The Cooperative College (3-2) Program

The Cooperative College Agreement provides a means for qualified undergraduates to proceed directly from three years at one of the cooperative institutions to the professional Master of Forestry (MF) or Master of Environmental Management (MEM) program at the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University. Assuming that all required undergraduate courses were completed prior to matriculation into the Nicholas School of the Environment, the student will be eligible to receive his or her undergraduate degree upon successful completion of the first year of professional study. After the second year, he/she will be eligible to receive the MF or MEM degree. A student from the cooperative college may also enter Duke after completing his/her baccalaureate degree (a 4-2 student). In all cases, applicants from cooperative institutions are evaluated on the same basis as other applicants to the school. There is no guarantee that 3-2 applicants will be admitted to the school just as there is no guarantee of admission for any other student.

The 3-2 option allows maximum education with minimum investment of time and money; however, there are both positive and negative aspects of this option and the individual student's undergraduate preparation and maturity are key factors in its success. We hope that the advisor will discuss both 3-2 and 4-2 options with potential applicants. In this way, the Cooperative College Program can be a useful tool for all participants. The following information highlights the pertinent components of preparation for students who wish to pursue the cooperative college 3-2 option.


Admissions criteria for the Nicholas School are designed to ensure admitted students will perform well while they are at Duke and after they graduate. The Admissions Committee evaluates each candidate for his or her academic potential, professional promise and ability to benefit from and contribute to the goals of the school. Each application is reviewed carefully, first for completeness and then for basic acceptability. The applicant’s undergraduate performance, completion of prerequisites, quality and content of the personal statement, test scores and letters of recommendation are carefully considered.

Advisors and prospective students frequently ask us what grade point average (GPA) and graduate record exam (GRE) scores are required for admission. Insofar as possible, each applicant is judged individually on his or her own merit and all parts of the application are equally important in determining acceptance. We have no specific levels of GPA and GRE required for admission. Decisions to accept or deny the application are made by the Admissions and Awards Committee and letters go out over the signature of the Assistant Dean for Enrollment Services.

Programs of Study

The Master of Forestry (MF) and Master of Environmental Management (MEM) are professional degrees and are administered by the Nicholas School of the Environment. The professional (MF, MEM) degrees are oriented toward training broadly based natural resource managers and environmental problem solvers. They are multidisciplinary, including natural sciences, social sciences, and quantitative decision-making skills. MEM and MF degrees equip graduates to begin or advance in a professional career related to environmental policy and management. MEM and MF graduates go onto hold management and staff positions in which they are expected to compile, analyze and interpret natural and social science information and then use it to formulate a plan for action.

Master of Environmental Management degree candidates choose one of the following seven programs of study as an area of specialization:

  • Coastal Environmental Management (CEM)
  • Ecosystem Science and Conservation (ESC)
  • Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health (EEH)
  • Energy and Environment (EE)
  • Environmental Economics and Policy (EEP)
  • Global Environmental Change (GEC)
  • Water Resources Management (WRM)
  • An eighth program of study, is available to students seeking the Master of Forestry degree.

It is possible for students to complete the Master of Environmental Management concurrently with the Master of Forestry degree. With careful planning of course work and special attention to the master’s project, students wishing to complete the MEM concurrently with the MF may do so with one additional year of work.

To view detailed program information, visit here >

Years of Study

Three (3) years of study at the student’s undergraduate institution.
Upon completion of the first year at the Nicholas School, the student may earn his/her bachelor’s degree.

Two (2) years of study at the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University. 
Upon completion of year two at the Nicholas School, the student may earn his/her MEM or MF degree.

What the 3-2 Cooperative College Will Provide

The undergraduate institution must provide a cooperative college advisor who will assist interested students.

In some schools this person is a member of a particular department (such as biology, botany, economics or public policy). In other schools, the advisor is a member of the undergraduate dean's staff. Students should have full access to the advisor, to assist the student with course planning & related preparation and to write one of the required letters of recommendation.

Three complete years of academic study (to include completion of degree or major requirements).
The student’s undergraduate degree.

Completing the Bachelor's Degree for 3-2 Students

Students who are accepted as 3-2 MEM or MF candidates should complete requirements for their undergraduate major prior to matriculation into the professional program. Students may, if necessary, take one or two undergraduate courses at Duke during the first year of study, but such courses will not count toward Nicholas School degree requirements and may constitute an overload beyond the normal registration. It is assumed that 3-2 students will be registered for a normal, full-time course load (12 credit hours) during the first year at Duke. It is the responsibility of the 3-2 advisor to make clear to the student the number of courses and semester hours required during the first year to be eligible for the undergraduate degree.

