Requirements and Prerequisites

The Nicholas School of the Environment welcomes applications from domestic and international students of all backgrounds who seek an intellectually challenging education designed to prepare them for leadership in a wide variety of natural resource and environmental careers. Admission to the Master of Environmental Management (MEM) and the Master of Forestry (MF) is open to students who hold a four-year equivalent bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Admission as a nondegree student may also be granted under appropriate circumstances.

Students enrolled in the Duke Environmental Leadership Master of Environmental Management (DEL-MEM) Program are subject to the same requirements, responsibilities, and policies as set forth for on-campus MEM students, except where specifically differentiated (i.e., admissions requirements, credit requirements, program format, and curriculum requirements). Admission to the DEL-MEM is open to students who hold a four-year equivalent bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and have a minimum of five years of post-degree environmentally-related experience (professional or a significant commitment to personal/volunteer work in related fields). The DEL-MEM Program is a two-year, four-semester Master of Environmental Management degree-granting program utilizing distance-learning technologies.

For information about the international Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP), see here.


All students admitted to the Nicholas School are expected to have had the following (except the DEL-MEM program, see below):

  • some previous training in the natural sciences or the social sciences related to their area of interest in natural resources and environment;

  • at least one college semester of calculus; and

  • a college statistics course that includes descriptive statistics, probability distributions, hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, correlation, and simple linear regression.

Additional courses may be required or recommended as follows:

  • Master of Environmental Management

    • Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health. One semester of college chemistry is required; principles of ecology and organic chemistry recommended

    • Environmental Economics and Policy. One semester of microeconomics required—either a full semester microeconomics course or an introductory course that is more than half microeconomics rather than macroeconomics.

    • Terrestrial and Freshwater Environments. One semester of principles of ecology recommended.

  • Master of Forestry. One semester of principles of ecology and one semester of microeconomics (either a full semester microeconomics course or an introductory course that is more than half microeconomics rather than macroeconomics) are required.

  • Duke Environmental Leadership. Minimum of five years of post-degree environmentally-related experience (professional or a significant commitment to personal/volunteer work in related fields)

Any course submitted in fulfillment of a prerequisite should be taken for graded credit, a final grade of at least a C- must be earned and the course must be submitted on an official transcript from the accredited institution where the course was taken. Although not recommended, courses taken on the pass/fail grading basis, advanced placement credit and non-graded courses may be used to fulfill prerequisites.

Although students lacking the level of preparation described above may be admitted, deficiencies should be made up prior to enrollment in the Nicholas School. It is especially important for concurrent degree students and students planning to study at the Duke University Marine Laboratory in their second year to complete all prerequisites prior to enrollment. Students lacking prerequisites may be unable to complete the recommended sequence of courses and may find it difficult to graduate on time. For this reason, we strongly urge students to complete all required prerequisites successfully prior to matriculating. Courses taken after matriculation to satisfy prerequisites do not count toward the credits required for the degree. Students who fail to meet the required prerequisites by the end of the first year of study may be dismissed from the program

Recruitment, Campus Visitation, and Interviews

Each year, representatives of the Nicholas School recruit prospective students through a range of in-person and virtual opportunities, including but not limited to virtual admissions information sessions, graduate school, and career fairs, and professional conferences.

Prospective students may view upcoming recruitment events, request further information about the DEL-MEM, MEM, and MF programs, and sign up for application process updates from the Nicholas School of the Environment by visiting

While campus visits are neither required nor considered as a factor for admission to the Nicholas School, prospective students who are able to travel to Durham may find them helpful and informative. Campus visits occur during the academic year when classes are in session (i.e. during the fall and spring semesters), and visitors select from pre-scheduled weekdays. Visit registration includes the option to customize the visit day from a list of pre-scheduled activities, such as touring NSOE facilities, meeting with NSOE staff, and a class visit (subject to staff and faculty availability). Virtual tours of the Durham campus and the Duke University Marine Lab are also available. Interested students may learn more about virtual and in-person campus tours by visiting

An interview with a member of the admissions committee is not required for admission to the on-campus MEM or MF programs. Applicants to the DEL-MEM program are required to participate in an interview, if requested by the admissions committee.

