The University of Chicago | Graduate Admissions

Master of Environmental Science and Policy - MS

Division: University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy
Degree Type: MS

Program Description

Chicago Harris and the Division of the Physical Sciences jointly offer the Master of Science degree in Environmental Science and Policy. The broad objective of the program is to provide students with the academic background in both policy and environmental science required for informed decision making in business and government. To a large extent, the curriculum of this program draws upon courses already in place at Chicago Harris and in the Division of the Physical Sciences, although an introductory overview course and an independent study are designed to integrate the policy and science aspects of the program.

There is a need both in the public and private sectors for professionals with the skills to develop and implement environmental policies based in part on scientific criteria. This is in addition to consideration of economic, technological, and social factors. At the local level a business might have to consider environmental impacts of its waste disposal. At the national level, energy use strategies and urban air pollutants have implications related to economics and public health. Finally, at the global level international policies must address topics such as the release of chemicals implicated in climate change.

The rationale for the Master of Science program is that students who seek to become policy makers in government and industry would benefit from an academic program which combines rigorous treatments of both environmental science and environmental policy. Such students should appreciate the concepts and methods of environmental research at a level which facilitates the creation and implementation of policy. A distinguishing feature of the joint Chicago Harris-Physical Sciences initiative is the inclusion of environmental science at a rigorous level as an integral part of the program. The scientific portion of the curriculum seeks to develop the student's understanding of the processes which control the state of the natural environment and its response to perturbations, particularly those brought about by human activities as a consequence of policy decisions.

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  • 1155 East 60th Street
  • Chicago, IL 60637
  • Phone: 773.702.8401

Application Method

Applications should be initiated through the online application.


Deadline for admissions and financial aid: January 10

Campus Visits

Interviews are not required, but you are welcome to visit campus, sit in on classes, and meet with current students. You may contact faculty with questions, but there is no expectation that you do so.

Degree Objective

Students can apply for a PhD, a Master of Arts in Public Policy, or a Master of Public Policy.

Application Requirements

  1. Online Graduate Application Form and Supplemental Form
  2. Resume (submitted with oline application)
  3. Statement of Academic Purpose (submitted with oline application)
  4. Transcripts (submitted with online application)
  5. Three (3) Letters of Recommendation (submitted online)
  6. GRE Scores
  7. TOEFL Scores (international students only)
  8. Non-refundable application fee

Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions are emailed in early March. Direct all questions about your application directly to the admissions office.

Program Requirements

Students who enter the Environmental Science and Policy program should have previous exposure to physical science at the undergraduate level, although their career objectives will most likely lie in policy rather than in science. Desirable undergraduate majors for entering students would be in physics, chemistry, applied mathematics, Earth sciences, or engineering. However, students with concentrations in other areas will be considered for admission if they have good backgrounds in science. The faculties of the Chicago Harris and the Division of the Physical Sciences must approve all admissions.

The curriculum combines elements of science and policy to meet the needs of the students described above. The structure of the two-year MS degree program is outlined below.

Course Structure

The curriculum combines elements of science and policy to meet the needs of the students described above. A total of 18 courses is required for the MS degree. The structure of the two-year MS degree program is outlined below.

  • Introductory Overview course: PP389 Environmental Science and Policy.
  • 7 courses in public policy at Chicago Harris (PPHA 30800, 31000 or 31200, 31100 or 31300, 31600, 31910, 32300 or 44100, 32400 or 44200).
  • 4 courses from the Division of the Physical Sciences or the Division of the Biological Sciences. Courses may be selected to emphasize solid-earth science, atmosphere-ocean science, or other topics of interest to the student.
  • 6 electives in public policy and/or physical sciences. Students are encouraged to take PPHA 38800 and/or PPHA 39000 when they are offered.
  • Completion of an independent study project which integrates coursework in environmental science and policy.
  • Students may enroll in PPHA 52000 Independent Study/Research, as an elective, to work on this project.

Costs & Financial Aid

Tuition for master's and PhD students in scholastic residence enrolled full-time in the program during the 2012-2013 academic year is $39,861. An estimate of expenses a student will incur during the course of the school year (based on a nine-month budget) is as follows:

Tuition $39,861
Student Life Fee $852
One-time Transcript Fee $45
University of Chicago Student Health Insurance Plan (basic, student only) $2,466
Room and Board (estimated) $14,000
Personal Expenses (estimated) $3,000
Books and Supplies (estimated) $2,000
Transportation (estimated) $1,785
TOTAL (estimated) $64,009

Here at Chicago Harris, we know that the cost for your degree will be significant; we are committed to helping identify financial resources to assist with managing the cost. Financial aid is calculated based on a standardized cost of attendance: tuition, room and board, books, transportation, and personal/miscellaneous expenses for three academic quarters (nine months). The Office of Admissions notifies you of any merit scholarship award at the time of your admission. At that time, we also provide you with information on applying for loans and work.

Financial Aid for Master's Students

Each year, approximately 30-40 percent of Chicago Harris students receive some kind of financial aid. The School assists many students with both scholarships and fellowships that are awarded on a competitive, merit basis. Additionally, the University provides loan assistance and work-study to students who demonstrate financial need. You can learn more about financial aid for master’s students here.