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Political Ecology Master's Programs

This article provides a description of how to earn a graduate concentration in political ecology and includes information on common entrance requirements and some common courses students can study.

How to Earn a Graduate Concentration in Political Ecology

Students pursuing a Master's of the Arts (M.A.) in Geography or Environmental Sciences who are passionate about the interaction between nature and society can earn a concentration in political ecology. To do so, students need to take numerous courses across fields such as politics, economics, geography and environmental studies. Most M.A. programs last between 2-3 years and applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and submit GRE scores.

Political Ecology

A graduate course on political ecology investigates the relationship between nature and politics. It may delve into topics such as political economics and international relations with respect to environmental change. Students will come away with a holistic understanding of how to navigate politics to affect change for the environment.

Environment and Economic Policy

While studying environmental and economic policy, students will analyze political factors and how they can be galvanized to protect or destroy the environment. They may explore various economic policy approaches to the problem and conduct a cost-benefit analysis of various approaches. Students should leave with a deep understanding of the economic impact of environmental change.

Development and the Environment

Throughout a course on development and the environment, students will examine how human engineering has affected the natural environment. The course may focus on worldwide environmental issues such as global warming, rising sea levels, and ozone depletion or how past global changes can provide insight into the future. Students may also look at ways humans can balance the need for industry with the importance of environmental protection

Globalization and the Environment

Globalization and the environment courses examine the ways in which human expansion has affected the environment from past to present. They also may look at subtopics such as how social, demographic, cultural, political change affect, and are affected by, the environment. Students may have the chance to dive into subjects like energy use, agriculture, sustainability and how nations view climate change.

Energy, Resources and the Environment

The study of energy, resources and the environment introduces students to the sources of energy that industrial civilization relies on. It also explores the environmental impacts of energy extraction, distribution, and consumption. Approaches for moving towards a future of sustainable, green and regenerative energy options are typically discussed.

Climate Change and Policy

A graduate course on climate change will examine the factors influencing climate change through the lens of policy-making. Students may also study different approaches to climate change and analyze whether these approaches have resulted in meaningful reductions of greenhouse gases. Students are asked to develop a broad understanding of policy approaches towards climate change both within the United States and abroad.

Sustainable Energy

A course on sustainable energy offers interdisciplinary perspectives that include research from politics, business, economics, marketing, science, and environmental principles. It also may explore subtopics such as the roles of social, economic, political, and environmental factors that shape the energy sector. Some programs may require direct experience or service-learning, which gives students a chance to take a real-world, hands-on approach in the field. Courses like these often focus on solar, wind, bioenergy and geothermal sources for addressing heating, cooling and electricity needs.

Common Entrance Requirements

Most master's of arts programs offering a concentration political ecology require that students hold at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Many also ask applicants to take the GRE, submit undergraduate transcripts and send in a statement of intent. A statement of intent outlines how a student's research interests align with the graduate program's courses and outcomes. International students are required to provide additional proof of their English language proficiency by submitting scores from accredited English language tests such as TOFEL or IELTS. Some programs may also require students to submit multiple letters of recommendation. Most also ask for a minimum undergraduate GPA (typically a 3.0 or higher).

Students can earn a concentration in political ecology while pursuing a Master of Arts in Environmental Studies or a related field. Throughout their studies, students will take interdisciplinary courses to deepen their knowledge about the relationship between nature and politics and gain perspectives into how political ecology affects environmental policies.