10 Best Online PhD in Environmental Management [2024 Guide]

By Kama Offenberger
Updated on February 18, 2024
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If you want to grow your expertise in how to protect the environment and manage natural resources, earning a PhD in Environmental Management may be a strategic next step. This advanced degree helps students develop their skills as environmental leaders.

Best Online PhD in Environmental Management

A doctoral program in environmental management focuses on scientific, analytical, and research skills. PhD students often pursue a particular area of interest and write a dissertation describing their research and findings.

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After graduating with an environmental management PhD, you may be well positioned to seek an advanced role in environmental protection, management, sustainability, conservation, or education.

PhD in Environmental Management Programs Online

Man pursuing his PhD in Environmental Management Degree Online

An environmental management doctoral degree is beneficial for students with an interest in understanding and improving environmental practices, policies, and problems. This degree may serve to begin or further a career dedicated to environmental protection.

Earning a PhD in Environmental Management requires extensive knowledge and research. Some of the subjects that students in an online PhD program in environmental management can expect to study include:

  • Environmental policies
  • Waste disposal management
  • Energy management
  • Ecology
  • Environmental justice
  • Research skills
  • Natural resource management
  • Conservation

Some environmental management programs also offer the opportunity to specialize in a more specific area of the field. For instance, you may be able to concentrate your degree on environmental management and public policy, economics, or environmental science.

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Regardless of your concentration, while completing your degree, you will select a particular area of interest for your research, which you will explore fully in your final dissertation. You might choose to focus your dissertation on topics like:

  • Sources of air pollution
  • Energy management technologies
  • Wildlife conservation strategies
  • Freshwater resource uses

You will work closely with a dissertation advisor who can help you determine the best path for your research. Once you have completed your degree, you may have the opportunity to apply for positions with a large pool of employers. Organizations from industries like manufacturing, government, and construction seek qualified employees with environmental management backgrounds.

Government agencies often hire environmental management professionals to monitor the actions of private businesses and ensure that they are complying with regulations. They may also participate in writing and revising environmental policies.

Colleges and universities are also potential employers for graduates of environmental management and environmental policy PhD programs. Postsecondary environmental science teachers help educate the next generation of scientific professionals.

Other possible career avenues include research and analysis for private businesses and nonprofits. Some environmental management professionals also go on to become executives, administrators, and managers in the private or public sector.

Environmental Management Careers & Salaries

Environmental Management PhD Careers & Salaries

A doctorate in environmental management can open doors to many different industries and careers. Government agencies, research labs, and private businesses all hire environmental professionals to analyze and improve their environmental practices.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some of the potential careers related to advanced studies in environmental management.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Natural Sciences Managers $137,900
Compliance Managers (Included in Managers, All Other) $124,650
Political Scientists $122,510
Top Executives $98,980
Environmental Engineers $96,820
Hydrologists $84,030
Postsecondary Environmental Science Teachers $81,980
Environmental Scientists and Specialists $76,530
Compliance Officers $71,650
Conservation Scientists and Foresters $63,750

PhD in Environmental Management degrees can also serve as a stepping stone toward a career as an educator. Some professionals in this area teach students at colleges and universities or offer training to the public through community programs.

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If you prefer to approach the environment from a public policy standpoint, an environmental management degree may help you do so. Some people with PhDs in this field write and analyze policies related to resource management, conservation, and sustainability.

Environmental Management Doctorate Curriculum & Courses

students taking Environmental Management Doctorate researching

The curriculum of an environmental management doctorate program is highly focused on courses related to conservation, environmental protection, and sustainability. Although every program has a unique curriculum, these are some common courses:

  • Research Ethics and Conduct: This class teaches you how to complete research studies within ethical guidelines and covers topics like plagiarism, falsification, peer review, and human subjects.
  • Research Methods: This course helps you develop foundational research skills that you can use throughout your doctoral courses and during your career.
  • Environmental Politics: You’ll learn about the relationship between environmental issues, political science, and policy development.
  • Food and Land Systems: In this class, you’ll explore different perspectives on sustainable food systems.
  • Environmental Protection Law: This course centers on existing laws designed to protect the environment and public health.
  • Sustainable Development and Natural Resources: In this course, you’ll learn about the economic, environmental, and human perspectives of sustainable development.
  • Water Resources: In this class, you’ll learn about freshwater measurements, supply management, and environmental sustainability.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment: In this course, you’ll learn how to design, administer, and use environmental impact assessments as a decision-making tool.
  • Conservation Biology and Biodiversity Management: This class explores human effects on biodiversity and the need for national and global biodiversity conservation.
  • Food Resources and Community Food Security: In this class, you’ll learn about the environmental impact of food consumption and waste as well as the effects of the food supply chain.

Completing a doctoral dissertation is also a large component of most PhD programs. Students may spend multiple semesters on independent research before writing a lengthy final paper and presenting an oral defense.

Admissions Requirements

Woman preparing for PhD in Environmental Management tequirements

The admissions requirements for doctoral programs are often strict. Possible criteria include:

  • Test scores. Some schools require students to submit minimum GRE scores.
  • Transcripts. You’ll provide a transcript of your master’s degree.
  • Resume or CV. You’ll detail your academic and professional experience, including any publications, volunteer work, and internships.
  • Personal statement. You’ll explain your interest in the program and how it relates to your career goals.
  • Recommendations. You could ask former supervisors and instructors to describe your strengths and abilities.

Some schools also ask you to provide a research proposal that outlines the specific area that you plan to explore in your dissertation.


University offering PhD in Environmental Management

Before applying to a PhD program, it’s essential to determine its accreditation status. Colleges and academic programs can receive national or regional accreditation by proving that they are providing high-quality educational experiences to students.

