Master of Forest Science (MFS) and
Master of Environmental Science (MESc)

Degree Program Structure and Requirements

1. Overview

The Master of Environmental Science (MESc) and Master of Forest Science (MFS) programs are designed for students wishing to conduct scientific research that contributes toward basic and applied knowledge. The MFS degree is intended for those students wishing to work on forest-related topics, and the MESc degree is intended for students wishing to work on non-forest related environmental issues. These science degrees are intended to provide students a deeper disciplinary focus than the School’s management degrees, while holding to the core value of the School that students should be allowed flexibility in course selection in order to meet their educational goals. The course of study includes formalized training in the philosophy and practice of science. Training is provided through key courses in combination with extended research. 

The scientific research required for this degree will be conducted in close collaboration with a YSE faculty research advisor. Selection of the advisor will take place during the application process, where students indicate three potential advisors they would be interested in working with. It is suggested that applicants connect with potential advisors before applying, however this is not required and advisors are not secured in advance of application for admission.

2. Coursework

The MESc/MFS is a 48-credit program, with formal coursework comprising at least 24 credits. Decisions on the timing for completion of the coursework credits are made by the student and research advisor. Courses may be distributed evenly over two years, or a greater course load may be carried in Year 1 to accommodate research-related travel and fieldwork in Year 2.

MESc/MFS students are required to complete Mixed Methods for Social Science Research (YSE 551a) or Natural Science Research Methods (YSE 550a) in their first semester. Another research methods course may be substituted for YSE 551a or YSE 550a when appropriate and subject to approval of the research advisor.

Students should work with their advisors to select their remaining courses that will support the design, execution, and communication of their Master’s research and that are consistent with their career goals. These courses may be drawn from YSE, as well as from other departments or schools within Yale. YSE courses are listed at

3. Research

3.1 Thesis Research Credits

MESc/MFS students must also complete at least 12 credits of Thesis Research. Students may register for a maximum of six credits per semester of Thesis Research during their first year and up to 12 credits per semester in their second year, provided the 24-credit coursework requirement is satisfied. Thesis Research is graded as Credit/Fail and culminates with the Master’s Thesis.

3.2 The Master’s Thesis

The Master’s Thesis should be a coherent piece of scholarship in the form of one or more major papers suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or as a chapter in an edited book. A Master’s Thesis typically includes original data or an original analysis of published data and leads to novel interpretations and new findings. The thesis should draw from research that begins and is carefully planned in Year 1. The research should be sustained through the summer and serve as a focus of student effort in Year 2.

3.3 Thesis Requirements

The thesis requirements consist of a research proposal and the thesis itself. The purpose of the proposal is to demonstrate that the study has scientific merit, the research plan is tractable, the methods are appropriate, and the results will likely represent a meaningful contribution to the scientific community. The proposal serves as a formal mechanism by which students can gain feedback on their progress, learn of potential pitfalls and problems, and receive counsel on requisite modifications to the research plan. The proposal should be submitted for committee review no later than 30 September in Year 2.  In some cases, advisors may require students intending to begin research over the Summer between Years 1 and 2 to have a completed proposal by the end of the second term in Year 1.

The thesis should be completed by the end of Year 2. Meeting this timeframe relies on the conscientiousness and vigilance of the students and their advisors. As an illustration, we provide scheduling guidelines for Year-2 tasks that would lead to on-time completion of the thesis and graduation in two years:

  • April 1st: student submits completed first draft of thesis to committee chair
  • April 7th: committee chair returns comments for revisions to student
  • April 21th: student submits revised draft to thesis committee
  • April 30th: thesis committee returns assessment and recommends approval in present form or further revisions
  • May 10th (or end of spring semester): student completes revisions (if necessary) and submits final version of thesis to the committee for approval.

4. Research Presentation to the Yale Community

An important part of conducting research is communicating research findings to the wider scientific community. Therefore, as part of their degree requirement, second-year MESc/MFS students must present the findings of their research at the annual YSE Research Colloquium, which is held in April. Students will receive a grade of Satisfactory Completion for this effort.

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