MF Prerequisites & Course Requirements

These are the courses you’ll need to complete before you start your degree program. See our Statement of Prerequisite Coursework for details. 

Elements Common to the MF and MEM Programs

Prerequisites for admission to the Nicholas School are (1) some previous training in the natural sciences or the social sciences related to the student’s area of interest; (2) at least one semester of college calculus; and (3) a college statistics course that includes descriptive statistics, probability distributions, hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, correlation, simple linear regression, and simple ANOVA.

During the first year of study, students work with a course advisor on course selection and on determining an area of study for the Master’s Project (MP). By the end of the first year, the student will choose an MP advisor who will work with the student on developing a Master’s Project, and will continue to consult with the course advisor on courses to be taken during the second year. Master’s Projects may be either individual or group projects.

Elements Specific to the MF 

In addition to the school-wide prerequisites, the MF requires at least one introductory college course in principles of ecology, and an introductory college economics course that includes microeconomics. Deficiencies must be made up in the student’s first year in residence; prerequisites do not count toward degree requirements. 

Course of Study

Course credits are distributed among core competency areas specified by SAF as well as quantitative analysis, electives, and school-wide required courses. Competency areas include forest ecology and biology, measurement of forest resources, management of forest resources, forest resource policy and administration, and professional ethics.

The electives provide students with a major opportunity to develop a field of specialty. Students are encouraged to coordinate electives to develop specialized skills or a specialized understanding of a forest ecosystem. Such specialization allows students to acquire proficiency in some aspect of the broad, multi-disciplinary field of forest resource management and should not confine students’ perspective, educational development, or career path. Examples include wetland ecology and management, hydrology and soil science, conservation ecology, computer applications, quantitative analyses, GIS modeling, economics, finance, policy, and business applications. The specialization is further developed with the Master’s Project.


The MF program requires a total of at least 48 credits and four semesters of enrollment. A student pursuing the MF concurrently with the MEM will need at least five semesters of enrollment to earn the minimum of 72 credit hours and fulfill degree requirements. If the joint degrees do not substantially overlap in coursework, it might take six semesters to complete both degrees. During the fourth and fifth semesters the student will complete the course requirements and devote time to the completion of the Master’s Project. A Master’s Project paper and presentation will be made at the end of the fifth or sixth semester. 

Required courses for all Nicholas School students are:

  • ENVIRON 896 Professional Communications (1/2 credit)
  • ENVIRON 897 Writing a Master’s Project (1/2 credit)
  • ENVIRON 898.01 MP Seminar (1 credit to be awarded at the end of 4 semesters)
  • ENVIRON 899.01 Master’s Project (4 to 6 credits)

Successful completion of online Introductory Master’s Project Tutorials is also a requirement. The tutorials offer information on various types of MPs and principles of research design.

Bold type indicates required courses or areas. Courses taken to fulfill requirements other than those suggested here need advisor approval. (F) and (S) courses are usually offered in fall and spring semesters, respectively. An asterisk (*) indicates courses that are usually taught every other year.

The MF degree requires 48 credits that comprise courses in five core areas, electives, field trips and seminars, and the Master’s Project.  Examples of such courses include (required courses in bold):

1. Forest Ecology and Biology (10+ credits):

  • ENVIRON 503 Forest Ecosystems, 3 credits (S)
  • ENVIRON 705L Silviculture, 3 credits (S)
  • ENVIRON 708 Silviculture Prescription, 2 credits (S)

One additional course in forest science from the options below:

  • ENVIRON 714 Landscape Ecology, 3 credits (F)
  • ENVIRON 721L Soil Resources, 3 credits (F)
  • ENVIRON 734L Watershed Hydrology, 3 credits (F)
  • ENVIRON 505 Functional Ecology of Trees, 3 credits (F)
  • EOS 723 Landscape Hydrology, 3 credits (F)

2. Measurement of Forest Resources (4 credits):

  • ENVIRON 731 Dendrology, 2 credits (F)
  • ENVIRON 701 Forest Measurements, 2 credits (F)

3. Management of Forest Resources (3+ credits):

  • ENVIRON 806 Duke Forest Practicum, 2 credits (S)
  • ENVIRON 763 Forest Management Traveling Seminar, 1 credit
    (rotating topics; may be taken up to three times for credit)

4. Forest Policy and Administration (6+ credits):

These two required courses in forest/resource economics:

  • ENVIRON 520 Resource and Environmental Economics I, 1.5 credits (F)
  • ENVIRON 680 Economics of Forest Resources, 1.5 credits (F)

(North Carolina State University’s course FOR 519 can replace ENVIRON 520 & 680)

One course in forest/resource policy from the options below:

  • ENVIRON 577 Environmental Politics, 3 credits
  • ENVIRON 550 Land Use Principles and Policies, 3 credits
  • LAW 235 Environmental Law, 3 credits

This required course in forest policy and administration:

  • ENVIRON 727 Forests in the Public Interest, 1 credit (F) (may be taken up to 3 times for credit)