Admissions Criteria

Admissions criteria for the on-campus Master of Environmental Management and Master of Forestry are designed to ensure that admitted students will perform well while they are at Duke and after they graduate. The Admissions and Awards Committee evaluates each candidate holistically for their academic potential, professional promise, and ability to benefit from and contribute to the goals of the school. Academic performance as an undergraduate and work experience are key factors considered in the application review process alongside letters of recommendation, the applicant’s personal statement, résumé, and other information required on the application. Individuals with prior relevant work experience are especially encouraged to apply.

The admissions criteria for the DEL-MEM Program include a minimum of five years of post-degree environmentally-related experience (professional or a significant commitment to personal/volunteer work in related fields). Academic performance as an undergraduate, professional environmental work experience, leadership experience and/or potential, letters of recommendation, applicant essays, and an applicant interview are the primary factors considered in the application review process for the DEL-MEM. Extracurricular activities and other information requested on the application also provide a basis for selection.

Application Procedures

Application for admission to the on-campus Master of Environmental Management and the Master of Forestry degrees and the DEL-MEM is made through the Office of Student Services of the Nicholas School of the Environment by submitting an electronic application and electronic upload of supporting documents (see details below).

For the on-campus MEM, MF, and DEL-MEM, the application deadline is December 15 preceding the fall in which admission is desired. Admission is offered for the fall term only. Applications received after the December 15 deadline may be considered on a space-available basis after all on-time applications have been considered. All applications for admission are also considered for a limited number of merit-based financial awards; merit-based financial assistance is not guaranteed. Need-based grants from the school require a separate application process which should be completed by mid-February, even if a final admissions decision has not yet been conveyed.

Application instructions and the link to the online application are available by visiting No applicant will be considered until the completed application form and all required documents described below are received and processed by the Office of Student Services.

  1. Application Form. The electronic application may be accessed through the Nicholas School website, Both on-campus MEM and MF as well as DEL-MEM applicants should use the above link. Applications to the PhD program are available through The Graduate School website.

  2. Official Transcripts. One copy of the transcript from each undergraduate and graduate school attended should be uploaded electronically as part of the electronic application. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable for the application review process. Official transcripts showing awarding of the degree must be submitted by every matriculating student prior to enrolling. If the original transcript is not in English, the applicant must also provide a certified English translation. If not included on the transcript, students must provide proof of the degree prior to enrollment. If the institution uses SCRIP-SAFE International (or similar agent) for the delivery of official transcripts, the applicant may request that their registrar forward an official transcript to If electronically delivered transcripts are not available, the applicant may request that paper transcripts be sent to the Office of Student Services, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Box 90328, Durham, NC 27708-0328 in sealed envelopes that have been signed across the flap by the registrar of the institution attended.

  3. Application Essay(s). Applicants are required to submit one or more application essays as outlined in the application instructions on the NSOE website. The Admissions and Awards Committee attaches considerable weight to the statement of education objectives submitted by the applicant. This statement should reflect well-defined motivation to pursue graduate study.

  4. Letters of Recommendation. Each applicant is required to request three letters of recommendation to be submitted electronically on their behalf from persons who know their educational and/or professional achievements.

  5. Application Fee. Please verify with Admissions regarding the application fee.

Additional Procedures for International Students

Each year the Nicholas School of the Environment welcomes international students among its professional degree candidates, including the Duke Environmental Leadership program. All applicants must meet the same criteria for admission, including a four-year bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. All academic transcripts and other documents in support of admission must be provided in English (we respectfully request a certified translation for documents not originally written in English). Visit the admissions website for additional information on acceptable certifications. Verify with Admissions regarding the application fee, which must accompany the application for it to be considered.

English Language Proficiency

Applicants whose first language is not English must submit an official score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam, or the Duolingo English Test. This requirement is waived if the applicant earned their undergraduate degree in the United States, earned an undergraduate or master's degree from an English-only speaking institution, or has been working in the United States for two years or more. The Nicholas School does not set minimum required scores; if an applicant’s score is low, they may be accepted on the provision that they complete an intensive English language program in the United States prior to the start of the program.

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Official TOEFL scores should be reported to Duke University’s institution code 5156; there is no department code.

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS),

    • A pdf of IELTS score reports should be uploaded in the “Supplemental Uploads” section of the application. Scores will be considered unofficial until NSOE staff verifies your scores through the testing service.

  • Duolingo,

    • There is no institutional code for Duolingo, but applicants will need to select “Duke University Graduate Programs: Graduate School; Divinity; Engineering; Environment; Public Policy; Duke Kunshan” at the “Graduate” program type level as the institution to send scores to.

