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Masters Programs

Masters of Science (M.S.)

Program Objectives

The goal of the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography's Masters of Science Degree Programs is to provide a scientifically-based, credible, holistic and timely introduction and knowledge of key ecological and socio-environmental issues.

Students can complete a degree program in a minimum of 1.5 years of full-time study and a maximum 5 years of part-time study.

There are four M.S. degree programs offered: 

Completion of the degree is expected to lead to placements in the workforce in chosen field, in a position requiring graduate training, and in career advancement for working professionals

  • Effective communication skills,
  • A full understanding of the scientific method,
  • A generalized knowledge in ecological, geological, chemical and biological concepts as they relate to the environment.
  • A generalized knowledge of the natural and human-driven problems currently, and anticipated to, impact the marine environment.
  • In-depth knowledge of a specific aspect of their major.

On campus graduate classes typically meet one evening per week in a three hour session. Exceptions are field courses which may entail several days of intensive study. On-line courses meet periodically at the convenience of faculty and students.

There are two tracks for completing an M.S. degree:

  • Capstone
    All entering M.S. students are accepted in the Capstone. Students take a minimum 13 regular courses in their selected degree for 39 credits. Students must take Capstone courses totaling a minimum of 6 credits. This is typically done at or near the completion of formal coursework. The Capstone is a scholarly review, based upon a comprehensive literature search, review, and synthesis of the chosen topic. Carrying out a Capstone takes place with guidance from a major professor. Typically, Capstone students find a major professor by approaching faculty in the student's area of interest. Students will be assigned a Capstone advisor if they have difficulty in identifying a major professor. Prior to beginning a Capstone and registering for Capstone credits, the student must write a proposal which must be approved by the student's major professor, committee (define how committee is formed), and chair of the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences and be submitted to the Program Office.
  • Thesis Track
    The thesis track requires an extra step. A thesis is an original contribution to knowledge resulting from the systematic study of a significant problem or issue. A thesis track requires a minimum of 10 regular courses for 30 credits.  In addition, a minimum of 10 Thesis credits is required. To be allowed entry into the Thesis track the student must secure agreement from a faculty member to be the student's major professor. There must be adequate funding to carry out the proposed research. Students are not provided with a thesis advisor. Prior to beginning thesis research and registering for thesis credits, the student must write a proposal which must be approved by the student's major professor, committee, and the chair of the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences and be submitted to the Program Office. The Thesis option is typically a longer duration track and number of credit hours than the Capstone track.

For further details, students are referred to section 3.8 of this catalog and to the online guidelines for the capstone or thesis track found on the Student Information page

The Capstone track requires a minimum of 45 credits. This includes five 3-credit core classes, eight 3-credit specialty courses and a minimum of two 3-credit Capstone Review Paper courses (consisting of an extended literature review of an approved subject). Once a student starts registering for capstone course credits, they cannot stop registering for credits until the capstone is completed and defended. It is expected the Capstone review paper can be completed within two terms or less. The completed Capstone review paper is presented in an open defense that includes the student's advisory committee.

The Thesis track requires a minimum of 39 credits. This includes five 3-credit core classes, five 3-credit specialty courses, and at least nine credits of master's thesis research. The number of thesis research credits above the minimum is dependent upon the length of time needed to complete the thesis research, which may be more than the typical minimum three terms. The final thesis is formally defended in an open defense that includes the student's advisory committee.

Students in a single degree are allowed to take up to two elective courses outside their degree orientation and have them count towards their final credit count.

For both the Capstone Review Paper and the Thesis degree tracks, once the proposal has been accepted, enrollment in the chosen track must continue until completion of the degree.

Also offered are Joint M.S. Degrees

  • M.S. in Marine Biology/Coastal Zone Management
  • M.S. in Marine Biology/Marine Environmental Sciences
  • M.S. in Coastal Zone Management/Marine Environmental Sciences

The joint specialization M.S. degrees require a minimum of 57 course credits (19 courses) or 51 course credits (17 courses) (for Capstone review or Thesis respectively) including nine credits minimum thesis research or the six credits minimum for the capstone review paper. For the joint programs, students take approximately equal numbers of courses within each of the two specialties. The final thesis is formally defended in an open defense that includes the student's committee.