Master's Degree Requirements


Thirty (30) units of approved coursework [pdf] are required for the Master’s degree. Students admitted as conditionally classified may be required to take additional prerequisite courses to fulfill departmental requirements. All graduate students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA or risk being placed on academic probation.

Conditionally Classified Status

Students who are admitted as conditionally classified will have received a list of prerequisite courses that they must take prior to fully entering the graduate program. Students should plan to complete these courses within their first and second semesters. Once these courses are completed, the student submits a Change of Classification Form first to the Graduate Coordinator and subsequently to the GAPE office.

Required Seminars (9 units total)

Students should plan to take ENVS 250 their first Fall semester, and ENVS 200 and 297 their first Spring semester, unless conditionally classified.


  • ENVS 250: Seminar: Environmental Thought and Philosophy  (3 units)
    An in-depth critical analysis of significant works in the field of Environmental Studies. Topics covered include preservation versus conservation, biocentrism, environmental justice, eco-feminism, deep ecology, and environmental activism.


  • ENVS 200: Seminar: Environmental Methods  (3 units)
    A rigorous analysis of methods used by social, physical, and natural scientists in assessing a region's natural resources and quality of environment; application of such techniques as field methods, maps, social surveys, and project evaluation.
  • ENVS 297: Research and Proposal Development  (3 units)
    Students develop their thesis topic through extensive literature research.  The product will be a draft thesis proposal to be circulated among potential committee members.

Electives (15-16 units, MUST BE approved by thesis chair and graduate coordinator)

Electives can include courses in Environmental Studies or related fields selected with advisor's approval within the following limits.  In general, the purpose of elective courses is to help students complete their thesis research.

  • Must be 100- or 200-level courses
  • At least 3 units must be in ENVS
  • At least 9 units must be field methods, analytical methods, laboratory work (in ENVS and/or related departments).
  • Up to 6 elective units may be taken as Credit/No Credit. ENVS 210 may be considered for 3 or more of these units.
  • ENVS 210-3 is HIGHLY recommended for first-year students in the Fall.

ENVS 210: Current Topics in Environmental Studies (1-3 units per semester)
An investigation of current research topics in the field of Environmental Studies. lectures by faculty, visiting scholars, and Master’s student candidates are accompanied by class discussions and analysis of academic journal articles.

ENVS 210 may be repeated for credit for up to 9 units. Ongoing graduate students are encouraged to enroll.

Advancement to Candidacy

Once a student has obtained classified status, has completed the three required seminars, and has submitted a thesis proposal signed by their entire committee, a Petition to Advance to Candidacy [pdf] must be submitted to the ENVS Graduate Coordinator. The application to candidacy should be submitted a year prior to the expected graduation date.

Thesis Units (6 units total)

Once a student has advanced to candidacy, they are required to complete a total of six (6) thesis units (ENVS 299: Master's Thesis or Project) under the direction of the Thesis Chair and Graduate Coordinator. 

Completing the Master's Thesis

For full details about the Master's thesis process in Environmental Studies at SJSU, please see the following link.

After advancing to candidacy, the focus of the program turns toward the completion of the Master of Science thesis. Conducting research and writing the thesis can be one of the most enjoyable, and yet one of the most difficult tasks, a graduate student undertakes. To facilitate student progress, the department requires that graduate students remain enrolled during the entire thesis process.

Students are encouraged to begin planning their thesis work as soon as they enter the program. For some students, thesis research begins the moment they set foot on campus and they are able to complete the process by the end of their second year. Others use the first year as an exploratory period, during which they may be completing prerequisites and considering various research questions. These students may complete the thesis during or after their third year of study.

The process of developing and completing the thesis includes the formation of an original study question, extensive literature review, data gathering, data analysis, and the writing of the thesis. Once the thesis is complete it will be reviewed by the Thesis Committee and revised by the student.

The Oral Thesis Defense

Once the Thesis Committee has reviewed and accepted a candidate's written thesis, the student must publicly present an oral defense of the research. In order to schedule your thesis defense, contact before the beginning of the semester in which you plan to defend. If the Thesis Committee determines that the work has been satisfactorily defended, the Verification of Culminating Experience Form (only graduate advisors have a copy of this form, which they submit on the student's behalf) must be submitted.

Applying for Graduation

Approximately two weeks after a student has been approved for advancement to candidacy [pdf], students will be invited via email to apply for graduation through MySJSU.

1290R - Continuous Enrollment Course

Once a student has completed all program coursework (including 6-units of ENVS-299), they must remain enrolled until their thesis is completed. While working on completing the thesis, students may enroll in ENVS1290R at a reduced tuition cost of $288 per semester. Although this course is housed in the Environmental Studies department, it is run by the College of Graduate Studies (CGS) and has special registration procedures (invitation only). CGS will automatically send all eligible students a registration appointment for the course after the official last day to add classes.