The purpose of prerequisite requirements is to ensure that students are adequately prepared for graduate-level courses in the Master of Environmental Management (MEM) and Master of Forestry (MF) professional degree programs. Application and acceptance to the MEM and MF degrees is possible with prerequisite deficiencies. However, although we may admit applicants with missing prerequisites, we only matriculate students who are missing no more than one required prerequisite.

Students lacking prerequisites may be unable to complete the recommended sequence of courses and may find it difficult to graduate on time. For this reason, we strongly urge students to complete all required prerequisites successfully prior to matriculating. Courses taken after matriculation to satisfy prerequisites do not count towards the credits required for the degree. Students who fail to meet the required prerequisites by the end of the first year of study may be dismissed from the program.

See complete list of prerequisite requirements by degree below.

Admissions Prerequisites

Prerequisites for admission to the Nicholas School’s MEM and MF degrees are:

  1. Some previous training in the natural sciences or the social sciences related to the student’s area of interest.
  2. At least one semester of college calculus that includes: algebra (graphing linear equations, solving systems of linear equations); functions (characteristics of functions in one variable, logarithmic functions, exponential functions); calculus of one variable (derivatives, definite and indefinite integrals); calculus of more than one variable (partial derivatives, total derivatives); and first-order differential equations (discrete and continuous time, rates of decay, initial conditions).
  3. A college statistics course that includes descriptive statistics, probability distributions, hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, correlation, simple linear regression, and simple ANOVAs.

Master of Environmental Management (MEM) Degree

In addition to the school-wide prerequisites in Calculus and Statistics, which are required for all concentrations, the following concentrations within the MEM degree require (and/or recommend) additional prerequisite coursework. Although students must complete required prerequisites, completion of recommended courses is left up to the student’s discretion.

  • Environmental Economics and Policy Concentration: One semester of Microeconomics is required – either a full semester microeconomics course or an introductory course that is more than half microeconomics rather than macroeconomics.
  • Terrestrial and Freshwater Environments Concentration: One semester of Principles of Ecology is recommended. 
  • Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health Concentration: One semester of college Chemistry is required; Organic Chemistry and Principles of Ecology are both recommended.


Master of Forestry (MF) Degree

In additional to the school-wide prerequisites in calculus and statistics, the MF degree requires:

  1. Principles of Ecology
  2. Microeconomics (either a full semester microeconomics course or an introductory course that is more than half microeconomics rather than macroeconomics)

Although students without the level of preparation described above may be accepted for admission to the MF program, it is expected that all prerequisite deficiencies will be completed prior to matriculating by means of formal coursework to assist in the successful and timely progression through the MF degree.


Choosing a Prerequisite Course

Students may fulfill prerequisite requirements by demonstrating successful completion of at least one of the following options for each required prerequisite. While highly recommended, students may choose whether to complete prerequisite courses recommended for their concentration.

Traditional / standard college-level course

Complete a college level course at any accredited college or university (including community, technical or junior college); for graded credit and a minimum grade of C- earned (a Passing (P) or Satisfactory (S) grade) is also acceptable; and submit an official transcript to demonstrate successful completion. 

Coursera / MOOC / Opencourseware

Students may satisfy prerequisite requirements by providing a certificate of completion at the conclusion of a course taken through Coursera, MOOC or Opencourseware.  If the student is unable to provide a certificate of completion, then a copy of the complete grade history report must be submitted at the end of the course. The student must submit a complete list of all final grades (including all individual modules) as a PDF (see the “Grades” section within the course portal). Then, the student should upload the certificate and/or grade report in the transcript drop box. Proof of completion must include the student’s name. 

Duke Coursera offers chemistry and statistics courses at no cost to current Duke students; non-Duke Coursera courses are at the student’s expense. Duke NetID login is required to take the statistics and chemistry Coursera courses at Duke. Login to Duke Coursera.

Below is the list of Duke and non-Duke options: 

Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB)

We will accept advanced placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if the student earns college credit for the course(s) from their undergraduate institution. College credit must be clearly documented on the official undergraduate transcript. In the absence of the appropriate documentation on the official undergraduate transcript, we will accept an official letter from the institution’s Registrar’s Office (sent directly to our office), which clearly confirms the student earned college credit for the advanced placement course(s); the letter may not be sent by the applicant or student.

Distance Learning Courses

Students may fulfill prerequisites at any accredited college or university. Students wishing to enroll in a distance learning course (i.e., online), to fulfill a prerequisite, are encouraged to seek prior approval to make sure the course is appropriate to fulfill the prerequisite requirement. Send an email to with the name of the institution, course title, course number, credit value, dates of the course and the link to the online course details. The Nicholas School maintains a short list of Pre-Approved distance learning courses (for required prerequisites only). To request a list of Pre-Approved Distance Learning Courses, send an email to


If desired, students may send a copy of the syllabus or detailed course description for review and approval before they enroll and pay for prerequisite courses. While this step is not required, we encourage students to be sure that the course covers the required topics. Students are welcomed and encouraged to send the course syllabus to Allow up to 3-5 business days for the review process to be completed and to receive a response via email.


Diagnostic Exams

The Nicholas School administers diagnostic exams in calculus and statistics. All students are expected to take and pass the diagnostic exams. Students must complete the calculus and statistics prerequisites prior to taking the diagnostic exams. We encourage students to spend time reviewing the core topics in calculus and statistics prior to the exams. Although we want students to do well on the diagnostic exams, please do not stress about these tests in advance. The exams are intended to assess where students are in these subjects prior to matriculating and to ensure that students are prepared for graduate level courses requiring calculus and statistics as prerequisites. Students cannot take the diagnostic exams to waive a prerequisite requirement.


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