The Cooperative College (3-2) Program

The Cooperative College (3-2) Program offers students the opportunity to proceed directly from three years of undergraduate study at one of our partner schools to two years of study in the Nicholas School’s Master of Forestry (MF) or Master of Environmental Management (MEM) program.

Students in the program typically earn their bachelor’s degree after their first year at the Nicholas School and their master’s degree after their second year at the Nicholas School, thus earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a total of five years of study.

Program Overview
Course Requirements
How to Apply


The 3-2 program is available only to students at participating schools. The program allows students to obtain maximum education with minimum investment of time and money. Students should expect to work hard, but most of our students find that comes naturally because the program allows them to immerse themselves in topics they are passionate about.

While at their undergraduate institution, 3-2 students must typically complete the course requirements for their undergraduate major before moving to the MEM or MF program at Duke. In rare cases, students may take 1-2 undergraduate courses at Duke during the first year of their MEM or MF program, but such courses do not count toward Nicholas School degree requirements and may constitute an overload. Students also may enter the MEM or MF program after completing their full undergraduate course of study (4-2 students).

After moving to the MEM or MF program at Duke, 3-2 students typically take a normal, full-time course load (12 credit hours). For many program participants, a full-time year at Duke equals a full-time senior year at their undergraduate institution and satisfies their requirements for graduation for the undergraduate degree. If a student’s undergraduate institution requires more than 24 credit hours in the senior year, the 3-2 student must either take a course overload at their undergraduate institution, take an overload while at Duke, or delay the completion of the undergraduate degree until the fall semester of the second year at Duke.

Students can also pursue the Master of Environmental Management concurrently with the Master of Forestry degree. With careful planning and special attention to the master’s project, students may do so with one additional year of work, thus earning a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees in a total of six years of study.

Interested students should consult the cooperative college advisor at their undergraduate institution for guidance.


3-2 students must consider the specific course requirements and total number of credits needed to obtain both their undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Undergraduate Requirements
The credit hours and specific courses required to earn the bachelor’s degree are determined by the student’s undergraduate institution.

Prerequisites for Entering the 3-2 Program
To be eligible to enter a master’s program after three years of undergraduate study, students must have taken:

  • College level course in Calculus* (required)
  • College level course in Statistics* (required)
  • Natural or Social Science courses related to the student’s area of interest
  • Undergraduate experience and training in professional writing
  • Any prerequisites required for the student’s intended master’s degree and concentration. See Prerequisites & Required Courses for a full list.

*Students must earn a minimum grade of B- and earn college credit in order for these courses to count toward the prerequisite. Pass/Fail courses and self-paced courses will not fulfill these requirements.

Master’s Degree Requirements
The MEM and the MF degrees both require a total of 48 credit hours. These credits should be completed during four semesters of full-time residency at Duke University. The normal course load is 12 hours per semester, but students may enroll for 9 to 15 hours of credit.

In addition to the course requirements, the master’s project is an integral part of the master’s degree program. It is intended to represent the student's major academic focus and demonstrate 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 report and presentation.

An internship between the first and second year of the master’s program 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.


3-2 students should consult with their undergraduate institution’s cooperative college program advisor to plan their course of study and apply directly to the Nicholas School to enter the MEM or MF program. See Application Materials & Requirements for deadlines and a list of required materials.

Special Requirements
In addition to the materials required of all MEM and MF applicants, prospective 3-2 students must submit a statement from the dean of the undergraduate institution stating that the student will be released from the undergraduate school to enroll in a 3-2 program.

In addition, at least one letter of recommendation should be from the official cooperative college program advisor and a second letter 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 or her intended graduate program, the third letter may be from an employer.

Admissions Criteria
Applicants from cooperative institutions are evaluated on the same basis as other applicants to the Nicholas School. Our admissions criteria 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.

Rather than setting one-size-fits-all standards, we evaluate each applicant individually on his or her own merit, and we have no specific GPA or GRE score requirements. All parts of the application are equally important.

Tuition & Financial Support

  • See Tuition & Fees for current tuition rates and details on living expenses.
  • See Financial Support for details on the many scholarships, fellowships, and loans that are available, which include both need-based and merit-based forms of financial support. Admissions decisions are made independently from any applications for financial assistance.

Visiting Duke
We encourage prospective students to visit campus to get a sense for the culture, surroundings, and opportunities available at the Nicholas School.

We also attend events throughout the country and host virtual information sessions in the fall.