For a number of Cooperative College Program participants, a full-time year at Duke equals a full-time senior year at their institution. However, a number of others require a specific number of semester hours for graduation. If the college requires more than 24 hours in the senior year, the 3-2 student would have the choice of taking an overload as an undergraduate, taking an overload at Duke, or delaying the completion of the undergraduate degree until the fall semester of the second year at Duke. The decision on this matter, of course, is up to the cooperative college. We would prefer that the student have the opportunity to complete the BA or BS in four years, but this is not a requirement of the cooperative (3-2) agreement.

After the 3-2 student's first year at Duke, if requested, a letter will be sent to the advisor (and/or any other designated registration official at the undergraduate institution) indicating that the student successfully completed the first year of work in the Nicholas School. The undergraduate institution may request that the student have a confirming transcript sent if required. If the undergraduate school has an early graduation date such that the transcript or letter will not arrive in time to certify the status of the student, an e-mail may be sent to relay the student's grades for the year.

What the Nicholas School Will Provide

  • Information about our programs
  • Assistance with the application process
  • Assist with a visit to our campus
  • A Master of Environmental Management or Master of Forestry professional degree

MEM/MF Program Graduation Requirements 

48 Total Credit Hours
All professional students are required to complete 48 semester hours of graduate-level study to be eligible for the Master of Forestry or Master of Environmental Management degree. The 48 hours should be completed during four semesters of full-time residency during which a student may enroll for 9 to 15 hours of credit. The normal registration is 12 hours per semester.

A Master’s Project
The master’s project is an integral part of the total education of the professional student in the Nicholas School of the Environment. It is intended to represent the student's major academic focus, and demonstrates the student's competence in that area. The project integrates course work, seminars, independent projects, internships, and other experiences in an in-depth study that culminates in a professional quality report and a formal presentation.

The project should demonstrate skills the student has learned during his/her masters program at Duke, it should provide original insights not available elsewhere, and it should be clearly grounded in the larger context of work in the relevant field of study. Not all projects need include quantitative analysis, but those using qualitative methods (e.g., case study, text analysis) should explicitly follow an accepted methodology. Early and careful planning is essential to completing a high quality project within the two academic years of a professional masters program.

To view detailed information about the master’s project guidelines and format visit here >

An internship between the first and second year is strongly encouraged but not required.
It is extremely helpful if students wishing to pursue the 3-2 program have taken advantage of summer internship, externship and research opportunities during their first three years of study at the undergraduate level.

Program Prerequisites

  • Natural or Social Science courses related to the student’s area of interest
  • College level course in Calculus* (required)
  • College level course in Statistics* (required)
    *Students must earn a grade of B- or better in each prerequisite course and earn college credit in order for it to count towards the prerequisite. Pass/Fail courses are not acceptable. Self-paced courses are also not acceptable.
  • Undergraduate experience and training in professional Writing
  • Each program requires additional courses or recommends additional preparation, for details visit here >

Application Requirements

  • Application deadline January 15.
  • Application for Admission and Personal Statement
  • Application Fee (non refundable)
  • A statement from the student's dean that he/she will be released from the undergraduate school to enroll in a 3-2 program.
  • Three letters of recommendation
    At least one letter should be from the official Cooperative College Program advisor for any applicant and a second should be from another faculty member acquainted with the student's undergraduate career. If the student has had a significant amount of work experience related to his/her prospective graduate/professional studies, the third letter may be from an employer.
  • Transcript from all colleges & universities attended
  • Transcripts are required for all post high school level course work. If a student transferred from one undergraduate college to another, transcripts are needed for both institutions, even if all the courses are listed on the transcript from the second institution.
  • Standardized Exams 
    The GRE is required of all applicants. The TOEFL is required of applicants whose first language is not English and/or for those applicants not currently attending an undergraduate institution in the USA.
  • Resume and/or CV encouraged but not required
  • To view detailed application information, visit here >

Financial Assistance

The best sources of information concerning financial aid are the Nicholas School Web site and the section of the application packet entitled "Financial Aid.” Financial aid for all professional degree students in the Nicholas School takes two forms: merit-based awards, including possible assistantships, and need based awards (loans). Awards are independent of tuition, fees, and living costs. Students are expected to pay these expenses from their awards, loans, and personal and/or family contributions. There are no tuition waivers. We will work with each accepted applicant to assure that, within our means, each accepted applicant is able to afford tuition, fees, and living expenses but each student should expect the majority of their financial support would come from sources other than merit awards. The fact that a student has applied for financial aid will have no bearing on the admissions decision. To view further financial aid information visit here >.


We will gladly assist students in arranging an individual visit to our campus. To view detailed information about visiting our campus, visit here >

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