MES Curriculum


MES students met with UN officials as part of the Global Water Issues course.

The MES degree requires the completion of 12 course units (c.u.'s), including:

  • The Proseminar
  • Research methods course
  • 4 Foundation courses
  • 5 Professional concentration courses
  • Capstone Project

The Pro-seminar (1 c.u.)

The Pro-seminar - Contemporary Issues in Environmental Studies (ENVS 601) – reviews the key sciences fundamental to an interdisciplinary study of the environment. This required course also acquaints students with issues, debates and current opinions in the study of the environment.

Research Methods Course (1 c.u.)

Each student must complete a research methods course that prepares him/her to enter the Capstone phase of the program. This requirement may be fulfilled by taking ENVS 533 Research Methods or any other methodology course which prepares the student for their research project.

Foundation Courses (4 c.u.’s)

Foundation courses are a source of interdisciplinary breadth for the student. These courses are selected in consultation with the student's academic advisor and must be outside of the student’s area of concentration. These courses may be selected from the following areas (for example):

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Biology
  • Environmental Geology
  • Environmental Law
  • Environmental Policy

Professional Concentration Courses (5 c.u.’s)

Each student chooses a professional concentration and selects appropriate courses in consultation with the student's academic advisor . Visit the MES program homepage for a brief overview of environmental masters degree concentrations available at Penn.

The professional concentration courses allow the student to acquire the skills and the critical perspective necessary to pursue the Capstone exercise. These courses may be taken in any school in the University (e.g., Arts & Sciences, School of Engineering, School of Design, Wharton, etc.), drawing from Penn's strengths across many disciplines. Students may choose from the following concentrations:

Students may also develop an individualized concentration in conjunction with their faculty advisor and with the approval of the MES Faculty Advisory Committee. Interested in a green degree? Visit our sustainability degree page for more information about this aspect of the MES program.

Capstone Thesis Project (1 c.u.)

Toward the end of the program, students undertake a Capstone Project, a semester-long professional exercise that demonstrates mastery of the student’s professional concentration area. The subject of this project can be selected to complement or further develop a student’s work-related interests. The Capstone, which can be completed independently or as a member of a team, documents the student’s ability to:

  • Define a research question
  • Design a protocol to address this question
  • Acquire the data necessary to clarify, if not resolve, the question
  • Critically assess the quality of the data acquired
  • Draw defensible conclusions from those data
  • Communicate this process and conclusions to professional colleagues with clarity and precision

Each student in the MES program will work with a faculty advisor who will act as supervisor for the student’s thesis research. These faculty are drawn from the Department of Earth & Environmental Science and members of the Institute for Environmental Studies as well as other Schools and departments at Penn.

Time Frame

Admitted students may attend on either a part-time or full-time basis. Full-time students can complete the program in two years, including summers. Part-time students must complete their work in no more than four years.

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