PhD in Natural Resources

The PhD degree in natural resources is designed to prepare students for academic careers in research and teaching or other advanced scientific or professional careers. PhD candidates conduct original research under the supervision of a faculty adviser or advisers and with the participation of a doctoral committee. Students are expected to engage in coursework to prepare for careers in research, industry or academia. The PhD degree is conferred only upon those students who, after extensive study, have demonstrated a high level of achievement in their particular emphasis area and have completed independent research contributing to knowledge in the field. Ph.D. candidates complete a dissertation and are expected to publish their research results in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Students entering the PhD program usually have a master’s degree, but this is not an absolute requirement. The PhD in Natural Resources has emphasis areas in Fisheries & Wildlife Sciences, Forestry, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Soil, Environmental & Atmospheric Sciences, and Water Resources. Please see the individual emphasis area pages for additional degree requirements and admissions information.

Degree Requirements

  1. A minimum of 72 hrs beyond the Baccalaureate degree for the PhD.
  2. A maximum of 30 hours of post baccalaureate graduate credit from an accredited university can be transferred toward the PhD degree program, subject to committee approval.
  3. The program must include a minimum of 15 hours of 8000 level course work, exclusive of problems, readings and research.
  4. Graduate seminar is required (see each emphasis area for specific requirements).
  5. PhD students are strongly recommended to submit their research results in peer-reviewed journals.

Doctoral Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination determines whether the student’s background is adequate to enter the PhD program. It also is intended to ascertain if there are areas of weakness in which a candidate will be required to gain background through appropriate course work or areas that prohibit entry into the program. The PhD student must complete the qualifying exam no later than the end of the 2nd semester. 

D-1 Qualifying Examination Results and Doctoral Committee Approval Form

Submission of the D-1 form follows a meeting of the student’s graduate committee and approval by the committee, of the student’s proposal and plan of research and coursework. This form is to be submitted to the Graduate School within one month of exam completion.

D-2 Plan of Study

The D-2 form accompanies the D-1, and is also to be submitted to the Graduate School within one month of exam completion.

Doctoral Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive exam is to determine if a student has acquired sufficient depth and breadth of knowledge in selected areas of concentration, and to evaluate the candidate’s capacity to apply that knowledge in solving applied or theoretical problems. After successfully completing the required course work with a GPA of 3.0 (A=4.0) or better, students must pass a written and oral comprehensive examination administered by their doctoral committee. A comprehensive exam must be taken a minimum 7 months before dissertation defense.

D-3 Doctoral Comprehensive Exam Result Form

The D-3 forms should be completed and filed with the Graduate School within one month of exam completion.

Final Examination

The final examination is directed primarily toward exploration of the dissertation research project. An independent scholarly dissertation approved by the student’s advisor and doctoral committee must be completed. Every candidate should review the Dissertation & Thesis Guidelines from the Graduate School and should consult the Emphasis Area Coordinator for academic program style requirements.

D-4 Report of the Dissertation Defense Form

The D-4 form should be completed and filed with the Graduate School as soon as possible after the defense.

Doctoral Committee

The committee shall be composed of a minimum of 4 members of the MU graduate faculty and will include a major adviser from the emphasis area, a second and a third reader from the School of Natural Resources, and an outside reader who is a member of the graduate faculty from a different MU graduate program. At least 2 of the committee members must be MU doctoral faculty.

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Admission Requirements

  1. M.S. degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline or B.S. degree with adequate background from an accredited institution
  2. Minimum GPA: 3.0 on a scale of 4.0
  3. Graduate Record Exam score (GRE) is recommended in some emphasis areas but not required if an applicant demonstrates in-depth knowledge in his/her corresponding field
  4. Minimum TOEFL scores: iBT 80; paper-based: 550

Applicants will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Particular attention is given to the type and quality of professional experience since completion of the undergraduate degree.

How to Apply

  1. We recommend each applicant secure potential advisers first before formal application. Information about potential adviser in all emphasis areas can be found at
  2. All application materials must be submitted to the Apply Yourself online application system.
  3. Statement of interest
  4. Résumé or CV
  5. GRE scores (check for the emphasis area requirement)
  6. TOEFL scores (if applicable)
  7. Emphasis area application (if applicable)
  8. A minimum of three letters of recommendation and the accompanying evaluation sheets from people who can attest to the candidates scholastic ability and experience relevant to graduate study.
  9. Publications (optional)

Application Deadlines

  1. There is no application deadline.  However, to ensure eligibility for some fellowship/scholarship competition of the Graduate School, the following deadlines are recommended.
  2. December 15 for the summer semester
  3. January 15 for the fall semester
  4. October 15 for the spring semester

Financial Aid from the Program

Check the School website ( or contact individual faculty for details on graduate assistantships that may be available.

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