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.


The priority DEL-MEM application deadline date is December 15.   We encourage applicants to apply early for full financial aid consideration.  January 15 is the final application deadline to enter the DEL-MEM program for the fall semester. 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 relevant professional environmental experience
  • 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 and data analysis
  • 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
    The application will open on September 15: apply online. If you’d like to learn more about the program as you work through your application, please join us for an information session.  

    Our application is part of ChooseDuke, a university-wide system for applicants. To begin your application to Duke Nicholas School, you will need to create an account at: (*You must log out of any existing social media accounts before attempting to create a Duke social media login.) If you need assistance with social media account creation or logging in to ChooseDuke, you may contact our office at or request help from our Applicant Help Desk at The online application system requires you to submit information in 3 sections (General Information, Supplemental Materials, and Recommendations) in order to complete your application. The first step is to answer all required questions and to submit the application form. The online application and fee must be submitted before you can upload the required supplemental materials. Supplemental materials such as unofficial transcripts, essays, and resume can only be uploaded once your application and fee are submitted.

  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. If you meet any of these qualifiers, please send an official verification document from the organization to Please note that it may take up to 10 days for review and decision.

  3. Letters of Recommendation
    Applicants are required to submit three letters of recommendation from professional references via the online application. Please note that each letter of recommendation is limited to 2000 characters.

  4. Sponsor Letter
    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. Personal 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:

    • What motivates your interest in environmental leadership?
    • 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?
    • 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.

  1. Resume
    You must submit a current professional resume, highlighting your environmental experience, management, and leadership.

  2. Transcripts
    Applicants must submit official transcripts for all colleges and universities attended. We accept both official and unofficial transcripts when reviewing your application. Official transcripts should be in sealed envelopes that have been signed or sealed across the flap by the registrar of the institution attended. If the original is not in English, you must also provide a certified English translation. Please mail official transcripts to the address at the bottom of this page. If your undergraduate institution uses eSCRIP-SAFE International (or similar agent) to deliver official transcripts, please ask the university registrar to forward your official transcript to Unofficial transcripts may be submitted through the online application. All transcripts submitted through the online application are considered unofficial.

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 or if you have worked in the U.S. for two years or more. Official TOEFL scores should be 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.

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 >

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


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.