FAQ Video Series
In this series of short videos, hear insights on the application process from Melissa Kotačka, Assistant Director of Admissions
For details instructions about the application process and its components, visit How to Apply.
Can I apply with a three-year bachelor’s degree?
Applicants to the Nicholas School’s professional master’s degree programs must hold the equivalent of a four-year US bachelor's degree from an accredited institution prior to matriculation at the Nicholas School. Applicants whose undergraduate programs are three years in length typically must complete a fourth year of study to be considered for admission.
Do you conduct interviews?
On campus MEM, MF: Non-native English speakers, including those who qualify for an English language testing waiver, may be required to participate in a virtual interview to evaluate spoken English language ability. This interview is structured as a conversation with a member of our staff and does not require formal preparation. Nicholas School staff will contact applicants via email if this is required. Notes from this session will be included alongside application materials, and reviewed by the Admissions and Awards Committee.
DEL-MEM: Applicants will participate in a virtual admissions interview to discuss their professional goals, readiness for self-directed distance learning, and how they envision the DEL-MEM facilitating their growth as an environmental leader. For non-native English speakers, spoken English language proficiency will also be evaluated. Nicholas School staff will be in contact to schedule this after the application is submitted.
How do I make myself a strong applicant?
At the Nicholas School, we know a community of smart, active people with a wide range of experiences and expertise enables us to build a better environmental future. We take that to heart in our holistic application review process.
Our application is designed to enable you to share your academic and professional preparation for graduate study alongside your lived experiences that shape how you approach problem solving, teamwork and collaboration. We are interested in you as an individual, the ways your experiences shape the perspective you’ll bring to the classroom and the professional environmental landscape.
Before beginning your application, read the How to Apply instructions carefully. Additional instructions will be available in the application itself. Refer to these resources as you work on your application. Craft each application component with the goal of conveying what you’d bring to the Nicholas School community, and how you hope to grow during your time here. Graduate school is a major commitment, and we hope to learn how a Nicholas School degree fits into your overall professional and personal trajectory.
Do I need to be a certain age, have a specific major or have a certain amount or type of work experience?
- MEM, MF: Students join our programs from a range of academic and experiential backgrounds. We have a balanced mix of students who join us directly after undergrad and those who join us later. In our incoming class each year, we usually have 40+ areas of undergraduate study represented. Some have directly relatable research, work, internship and/or volunteer experiences, while others bring transferable skills from other areas of interest and professions. Our holistic review takes into account all that you share on your application—from your coursework to your statement of purposes to your resume—as we complete our admissions evaluation.
- DEL-MEM: Applicants need not be a certain age, but five years of post-bachelor's degree environmentally-related experience is required (professional OR a significant commitment to the personal/volunteer work in related fields). Evidence of leadership potential and an established background in fields directly related to the environment is also required.
For more information on preparing your application, see How to Apply.
Who should I ask to write my recommendations?
In the online application form, applicants will enter contact information for three individuals who can articulately write about their suitability for the program and graduate study. Your recommenders should be able to write about your leadership potential, problem solving skills, maturity, personal integrity, etc.
- MEM, MF: Applicants currently completing their undergraduate study should submit at least one academic recommendation. Recent graduates are encouraged to submit at least one academic recommendation. If you find yourself unable to find an academic recommender who can still speak to these characteristics, think about someone who knows you well enough to rate your strengths and who can thoughtfully articulate them for us. The person you choose to write your recommendation is your decision, though we would prefer to hear from employers and/or supervisors from a work/professional setting.
- DEL-MEM: In the online application form, applicants will enter contact information for three professional references who can articulately write about their suitability for the program and graduate study. Your recommenders should be able to write about your leadership potential, problem solving skills, maturity, personal integrity, etc. The person you choose to write your recommendation is your decision, though we would prefer to hear from employers and/or supervisors from a work/professional setting.
For further details on letter of recommendation:
How to Apply to NSOE Master's Programs
Is the application the same for the Master’s and PhD programs?
No. PhD admissions are handled through Duke’s Graduate School.
I'm interested in pursuing concurrent degrees. Do I have to complete two applications?
Applicants to the on-campus MEM or MF may apply to concurrent degrees at the same time they apply to the Nicholas School, or during their first year of enrollment.
