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Prospective Graduate Students

As the natural resource fields attempt to tackle increasingly complex environmental problems, more and more careers in those fields require advanced degrees. In the College of Natural Resources and Environment, we provide our graduate students with a range of graduate degree options and areas of study, allowing the students to tailor their graduate experience to their interests. As a result, CNRE boasts some of the top natural resource graduate programs in the country!

The Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment may be the ideal place to earn your graduate degree because we offer:

  • programs that are among the very best in the country,
  • the opportunity to study in a wide range of natural resource areas,
  • funding for graduate students, and
  • the opportunity to work with outstanding faculty members and fellow students.

For more information about CNRE, read the overview of the college.

What graduate degrees can I earn from CNRE?

CNRE offers programs leading to the Master for Science (MS), Master of Forestry (MF), Master of Natural Resources (MNR), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The following table shows the degrees available in the broad areas of study within the College. See Graduate Programs for more information about each of these degree programs, or click on a program in the table below.

Of course, these are very broad areas and students specialize in a specific topic within the discipline. The best way to determine what specific areas of study are available is to look at the list of faculty members from each department. Each member of the faculty has a specific expertise or area of research. If you find one that matches your interest, chances are that you can earn a graduate degree while working on this topic.

  Master of Science (MS) Master of Forestry (MF) Master of Natural Resources (MNR) Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences    
Geospatial and Environmental Analysis      
Natural Resources      
Wood Science and Forest Products  
How do the degree programs differ?

Thesis vs. Non-thesis — The MS requires post-baccalaureate course work and a thesis based on original research. The MF and MNR require coursework and a paper, but the paper need not be based on original research and is therefore much less rigorous than a thesis. The MNR is an interdisciplinary degree involving knowledge from several broad areas; MNR papers focus on policy and management issues and often involve urban or urban/rural interface issues. Study toward the MF stays more closely aligned to the disciplines of Forestry, Wood Science, and Forest Products.

Professional vs. Research — MF and MNR degrees are considered professional degrees; most people enter the private work force in non-research positions after completing one of these programs. Typically, graduates of the MF program are employed with private land management companies or self-employed as consultants. The MNR is a relatively new program, but we anticipate that recipients will work with consulting firms, government agencies, and not-for-profit organizations.

The MS and PhD are research degrees requiring a thesis or dissertation based on original research. MS recipients may work in research positions or undertake additional study toward a doctoral degree. PhD recipients typically enter careers in research or research administration. Many PhD recipients work in academia as professors or researchers. Others work for government agencies, private companies, and not-for-profit organizations.

Where are CNRE graduate programs offered?

The MS, MF, and PhD programs are offered at the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia. Students at the National Capital Region campus in Arlington, Virginia work toward the MNR or PhD degrees.

Does CNRE offer graduate courses online?

The College offers graduate-level online courses, online certificate programs, and an online MNR degree. A list of some of the online courses currently offered through our Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability provides online graduate courses to fit your schedule. Additionally, Virginia Tech offers many online courses — see the timetable of classes here.

How long does it take to complete a CNRE graduate program?

Based on the past five years of data, the median time to complete an MS program was 2.3 years. MF and MNR programs were completed in 2.8 and 2.9 years, respectively. The median time to complete a PhD program in the College was 4.8 years. Of course, your time to completion will vary depending on your background, your interest, the nature of your research, and your personal situation. Students entering a PhD program after completing a MS finish more quickly that do students entering without a master’s degree. Also, many students in the MNR program study part-time in addition to working; as a result, these students take a little longer to complete their programs than do full-time students.

How do I apply? What is the deadline for application?

You can apply online through the Virginia Tech Graduate School. Most graduate students begin in fall semester, although a student may also start in spring or summer sessions. To be competitive for a fall semester start and possible assistantships, applications should be submitted by January 31. See the Graduate School web page for other deadlines.

If you are planning on entering a research-focused degree program (MS or PhD), it is always a good idea to connect with potential faculty members before applying. Identify faculty who share your research interests, and contact them to see if they have any upcoming projects for graduate students. Making these connections before applying can help expedite the application review process…and help you secure funding for your graduate studies.

Is financial support available?

Financial support is available. In fact, over 95% of our graduate students receive support in the form of a fellowship, assistantship, or scholarship. Students receiving a research or teaching assistantship pay fees but not tuition. A partial list of additional funding opportunities for graduate students is available here.

How do I learn more about graduate school at Virginia Tech and CNRE?

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Celebrating 25 Years

    1992 through 2017, 25 years

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Select a Major

We have 11 majors for you to choose from with over 10 options to specialize in. Select yours now and join us in bringing the future to nature.