5. Quantitative Analysis (6+ credits):

One required course in statistics:

  • ENVIRON 710 Applied Data Analysis for Environmental Science, 3 credits (F)

One course from the options below:

  • ENVIRON 559 Fundamentals of GIS and Geospatial Analysis
  • ENVIRON 724 Landscape Analysis and Management
  • ENVIRON 761 Geospatial Analysis for Conservation & Management
  • ENVIRON 857L Satellite Remote Sensing for Environmental Analysis
  • ENVIRON 859 Advanced Geospatial Analysis
  • ENVIRON 832 Environmental Decision Analysis
  • Total Credits: 11.5

One methods-oriented quantitative statistics course is required. One or more courses focusing on Geographic Information System/Geospatial Analysis are highly recommended to satisfy the Quantitative Analysis requirement or as Specialized Electives (next section). Quantitative courses are also taught by the Duke Department of Statistical Science (formerly called ISDS), Fuqua School of Business, Sanford School of Public Policy, and Departments of Biology, Economics, Political Science, Sociology, and Evolutionary Anthropology. In addition, various departments at North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill offer graduate-level quantitative coursework that can be used to meet this requirement.

6. Specializing Electives
Electives should be chosen to help develop a special perspective or area of specialization. This is done in consultation with the advisor and program chair, with some thought as to the topic of the MP. The identification of a specialization is usually done over the course of a student’s first two semesters.

7. Forestry Field Trips (encouraged)
All MFs are assured a place in ENVIRON 766A, Ecology of Southern Appalachian Forests, a 1-credit readings and field trip course held every other fall. A 1-credit Western Forestry Field Trip, ENVIRON 760A, is offered occasionally in the early or late summer, and may be repeated twice for credit (itinerary alternates annually between the east side and the west side of the Cascades).

8. Seminars

  • ENVIRON 898.01 FRM Seminar, 1 credit (F – including two sessions on Ethics; S)

A variety of other topical seminars are available to MFs.

Course Sequence

The following is a suggested course sequence for students who are enrolled in the 2-year MF degree program on its own (not joint with the MEM). Note that the field-trip courses ENVIRON 760A, ENVIRON 763, and ENVIRON 766A might not be offered in the indicated semester or even every year. First-year students in the 2-year program are advised to contact the MF chair or co-chair to find out when these courses will be offered. Also note that ENVIRON 727, ENVIRON 760A, and ENVIRON 763 may be taken more than once for credit; see details above.

Students who are enrolled in the joint MEM/MF program should discuss course sequencing with their coursework advisors.

Semester - Fall Year 1

  • Forest Measurements (ENV 701), 2 credits
  • Dendrology (ENV 731), 2 credits
  • Forests in the Public Interest (ENV 727), 1 credit
  • Applied Data Analysis for Environmental Sciences (ENV 710), 3 credits
  • Professional Communications (ENV 896), 0.5 credits
  • Program Area Seminar (ENV 898.01), 0 credits
  • Resource & Environmental Economics I (ENV 520), 1.5 credits
  • Economics of Forest Resources (ENV 680), 1.5 credits
  • Total credits: 11.5

Semester - Spring Year 1

  • Silviculture (ENV 705L), 3 credits
  • Silviculture Prescription (ENV 708), 2 credits
  • Forest Ecosystems (ENV 503), 3 credits
  • Forestry Practicum (ENV 806), 2 credits
  • Program Area Seminar (ENV 898.01), 0 credits
  • One course in Forest Ecology & Biology, Forest Policy & Administation, or Quantitative Analysis to meet MF requirements, or an elective, 3 credits
  • Total credits: 13

Semester - Summer Year 1

  • Western Field Trip (ENV 760A), 1 credit
  • Total credits: 1

Semester - Fall Year 2

  • Ecology of Southern Appalachian Forests (ENV 766A), 1 credit
  • Writing a Master's Project (ENV 897), 0.5 credits
  • Program Area Seminar (ENV 898.01), 0 credits
  • Master's Project (ENV 899.01), 2 credits
  • Three courses in Forest Ecology & Biology, Forest Policy & Administration, or Quantitative Analysis to meet MF requirements, or an elective, 9 credits
  • Total credits: 12.5

Semester - Spring Year 2

  • For Management Traveling Seminar (ENV 763), 1 credit
  • Program Area Seminar (ENV 898.01), 1 credit
  • Master's Project (ENV 899.01), 2 credits
  • Two courses in Forest Ecology & Biology, Forest Policy & Administration, or Quantitative Analysis to meet MF requirements, or an elective, 6 credits
  • Total credits: 10

Grand Total: 48

Note: To meet MF requirements, students must take at least 2 credits in Forest Ecology & Biology, 2 credits in Forest Policy & Administration, and 3 credits in Quantitative Analysis in addition to the specific courses listed above, and must complete at least 48 total credits, including electives. See preceding sections for details.

Other courses are detailed on the Advising webpages, updated each semester.