- Applicants wishing to pursue the Nicholas School's concurrent MEM+MF should apply with one application to the Nicholas School.
- Applicants to the MEM or MF wishing to pursue a concurrent degree with a non-Nicholas School program will complete two applications: one to the Nicholas School, and one to the non-Nicholas School program.
When will I receive my admissions decision?
Admissions decisions are released in mid-March. If applicable, financial aid notifications are sent soon after.
All areas of study within the Master of Environmental Management and the Master of Forestry require one semester each of calculus and statistics. Additional courses may be required or recommended depending on areas of study within the MEM or MF degree.
What should I do if I am missing a prerequisite course?
If you are missing prerequisites:
- You may still apply for and be offered admission if you are missing one or more prerequisite courses; however, students must begin the program with a maximum of one missing prerequisite course (i.e., students missing more than one prerequisite course must complete coursework prior to the start of the fall semester).
- We strongly urge all students to complete all prerequisite coursework prior to the start of the program. An initial review of prerequisite coursework is completed as part of the admissions application review. The NSOE Registrar determines the official prerequisite status for enrolling students in the spring prior to the fall term (e.g. students enrolling for Fall 2023 will receive a prerequisite review in Spring 2023).
- Students who begin the program missing the maximum one prerequisite course must complete the requirement during the first year, preferably in the fall semester.
For program-specific requirements, guidance on meeting prerequisites, and further details:
GRE & English Language Testing
Is the GRE required?
The GRE requirement for fall 2023 admission consideration remains suspended. Applicants should not submit GRE scores, as GRE scores will not be reviewed as part of our admissions process.
Applications will continue to be reviewed holistically. During this time, the Nicholas School will also assess the continued need and value of requiring the GRE in future application cycles.
If my first language is not English, do I have to submit English language exam scores?
If your native language is not English, you must submit an official score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam or the Duolingo English Test. This requirement is waived if you earned your undergraduate degree in the United States, earned an undergraduate or master's degree from an English-only speaking institution, or have been working in the United States for two years or more. If your score is low, you may be accepted on the provision that you complete an intensive English language program in the United States prior to enrollment.
- Official TOEFL scores should be reported to Duke University’s institution code 5156; there is no department code.
- Official TOEFL scores are matched to student records after the application is submitted. Please allow 3-5 business days for this process.
- A PDF of your IELTS score report should be uploaded in the "Supplemental Uploads" section of the application. Scores will be considered unofficial until Admissions staff verify your scores through the testing service.
- There is no institutional code for Duolingo, but applicants will need to select “Duke University Graduate Programs: Graduate School; Divinity; Engineering; Environment; Public Policy; Duke Kunshan” at the "Graduate" program type level as the institution to send scores to.
- Please Note: Make sure to include subscores when you select your institution. Score reports without subscores will not be accepted. If you are not sure how to include subscores in your score report, please contact Duolingo English Test support on the Duolingo English Test website.
Career & Professional Development
Where can I expect to work when I graduate?
While there are many factors that determine where you will work, a few of the bigger factors are the strength of your professional network, the quality of your professional experience and the breadth of your academic background. Nicholas School graduates can be found around the world in consulting firms, business/industry, non-profit and non-governmental organizations, federal/state/local governments, etc. Employers range from start-up ventures to boutique consulting firms to multi-national corporations and conservation organizations.
How many students have internships?
Each summer, about 95% of our students engage in internships or summer research projects around the world, providing valuable opportunities to gain career-related experience and build a professional network.
Although challenges caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic continued to affect professional students seeking summer experiences in the summer of 2021, 96% percent of Nicholas School professional master’s students seeking opportunities reported securing a meaningful summer experience.
What kind of benefits does the CPDC offer?
From the very beginning, students are presented with a Career-Readiness Curriculum, which outlines essential skills and experiences that students should pursue as they search for internships and their first job. While not an exhaustive list, below you'll see the kinds of things you can expect from the CPDC. Keep in mind on-campus students typically have 10+ distinctive interactions with the CPDC every year.
