Application Materials & Requirements (online program)

The following information is for applicants wishing to pursue an Online Master’s degree (MEM) through the Duke Environmental Leadership program.


  • Priority Application Deadline: December 16, 2019
  • Regular Application Deadline: January 17, 2020; If space is available in the program, we may accept applications after the deadline. Please contact us at or (919) 613-8070 to inquire about this possibility.


To be considered for the DEL-MEM program, students must have the following:

  • Five years of post-degree environmentally-related experience (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, as shown by applicant essays and reference letters
  • Self-motivation and commitment to learn at a distance
  • A working knowledge of the internet and personal computers for word processing, data analysis, and synchronous online conferencing
  • An undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year college or university
  • Written sponsorship from employer (or letter of commitment, if self-employed)
  • Proficiency in English


You should plan to provide the following materials. Please contact us with any questions. 

  1. Online Application
  2. Application Fee
  3. Letters of Recommendation
  4. Sponsor Letter (Letter of Commitment for the self-employed)
  5. Essay
  6. Resume
  7. Transcripts
  8. Standardized Language Exam (for applicants whose native language is not English)
  1. Online Application

    1. To begin your application, you will need to register a Duke OneLink account. If you have ever applied to another Duke University program, including the undergraduate program, chances are you already have a OneLink account, it may just need to be reactivated.
    2. If you choose to link your OneLink account to your social media, you must first log out of any existing social media accounts before attempting to link the two. If you have trouble creating a OneLink account or accessing your application, visit the OneLink Help Page.
    3. Start the application by answering some general identification and education questions.
    4. Attach the required supplemental documents.
    5. Pay the application fee.
    6. Your application is not considered complete until all letters of recommendation are received. When all letters of recommendation are received, the review process will begin. The review process includes an in-depth interview. A member of the admissions team will contact you to set up the interview.
    7. You may track the status of your application within the Slate application portal.
  2. Application Fee  
    A non-refundable application fee of $80 is required of all applicants. You may pay via credit card when submitting your online application. Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, City Year, or Teach for America alumni, as well as active duty military and veterans, may request an application fee waiver before submitting their application (we cannot reimburse fee payments).
  3. Letters of Recommendation
    Applicants are required to identify three professional references who can articulately write about their suitability for the program. Recommendation letters will not be accepted outside of the online portal. Applicants should notify their recommenders that letters are limited to one page in length.
  4. Sponsor Letter (Letter of Commitment for the self-employed)
    Your employer must send a sponsor letter on company letterhead stating that your employer endorses your participation in the program and will grant you the necessary time off to attend classes. Self-employed applicants must submit a letter of commitment. Please find an example of a sponsor letter here.
  5. Essay
    The DEL-MEM program seeks to enroll a class with a wide range of experience, achievements, and perspectives. In this 750-word (max) essay, please answer the following:

    1. What motivates your interest in environmental leadership?
    2. How does the MEM degree align with your career goals? How will you manage competing academic, professional, and personal priorities over the next 2 years?
    3. What qualities and accomplishments will you bring to the program?

    Please be sure that your essay is a coherent, concise, and compelling response to all of these questions, though they do not have to be addressed in any particular order.

  6. Resume
    Applicants should submit current resumes highlighting their environmental experience, management, and leadership.
  7. Transcripts
    Applicants must submit transcripts for all colleges and universities attended. All transcripts submitted through the online application are considered unofficial. Official transcripts are not required, nor requested, until the applicant is admitted.
  8. Standardized Language Exam (for applicants whose native language is not English)
    If your native language is not English, you must submit an official score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam.  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. Applicants should take the test by December 1, 2018 so that we will receive scores in time. Official TOEFL scores should be electronically reported to Duke University’s institution code 5156; there is no department code. Official IELTS scores should be mailed to the Office of Academic and Enrollment Services, Nicholas School of the Environment, Box 90330, Durham, NC 27708.

    Because we match scores by an applicant's name, it is important your name on the application and your name on your test scores be the same. If it is not, you must update the other names section under Personal Information section of the application to facilitate the manual matching process.The admissions committee will review your application with self-reported scores, which you can enter within the application, but offers of admission will not be made until official test scores are reported. It is highly recommended that applicants request official test score reports be sent prior to submitting an application.

Admissions Interview - All applicants are required to participate in an extensive admissions interview as part of the application process.

If admitted, the DEL-MEM program requires students to participate in five (5) place-based sessions. Four of these sessions take place at Duke University in Durham, NC and one place-based session is held in Washington, D.C..  Duke University and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security now require non-U.S. citizens entering the United States to participate in the DEL-MEM program place-based sessions to enter the United States on an F-1 student visa (business or tourist visas is not sufficient). Learn more about requirements for international students >


Duke University is committed to encouraging and sustaining a learning and work community that is free from prohibited discrimination and harassment. The university prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, genetic information, or age in the administration of its educational policies, admission policies, financial aid, employment, or any other university program or activity. The university also makes good faith efforts to recruit, employ and promote qualified minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and veterans. It admits qualified students to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students. 

The university also does not tolerate harassment of any kind. Sexual harassment and sexual misconduct are forms of sex discrimination and prohibited by the university. Duke University has designated Dr. Benjamin D. Reese, Vice-President of the Office for Institutional Equity, as the individual responsible for the coordination and administration of its nondiscrimination and harassment policies. The Office for Institutional Equity is located in Smith Warehouse, 114 S. Buchanan Blvd., Bay 8, Durham, North Carolina 27708. Dr. Reese’s office telephone number is (919) 684-8222 and his email address is

Questions or comments about harassment or discrimination can be directed to the Office for Institutional Equity, (919) 684‐8222. Additional information, including the complete text of the harassment policy and appropriate complaint procedures, may be found by contacting the Office for Institutional Equity or visit their website here. For further information on notice of nondiscrimination, you can contact the appropriate federal office by visiting their website, click here for the address and phone number of the office that serves your area, or call 1 (800) 421-3481.