We strive to give students:

  • A strong foundation in the physical, chemical and biological processes that affect aquatic and atmospheric environments
  • Quantitative, qualitative and geospatial skills in observation, monitoring and modeling that are required to understand, protect and sustainably manage water resources at regional and global scales
  • Basic principles of economics, management, finance, law and policy that are necessary to inform decision-making for adequate management and sustainability of water resources
  • Oral and written skills needed to communicate with decision makers; conduct and understand scientific research, write cogent research reports, proposals and policy evaluations and give effective public presentations


Because water is local, every place has a unique set of water management challenges. Our foremost goal is to equip students with the fundamental concepts and analytical tools needed to approach any water problem. Students enjoy a small class size and a low student-faculty ratio as they build this core foundation and develop additional skills and topic-specific expertise relevant to their interests and career goals.


Our curriculum provides a strong basis in the physical, chemical and ecological sciences across systems including watersheds, wetlands, streams, lakes, groundwater and coastal waters. In addition, students gain an understanding of the economic, legal and financial factors that drive real-world water management decisions and develop a robust skill set in key analytical techniques relevant to water resource management. To complement this core curriculum, you’ll work with your faculty advisor to choose coursework within an area of specialization aligned with your specific career aspirations.

Transferable Skills

Water Resources Management students receive in-depth training in:

  • Physical, chemical and ecological sciences across systems
  • Applied modeling and data analysis
  • Policy and legal context and constraints for decision-making
  • Local-scale water governance
  • Project finance

Your Future

The Nicholas School’s dedicated Career Center helps WRM graduates secure fulfilling positions as analysts, consultants, water utility managers, corporate sustainability advisors, entrepreneurs and more. Employers include government agencies, public water utilities, consulting firms, international corporations, government agencies, fuel and resource extraction companies, research centers and nonprofit organizations.

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    Prerequisites, Courses & Requirements


    See Master of Environmental Management program prerequisites.

    Additional Prerequisites for WRM Students

    • 1 semester of college-level chemistry is strongly recommended.
    • 1 semester of college-level physics is strongly recommended.
    • 1 semester of college-level microeconomics is recommended. Note that one semester of college-level microeconomics is required for ENVIRON 520 and 521 (Resource & Environmental Economics), a two-part course frequently taken by WRM students. Additional prerequisites as needed for specific courses.

    Courses & Requirements


    In addition to the MEM degree requirements, a typical WRM curriculum consists of the following components.

    • 3 courses/tutorials required for all MEM students (2 credit hours)
    • 4 core courses (11 credit hours minimum)
    • 4 courses within a chosen area of specialization (12 credit hours minimum)
    • 3 tools and techniques courses (8 credit hours minimum)
    • Master’s Project (4-6 credit hours)
    • Additional electives to meet the 48-credit hour minimum for degree completion

    Requirements for All MEM Students

    All MEM students must take the following courses:

    Requirements for the WRM Program

    The WRM curriculum consists of four core courses, four courses within a chosen area of specialization and three tools and techniques courses. 

    Areas of Specialization

    You’ll work with your advisor to choose an area of specialization that aligns with your interests and career goals. Options include: Water Management, Water Science, International Water, and Wetland Science and Management.

    Additional Electives

    Students typically must take several additional elective courses to fulfill the minimum 48-credit hour requirement for degree completion. Students may select courses to add depth, to develop a related area of interest in natural resources or to strengthen quantitative skills.

    See All Courses

    Educational Network

    WRM students benefit from a strong and diverse network of educational resources. At Duke, the Nicholas School shares research and programmatic overlap with Duke’s Trinity College of Arts & Science and Duke’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Students also have access to resources at our sister universities, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.

    Choosing a Career Track

    The WRM program allows students to choose from two curriculum tracks. Your advisor can help you determine which courses and track best aligns with your interests and career goals.

    Water Resource Management Track

    This is the default track for students admitted to the WRM program. Students in this track focus on completing the required coursework and their Master’s Project. This track also allows for several elective courses in the student’s areas of interest to help them strengthen their background in Water Science, Water Management, or International Water.

    Wetland Science and Management Track

    This track is geared toward students who wish to specialize in Wetland Science and Management and can provide Wetland Professional in Training (WPIT) status, which expedites Professional Wetland Scientist (PWS) certification from the Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS). Certification is critical because it is often needed to obtain the best positions in consulting firms, state and federal agencies and NGO organizations who focus on wetland delineations, research, restoration, and functional assessments.

    Students in this track focus on completing the required WRM coursework and their Master’s Project. In addition, the track requirements include:

    Additional supporting courses and wetland certification guidelines can be found on the Duke Wetland web site and application procedures and full guidelines on SWS web page.

    For Current & Admitted Students

    Master's Projects

    A Master’s Project combines the academic rigor of a thesis with the practical experience of an internship. Working singly or in groups, students apply skills and knowledge they’ve acquired in the classroom to tackle real-world environmental challenges for real clients through a well-formulated and defensible analysis. The MP typically culminates in a paper and presentation in your final semester. It fulfills 4-6 credit hours.