- One-on-one consultations for career advice and job search strategies
- Current job and internship postings
- Recruiting events
- Professional development workshops
- Weekly newsletters
- Access to our active alumni network
- Access to the Handshake career development platform for a wide range of job and internship resources
- Weekly resource listings for both employment and summer experiences
Tuition & Cost
For questions related to Tuition and Cost for master's programs, visit the Tuition and Fees section of the website.
What is flat-fee tuition?
The Nicholas School uses a “flat-fee” tuition structure, which means all master’s degree students pay the same tuition regardless of their specific program, number of credits registered for, or whether the work is done online or in-residence. You can take courses in one of our other graduate/professional schools (e.g. Fuqua, Pratt, Duke Law, etc.) at no additional cost.
What is the tuition structure for concurrent degrees?
Tuition for concurrent degrees will be based on a blended rate. Financial aid from the Nicholas School, if awarded, will then be adjusted accordingly.
What aid is available for international students?
We consider all admitted applicants, including international students, for school-supported aid: merit-based aid in the form of scholarships and/or modest assistantships (for MEM/MF only, valued at $3,000) and need-based grants.
International students are not eligible for federally supported loans such as the Stafford or GradPlus. Students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible for federal loan programs.
Whereas the federally supported loan programs are not available to non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents, the Nicholas School’s need-based grant program is open to F-1 and J-1 visa holders, provided they can supply the necessary documentation to support their application.
Can I apply for financial aid after the admission deadlines?
Federal student aid (through the FAFSA) is not tied to our admission deadlines.
All applications received by the final application deadline will receive consideration for our merit-based scholarships. Your application for admission also serves as your merit-based scholarship application.
You will be considered for Nicholas School need-based grants, regardless of the deadline by which your application is submitted, as long as you complete your CSS profile and submit the proper documentation by its deadline.
I've seen mention of the MEM curriculum changing. Will these changes apply to me?
The new Master of Environmental Management (MEM) curriculum structure was published on our website August 26, 2022 and will apply to students matriculating in fall 2023 and beyond.
Students who matriculated prior to fall 2023 should continue to work with their academic advisor to fulfill graduation requirements.
Do you offer part-time or evening classes?
MEM, MF: We do not offer part-time or evening classes.
DEL-MEM: While the DEL-MEM program is not part-time, it is a flexible, innovative format that allows you to update your education while maintaining a commitment to your job and family.
While many MS degree programs are more research-focused, the MEM is an applied degree. As a professional master’s degree, our Master of Environmental Management provides an interdisciplinary lens on tackling environmental issues in partnership with colleagues and communities. Our students receive training in the natural and social sciences, and develop skills that complement this content knowledge with tools to apply it, and this experience is embedded into the MEM experience.
Duke MEM, MF and DEL-MEM students complete a master's project rather than a master's thesis. A culminating hands-on experience, the master’s project enables students to apply the professional skills and knowledge they’ve acquired in the classroom to projects that tackle real-world environmental challenges, often in service to an industry, government or nonprofit external partner.
Compare the Duke MEM to an MS at another school (infographic)
Do Nicholas School master’s programs prepare me for a PhD program?
While the majority of our graduates enter the workforce upon graduation, a handful of our MEM graduates do pursue further study in doctoral programs.
Both the Masters of Environmental Management and the Masters of Forestry programs are STEM compliant.
We have had several international students take the one year OPT extension. There is a separate application and approval process for OPT. Additionally, students wanting to use the STEM designation for the 24-month extension to work in the United States will need to complete a third application and approval process. Please note that the full extension cannot be applied for or granted in advance. For more information, visit Duke Visa Services:
- F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) 24-Month STEM Extension
Can I defer my enrollment?
Applicants should plan to apply to the Nicholas School for the term in which they intend to begin their study. All NSOE master’s programs begin in the fall semester. We do not offer spring or summer admissions.
Deferrals will be granted for Teach for America, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, City Year and military service. Deferrals are granted for one year (next fall admission cycle). Approved deferral requests require receipt of your tuition deposit; should you choose not to matriculate, you will forfeit your deposit and be required to reapply for future admission consideration. Any financial aid award(s) will be canceled and re-evaluated alongside the next admitted student class and a new FAFSA will be required.
Still Have Questions?
The admissions team is here to help you through the application and enrollment process. We encourage you to attend one of our recruitment events, connect with us during virtual office hours and reach out with questions anytime.