Degrees & Divisions

Degree Offerings

Graduate Professional Degrees

Most students entering the Nicholas School seek graduate professional degrees, preparing for careers as expert environmental problem-solvers after two years of study. The master of environmental management (MEM) degree trains students to understand the scientific basis of environmental problems, as well as the social, political, and economic factors that determine effective policy options for their solution with an eye toward forging a sustainable future. Mid-career environmental professionals can also earn the MEM degree through the Duke Environmental Leadership (DEL) Program (through a combination of traditional and distance-learning formats, students focus on environmental management and leadership development). The master of forestry (MF) degree develops experts in sustainable management of forested ecosystems. The Sanford School of Public Policy and the Nicholas School offer an international master of environmental policy (iMEP) degree through a program based at the Duke Kunshan University campus in Kunshan, China.

Students enrolling at the Nicholas School also have the opportunity to seek concurrent degrees with The Fuqua School of Business (MBA), Duke Law School (JD), the Sanford School of Public Policy (MPP), the Pratt School of Engineering (MEMP), and the master of arts in teaching (MAT) through The Graduate School. Additionally, the Nicholas School has concurrent degree agreements with UNC Law School, Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC, and the Master of City and Regional Planning at UNC.

Doctoral Degrees

The traditional PhD, which is offered to Nicholas School students through The Graduate School, provides the opportunity for students to pursue in-depth interest in a more narrowly focused field in preparation for a career in teaching and/or research or in application-oriented settings. Doctoral students work with faculty in each of the Nicholas School’s three divisions: environmental sciences and policy, earth and climate sciences, and marine science and conservation.

Undergraduate Degrees

The Nicholas School cooperates with the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences in awarding six undergraduate degrees: the AB in environmental sciences and policy, the BS in environmental sciences, the AB and BS in earth and climate science, and the AB and BS in marine science and conservation. In addition, minors are offered in environmental sciences and policy, earth and climate sciences, and marine science and conservation. Certificate programs are offered in energy and the environment, and sustainability engagement. Courses for the majors are taught by more than sixty Duke professors in twenty cooperating departments and schools. The Department of Biology offers a BS with a concentration in marine biology that is fulfilled by a semester in residence at the Duke University Marine Laboratory—a major facility of the Nicholas School.


The school is composed of three divisions, which serve graduate professional, doctoral, and undergraduate students:

Earth and Climate Sciences

With focal areas in climate change, energy, solid earth processes, and surficial processes, the Division of Earth and Climate Sciences (ECS) is headquartered in the Levine Science Research Center on Duke’s West Campus. ECS faculty conduct research all over the world, from the 3,200-meter-deep Hess Deep trench in the Pacific Ocean to the 4,000-meter altitudes of the South American Altiplano.

Environmental Sciences and Policy

With focal areas in ecosystem science and management, environmental health, wetlands, and environmental economics and policy, the Division of Environmental Sciences and Policy (ESP) is headquartered in Grainger Hall. Faculty with training in the biological, physical, chemical, and social sciences work on applied and basic environmental research problems. The division stresses interdisciplinary approaches to environmental problem solving.

Marine Science and Conservation

The Division of Marine Science and Conservation (MSC) strives to be at the forefront of understanding marine environmental systems, their conservation, and their governance through leadership in research, training, and communication. The MSC division is headquartered at the Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina. Faculty research interests include biological and physical oceanography, marine biology and conservation, marine environmental health, marine biotechnology, and marine policy and management.