Master of Environmental Studies

MES Curriculum

Our 72-credit Master of Environmental Studies (MES) degree can be finished in two years or three years, and starts every Fall quarter.

  • Two Year Full-Time Plan: 12 credits per quarter for six quarters. Eight credits of core or thesis plus one four-credit elective each quarter. Sample full-time schedule (PDF).
  • Three Year Part-Time Plan: Eight credits per quarter for nine quarters. First year focuses on core classes, second year on electives, and third on final core class and thesis. Sample part-time schedule (PDF).

Curriculum Components

The curriculum consists of three closely integrated components: core courses, electives, and a thesis.

Core Courses—32 credits

Core courses are team-taught by faculty members from different disciplines, and meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 6–10 pm.

Core classes teach students to think about environmental challenges from an interdisciplinary perspective and guide students toward thesis completion in their final year. Students attend core classes sequentially with a cohort of 45 students. Generally, the first half of each course session includes a lecture or guest speaker, and students break into smaller seminars of 15 for the second half. 

All core classes are eight credits each.

Summary of Core Courses per Year
Year Fall Winter Spring
1 graduate Conceptualizing Our Regional Environment (gCORE) Ecological and Social Sustainability (ESS) Research Design and Quantitative Methods (RDQM)
2 Case Studies and Thesis Design Thesis Workshop Thesis Workshop 

Course Descriptions

Electives—24 credits

Students must take the equivalent of six 4-credit MES electives.

Electives are offered Monday or Wednesday from 6–10 pm and hold 15 students. Four electives are offered every quarter and are primarily taught by Ph.D.-level professionals in the field.

Specific topics include forest ecology, climate justice, GIS, environmental education, renewable energy, and biological conservation. In addition to elective courses, students can develop expertise in specific areas through internships, independent study, electives from Evergreen’s Master of Public Administration program, and other accredited graduate-level courses.


Internships are highly encouraged because they often lead to thesis topics and future employment. Because of our location in Washington’s state capital, many internships are with state agencies, and a number are with federal and local government, as well as local, national, and international organizations or businesses. Program staff and faculty will help you find your perfect internship. Many internships are paid.

Learn more about obtaining an internship.

Thesis—16 credits

All students are required to write a thesis of their own design in their final year.MES Thesis Topics 2014 - 2015

The MES thesis requires students to engage in research on a real-world topic of their choice that can be examined from an interdisciplinary perspective. Projects involve data collection and analysis, as well as recommendations for further study. Ideas come from individual student interests, internships, community organization needs, or faculty research. Students do not need to know their thesis topic when entering the program, nor do they need to find an advisor before applying to MES. Instead, they will be matched to a faculty advisor from the core faculty in their final year to guide them toward thesis completion.

Students are also required to attend a regularly occurring thesis workshop in the Winter and Spring of their final year. At the end of Spring quarter, students share results with faculty and students in a public oral presentation.