Natural Resource Management Degree Program Overviews
Find out about associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in natural resource management. See what courses are required, and learn about career options and employment expectations for this field.
Degrees in natural resource management are available at the 2-year level all the way up to the Ph.D. level. These programs teach students about natural resources, such as water, minerals and animals, and prepare graduates for a variety of careers. Undergraduate programs are often focused on training for work in fields such as animal husbandry, forest conservation or government administration, while graduate degree programs prepare students to work in scientific research and academia.
Associate of Science in Natural Resource Management
Students enrolled in a 2-year program in natural resource management gain an understanding of different types of natural resources, such as rangelands, aquatic life and forests, as well as the management techniques that help to conserve resources. Classes in the program look at water, minerals, rocks, soils and animal resources.
An associate degree program in natural resource management focuses specifically on practical knowledge and skills, and students most often use it as a means of securing entry-level work upon graduation. Students who elect to study natural resource management with an agribusiness focus may go on to work in areas related to farm supply, animal husbandry and fertilizers.
Most associate degree programs in natural resource management are offered through community or technical colleges, particularly those that are found within a close proximity to natural resources, such as rangelands and forests. To gain acceptance into such schools, students are expected to first complete a high school diploma program or similar certification.
Courses within a 2-year degree program in natural resource management combine practical classes and labs that relate specifically to the management of natural resources. Additionally, students take general education courses, such as composition and basic mathematics, to round out the curriculum. Examples of courses include:
- Introduction to chemistry
- Introduction to range management
- Wildlife conservation
- Introduction to soil science
- Physical geology
- Animal science
- Soil fertility
- Introduction to agribusiness management
- Principles of accounting
Popular Career Options
Graduates of an associate of science program in natural resource management typically have the practical experience and skills suitable for an entry-level position in the following career areas:
- Wildlife conservation
- Natural conservation management
- Marshland conservation
- Range or park management
- Wildlife biology
- Fertilizer sales
Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management
A 4-year bachelor's degree program in natural resource management teaches students to assess, conserve and manage the structure and composition of forests and natural structures. Students can harness that information towards eventual careers protecting the environment and developing sustainable processes of forestry, food harvesting and aquatic ecology.
The main courses included in a degree program in natural resource management cover various topics, such as natural vegetation, wildlife, minerals and soils, water and natural recreation. Many programs in natural resources management take students out into forests and rangeland where they can gain first-hand training about how to manage natural resources. Many programs also include management or business courses that may prepare graduates for administrative positions in government and environmental agencies.
Most of the 4-year institutions offering natural resource management degree programs require that applicants first complete a high school diploma or GED certificate program. Most also require the completion of standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT. Natural resources management degree programs also seek individuals who have a particular interest in nature and the outdoors. High marks in biology, natural sciences and social sciences are also taken into consideration.
Program curriculum varies depending on the school and concentrations offered. A program may cover stewardship, renewable resources, population growth, sustainable development and conservation. Concentrations may include environmental management, recreation and park administration, water conservation, wildlife biology, fisheries or wildlife sciences. Possible courses may include:
- General biology
- Ecosystem management
- Environmental science
- Chemistry laboratory
- Writing and the environment
- Probability and statistics
- Management principles
- Introduction to economics
- Forest ecology
- Field studies
- Natural resources policy
Popular Career Options
Many graduates of a natural resource management degree program go into careers that enable them to protect the environment or the planet's natural resources in some way. Potential career choices include positions in the following areas:
- Restoration forestry
- Wildlife habitat enhancement
- Ecological research
- Aquatics ecology
- Sustainable farming
- Parks management
- Forestry measurements
- Forest fire suppression
- Watershed hydrology
- Non-profit administration
Master of Science in Natural Resource Management
A master's degree program in natural resource management typically lasts two years and is specifically created for individuals who have already gained a solid foundation in the management processes that affect natural resources. Graduate programs in the field are typically interdisciplinary and combine techniques from the subjects of business, economics, resource policy and conservation.
Students enrolled in a master's degree program in natural resource management are typically encouraged to choose a particular track, such as policy management related to the environment, international resources or technical conservation skills, on which to focus their studies. Students are prepared for management positions in the government agencies and public foundations that protect and conserve the environment. Some master's degree programs in the field require that students complete a thesis relating to research in natural resources management, while others skip this requirement.
A common requirement for a master's degree program in natural resource management is a bachelor's degree in natural resource management, conservation or natural resources policy. In some cases, a background in environmental resources, soil sciences or parks and recreation will suffice.
A master's program in natural resource management includes both scientific and professional studies. It allows students to focus on a specific area(s) of interest. Students may be required to complete a research project that includes fieldwork. Example courses may include:
- Advanced natural resources management
- Issues in natural resources management
- Advanced statistics
- Assessment and analysis
- Policy and administration
- Ecological restoration
- Economics and management
Popular Career Options
Several of the job opportunities available to graduates of a master's degree program in natural resource management are similar to those careers available to graduates of a bachelor's degree in the field. However, students who graduate at this level are more likely to earn management positions, such as the following:
- Environmental policy agent
- Hydrology specialist
- Soil analyst
- Wildlife policy administrator
- Parks manager
- Ecosystem specialist
- Natural processes analyst
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Natural Resource Management
A Ph.D. in natural resource management is the highest degree available in the field. Much like with a master's degree program in the subject, a doctoral program in natural resource management typically requires that students select a particular track on which to focus. These can range from natural resource management and economics to natural resource management with a concentration in sustainable development.
A doctoral program in natural resource management is expected to instill in students an advanced understanding of the economic principles that will most probably affect the management and conservation of the environment. They should meet with a graduate advisor and doctoral committee to select a course of research and study most fitting to their desired subfield and eventual career in the area.
The most typical educational requirements for a Ph.D. in natural resource management include a Master of Science in the field and completion of a GRE test. Students should also have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, in addition to a solid background in resource management and economic theory.
At the doctoral level, individuals studying natural resource management typically select their own tracks of study and research. This often directs them in their quest to complete a dissertation project. However, core courses do exist. Some examples of these include:
- Production economics
- Natural resources and environmental economics
- Natural resources policy analysis
- Mathematical economics
- Project analysis and assessment
- Field courses
Popular Career Options
Students who graduate from a natural resource management degree program at the doctoral level have the opportunity to advance to the highest positions available in the field. Many also enter academia and branches of research. Popular career options include:
- Ecosystem technical advisor
- Policy management administrator
- Conservation scientist
- Wildlife scientist
- Professor of natural resources management
- Technical advisor and specialist
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