CEM Program Description

Thanks for your interest in the Coastal Environmental Management program. As one of eight available concentrations in the two-year residential Master of Environmental Management (MEM) program, CEM focuses on the complex interactions between people and our coastlines. 


We endeavor to give CEM students:

  • A scientifically rigorous understanding of global, national and local physical and biological coastal environments and processes. 
  • A deep understanding of the human behaviors and policies that affect, and are affected by, coastal environments and processes. 
  • Opportunities to understand and participate in the policy-making process. 
  • The knowledge and skills to apply quantitative and analytical methods of resource analysis.
  • The communication and teamwork skills needed to thrive in a variety of professional environments.


Most CEM students spend their first year at our campus in Durham taking courses in ecology, natural resource economics, environmental policy and methodological skills. The second year is typically spent at the Duke Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, NC, where students prepare their master’s project and take courses specific to the coastal and marine environment.
Students may use electives and additional coursework to complete both the CEM program and one of the other program concentrations offered within the Nicholas School.


The MEM degree requires a minimum of 48 credit hours and is usually completed in four semesters. A typical CEM curriculum consists of the following components: 

  • Four courses/tutorials required for all MEM students (6-8 credit hours)
  • Six Core Courses (18 credit hours minimum)
  • Three Quantitative Courses (9 credit hours minimum)
  • Master’s Project (4-6 credit hours)
  • Additional electives to meet the 48-credit hour minimum for degree completion 

Because most CEM students spend the first year in Durham and the second year in Beaufort, students must take special care to determine how to meet credit requirements between the two campuses. With permission from the instructor, some courses may be taken via teleconference.

See CEM Prerequisites & Course Requirements for course examples and specific requirements. 

About Duke Marine Laboratory

Duke Marine Laboratory is a campus of Duke University and a unit within the Nicholas School located in Beaufort, NC. It provides an ideal setting for the study of natural and social scientific phenomena in the coastal and marine environment. It also provides ample opportunities to interact with coastal and marine constituencies and policy makers to apply science to policy.

The laboratory operates year-round to provide educational, training and research opportunities to about 3,500 people each year. Its resident faculty represent the disciplines of biological and physical oceanography, marine biology and conservation, marine environmental health, marine biotechnology and marine policy and management. 


Applications are accepted through early January of each year for fall enrollment. Spring enrollment is not offered at this time. See Application Materials & Requirements for further details and application materials. 


If you’re still deciding whether CEM is right for you, feel free to get in touch. Check out our Faculty List to find someone who shares your interests, send your questions to our Program Chairs (Grant Murray and Pat Halpin), or contact the Admissions Office. We’re happy to help. 

You can also see what our alumni are up to at our CEM Alumni page