Juris Doctor/Master of Arts (JD/MA)


The MA in Environmental Science and Policy (MA-ENV) is a flexible, coursework-based master’s degree program that enables JD students to supplement their legal education with study of the environment. Depending on students’ interests and prior training, the focus of the MA-ENV may range from topics more closely related to the natural sciences, such as ecosystem science and conservation, ecotoxicology and environmental health, and water resource management, to ones more closely related to the social sciences, such as environmental economics and policy. Students take their coursework alongside professional master’s students in the Nicholas School of the Environment’s Master of Environmental Management (MEM) program. 

The MA-ENV is governed by the regulations of the Duke University Graduate School and is offered only as a dual degree with the JD.  Applicants to the JD/MA-ENV program must file an application with the Duke Law School at law.duke.edu/admis. Applications are also reviewed by faculty in the Nicholas School, and admission is offered by the Law School and the Graduate School.

Program Requirements

Students admitted to the JD/MA-ENV program begin their studies in the summer and continue through the following six academic semesters. During that time they earn 72 units of credit in the Law School and 30 units in the Graduate School, of which at least 24 must be graded. The other 6 units can be ungraded research credits. Students take primarily law courses during their first year but should take at least one MA-ENV course (normally 3 credits) each semester as well. They take a higher proportion of MA-ENV courses during their second and third years, enough to satisfy the Graduate School requirement of 30 total units.

Courses taken to satisfy the Graduate School coursework requirement are normally professional master’s courses offered by the Nicholas School. Coursework in the Nicholas School is organized around 7 specialized concentrations:

  • Coastal Environmental Management (CEM)
  • Ecosystem Science and Conservation (ESC)
  • Energy and the Environment (EE)
  • Environmental Economics and Policy (EEP)
  • Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health (EEH)
  • Global Environmental Change (GEC)
  • Water Resource Management (WRM).

JD/MA-ENV students are required to select one of these concentrations as the focus of their MA-ENV coursework. Applicants can learn more about these concentrations by visiting the Master Of Environmental Management (MEM) - Residential page.

Each concentration has specific coursework requirements that students in the MEM program are required to complete. Although these requirements do not apply to the MA-ENV program, JD/MA-ENV students are encouraged to complete as many of them as possible in order to gain proficiency in their selected concentration.

All students admitted to the JD/MA-ENV program are assigned an academic advisor at the Nicholas School. Newly admitted students work with their Nicholas School advisor to design a coursework plan for the MA-ENV portion of the dual degree that matches their interests and, insofar as possible, satisfies the coursework requirements of their selected concentration. All courses must be at the graduate level unless otherwise approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

MA-ENV students are required to pass a comprehensive, written exam during the final semester of their program. The scheduled exam should take place within the Graduate School deadlines for graduation found here:  http://gradschool.duke.edu/academics/grad_deadlines.php. The exam is administered by a three-member faculty committee, including the student’s advisor and at least one other member of the Nicholas School. The exam has an open-book, take-home format with three questions and must be completed within 48 hours. Students are responsible for obtaining the consent of faculty members to serve on their exam committees by the beginning of the semester in which they intend to graduate. 

Additional requirements common to all dual JD/MA programs may be found at gradschool.duke.edu/academics/degree_reqs/dualdegrees/jd_ma.php.


There are no formal coursework prerequisites for admission to the JD/MA-ENV program. Master’s-level courses offered by the Nicholas School are designed, however, for students who have satisfied the prerequisites of the MEM program, which include introductory college-level courses in calculus and statistics for all students and additional courses for specific concentrations (e.g., microeconomics for Coastal Environmental Management, Energy and the Environment, and Environmental Economics and Policy, and principles of ecology for Ecosystem Science and Conservation). Applicants can learn more about the prerequisites of the different concentrations online. MA-ENV applicants who have not satisfied these prerequisites may need to take remedial coursework before entering the program or during their first year. 

Applicants who are uncertain about their qualifications to enter the program are encouraged to contact the assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies before applying at profstudies@nicholas.duke.edu.

Additional application requirement: personal statement

Applicants to the JD/MA-ENV program are required to submit a personal statement describing their prior experience and motivation for pursuing the MA-ENV. In the statement, applicants should also indicate their intended concentration and their qualifications for it (i.e., prior coursework or experience).  Information on applicants’ intended concentration is important not only for evaluating applications but also for assigning each student to a suitable Nicholas School faculty member who can serve as coursework advisor and exam committee chair.

Comparison to JD/MEM (Master of Environmental Management)

The Law School and the Nicholas School also offer a dual degree JD/MEM program, which more fully integrates students into the life of both schools. This program differs from the JD/MA-ENV program in several respects:

  • the MA-ENV is an academic degree conferred by the Duke Graduate School, while the MEM is a professional degree conferred by the Nicholas School;
  • the JD/MA-ENV program requires students to begin their studies in the summer and continue through the following six academic semesters, while the JD/MEM requires eight academic semesters but does not require a summer start; 
  • the capstone for the MA-ENV is a comprehensive written final exam, while the capstone for the MEM is an independent Master’s Project;
  • the MA-ENV portion of the JD/MA-ENV requires 30 units of credit, while the MEM portion of the JD/MEM requires 36 units of credit, which includes credits for the Master’s Project.

Students who are interested in learning more about the MEM program should visit the Master Of Environmental Management (MEM) - Residential page.