of flexibility in terms of what you take, we will address some general areas you are likely to cover during the program:


A limnology course covers bodies of fresh water, such as lakes, or ponds, taking into account their geographic, ecological, chemical and physical features. You can expect to study the interactions between various features considered in limnology and how these interactions affect the water overall. Some programs offer opportunities through labs or practicums for you to get hands-on experience with these types of bodies of water.

Watershed Management

A watershed management course allows you to use mathematical models to represent or study the various hydrologic processes that can or do occur in watersheds. You can consider how these concepts are applied to study the wider impact of water resource management, such as water quality or soil erosion. This course can also give you tools to allow you to identify, prevent and manage problems that can occur, such as runoff from a street or farm.


Here you can study the ethics involved in the study and practice of water resource management, considering things such as societal responsibility and conflicts of interest. There may also be general discussion in academic ethics as a whole, looking at issues such as plagiarism and confidentiality. Instructors can give you tools to avoid these scenarios and to guide yourself through if they arise.

Water Law

This class will not only consider the laws that exist but the role judiciary bodies have in the management of water. You can also learn about what levels of government are responsible for which areas of water resource management and how they may work together in different scenarios. You can also learn about the restrictions and processes developers and other industries need to go through before developing or working in and around bodies of water.

Resource/Water Policy

Here you can look beyond the legal aspects of water policy and consider the socio-cultural and economic factors that can affect how water is used. There likely will also be a study into what problems currently exist and how the rules that do exist are inadequate. You might also consider the history of water/resource policy and how it lead to the laws/policies that currently exist.

Soil Science

This is where you can consider the physical and chemical attributes of soil, such as its acidity, oxidation, and/or its rates of absorption and desorption. You can learn about the different types of soil and how each can have different functions. There could also be discussion on the impact humanity had, or can have, on soil and its various attributes.

Admissions Requirements

Institutions generally expect you to have a bachelor's degree in a related field, with a foundation of knowledge in the area you plan to research. You are also expected to have at least a 3.0 GPA, on the 4.0 scale, backed up by the transcript(s) you submit. You likely will also have to write up a personal statement, outlining what you hope to accomplish in the program and how your previous experience has made you ready for this program. There is also, generally, the need for you to get three letters of recommendation.

When pursuing a master's or PhD program in water resource management, be prepared to explain why you should be admitted to the program including how your background gives you a solid foundation to the material. Graduate programs in water resource management cover topics like soil science, water law, limnology, water policy, and more.

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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The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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