    • Make sure to include subscores when you select your institution. Score reports without subscores will not be accepted. If you are not sure how to include subscores in your score report, please contact Duolingo English Test support on the Duolingo English Test website.

Additional note for the on-campus Master of Environmental Management and Master of Forestry. All non-native English speakers may be required to take proficiency exams in written and spoken English prior to the start of the semester; depending on these results, the student may be required to enroll in additional English language instruction. Students should be aware that if additional English language instruction is required, they may need to adjust their course load while being enrolled in English language instruction.

Proof of Funding

The visa-granting authority in the student’s country of origin, ordinarily the United States Embassy, requires proof that sufficient funds are available to the student to cover the expenses of study before a visa can be granted. International students are not eligible for federal and state loans, although they may qualify for certain educational loans through private United States agencies. Labor and visa policies might limit the eligibility for non-US citizens to pursue summer employment and permanent employment in the United States after graduation. School-based financial assistance, if it is offered, is not sufficient to cover all costs associated with studying at the Nicholas School. International students should expect to demonstrate other sources of support to meet regulatory requirements and obtain a visa.

DEL-MEM Visa Requirements for Non-US Citizens

If admitted, the DEL-MEM program requires students to participate in five (5) place-based sessions. Four of these sessions take place at Duke University in Durham, NC, and one place-based session is held in Washington, DC. Duke University and the US Department of Homeland Security require non-US citizens entering the United States to participate in the DEL-MEM program place-based sessions to enter the United States on an F-1 student visa for each place-based session. A business or tourist visa is not sufficient.

Admission with Nondegree Status

Persons wishing to enter the Nicholas School of the Environment as nondegree students must submit a special application form requesting nondegree status along with an application fee of $25. The applicant must have completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and must submit an official transcript of all previous coursework. The student must have one letter of recommendation; this letter should indicate why the applicant should be allowed to undertake nondegree study at Duke. The application itself requires a brief statement of purpose in which the applicant should state their reasons for such study at Duke.

Admission as a nondegree student does not guarantee future admission to the MEM or MF degree. Nondegree students who complete an application for the professional degree and are offered admission may be able to count a limited number of appropriate credits from their nondegree status at Duke toward the MEM or MF degree. The student’s program chair will determine which if any credits may be counted toward the degree. Applying credits taken as a nondegree student does not reduce the number of semesters required for the degree or the tuition required. Neither the on-campus nor the DEL-MEM programs accept transfer credits from other institutions.

Notification of Admission Decisions

After the Admissions and Awards Committee has completed a review of all applicants for the upcoming fall semester, applicants will be notified via email that their decision is available to view by logging into their applicant portal. Hard copy letters are not sent; students may save a PDF of their decision letter from within their applicant portal for their records. Admission decisions for all applicants will be released by mid-March.

Students who are offered admission and who intend to enroll must formally accept the offer of admission via an electronic admissions reply form and submit a nonrefundable enrollment deposit by the posted enrollment deposit deadline. Instructions for doing so and the deadline are included in the applicant’s decision letter. Students who are offered admission but do not intend to enroll are encouraged to complete the electronic admissions reply form to decline their offer of admission. Failure to respond by the stated deadline may result in withdrawal of the application.

Notification of any school-based financial awards and Financial Aid Notices (FAN) will be sent to admitted students within a few weeks of admission; FANs include federal loans for which the student may be eligible.

Students may be offered a place on a waiting list and must accept or decline via an electronic reply form by the deadline noted in their decision letter. Should space be available after the initial enrollment deposit deadline for admitted students, students who accept a place on the waiting list will be considered for admission. All students who accept a place on the waiting list receive a final decision by the end of June.

Deferred Admission

Applicants are admitted only to the class for which they have applied and should not apply until they are prepared to undertake professional studies. Deferrals will be granted for Teach for America, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, City Year, and military service. Deferrals are granted for one year (next fall admission cycle). Students interested in requesting a deferral should contact the Office of Student Services via email as soon as possible after receiving their admissions decision at Approved deferral requests require receipt of a tuition deposit; should the student choose not to matriculate, they will forfeit their deposit and be required to reapply for future admission consideration. Any financial aid awards will be canceled and re-evaluated alongside the next admitted student class, and a new application for need-based financial aid will be required.