Regional accreditation is the most widely recognized accreditation because the standards to achieve it are so high. Many employers look favorably for degrees from regionally accredited institutions because they typically teach the most current knowledge in the field.

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It is also generally easier to transfer credits from regionally accredited programs, which is crucial if you decide to switch schools before graduating.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

PhD in Environmental Management Financial Aid

Many doctoral students are unable to pay the full cost of tuition out of their own pockets. Financial aid opportunities may put your academic goals within reach.

A common first step is to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines you’re eligible for federal aid. If you’re attending school as an in-state student, your state government may also provide grants or aid programs that help reduce the overall expense of earning your degree.

Scholarships are another vital source of aid for many students. You can search an online database or speak to the financial aid specialists at your school to learn about scholarships that are available for your field and personal circumstances.

If you are a working professional, you can inquire with your supervisor or HR department about the potential for tuition reimbursement or assistance. Some organizations help cover the cost of higher education for their employees.

What Can You Do with a PhD in Environmental Management?

Group of hydrologists taking water samples

A PhD in Environmental Management can help you qualify for a senior or leadership position with a government agency, private company, or university.

These organizations may hire environmental management professionals as managers and executives. Leadership positions can include chief sustainability officer, compliance manager, and conservation manager. An environmental management degree can also serve as preparation for a career as a project manager, policy analyst, or environmental scientist.

A PhD in this field could also help you qualify for careers in academia. PhD graduates may go on to pursue postsecondary teaching and research positions in the field.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online PhD in Environmental Management?

Man taking Online PhD in Environmental Management

The amount of time it takes to complete a PhD in Environmental Management depends on your personal situation, the number of credit hours required, and whether a dissertation is required.

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In most cases, full-time students can complete a doctoral program with no dissertation requirement within 3 years. PhD programs that include a dissertation may take 3 to 5 years to complete. If you have other obligations, such as career or family responsibilities, you may choose to take longer to complete your coursework and finish your dissertation research.

What’s the Difference Between Environmental Management vs. Environmental Science PhD Programs?

Environmental management and environmental science have overlapping focuses, but there are also important distinctions between them.

PhD in Environmental Management PhD in Environmental Science
  • Focuses on conservation and resource management strategies
  • Includes specializations like public policy and economics
  • Can help prepare professionals for careers as executives, professors, analysts, and more
  • Focuses on scientific and mathematical approaches to understanding the environment
  • Includes specializations like entomology, ecology, and environmental engineering
  • Can help prepare professionals for careers as environmental or conservation scientists, zoologists, or geoscientists

These fields of study may lead to similar career outcomes, though an environmental management degree is often more geared toward consulting and leadership roles in the field.

Is an Environmental Management PhD Degree Worth It?

Environmental Engineer documenting her field work

Yes, an environmental management PhD degree is worth it for many students. Society has become increasingly concerned about environmental protection and sustainability, so the demand for professionals in these areas is growing.

A PhD in Environmental Management is flexible and may help you qualify for a wide range of career paths. Graduates of these programs may go on to become conservation scientists, environmental scientists, conservation managers and consultants, chief executives, and policy analysts.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in these areas will be steady for the foreseeable future. For instance, 5% job growth is projected for environmental scientists and specialists over the next ten years.

Universities Offering Online PhD in Environmental Management Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Antioch University

Antioch University campus

Antioch University offers a PhD in Environmental Studies program online but with 8 day summer intensives during the first 2 years. The program typically takes a multidisciplinary approach by integrating science, policy, humanities, education, and service into course requirements. The program requires the completion of 69 credits and is designed to be completed in 4 or 5 years as part of a cohort.

Antioch University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota campus

The University of North Dakota offers a PhD in Earth System Science and Policy program. Coursework is completed online, but a minimum 2 semesters in residency is usually required. Potential courses include Environmental Policy and Science, The Biosphere, and Energy Issues and Earth Systems. The program requires the completion of 90 credit hours, and typically takes 4 to 5 years to finish.

UND is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Universities Offering Doctorate in Environmental Management Degree Programs

With only a limited number of online programs available, here are some additional universities offering this program on campus. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited.

Duke University

Duke University campus

Duke University offers a PhD in Environmental Policy as a research-oriented, multidisciplinary program. Concentrations include Environmental Politics and Environmental Economics. The program requires the completion of 40 course credits, passing a final examination, and successfully defending a dissertation. Courses typically begin every fall, and the program commonly takes 5 years to finish.

Duke University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Montclair State University

Montclair State University campus

Montclair State University offers a PhD in Environmental Science and Management program. The program requires the completion of 72 credits consisting of both coursework and research, commonly with many elective options. A General Statement of Research or Inquiry describing interests for dissertation research is required at the time of application.

Montclair State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University campus

Northern Arizona University offers a PhD in Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability program. Emphasis areas include Engineering Sustainable Systems, Environment and Society, Climate and Environmental Change, Earth Systems, Evolution, and Conservation Biology. A comprehensive exam and defense of a dissertation is a requirement to graduate. A conversation with a faculty member is required before applying.

Northern Arizona University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of California – Los Angeles

University of California Los Angeles campus

The University of California–Los Angeles offers a PhD in Environment and Sustainability. Core courses including Issues and Methods in Environment and Sustainability and Advanced Seminar on Environment and Sustainability are typically required. An individualized plan of study in consultation with 2 advisors is offered, and advisors from different disciplines are commonly assigned to offer guidance throughout the program.

UCLA is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

University of California – Santa Barbara

University of California Santa Barbara

The University of California–Santa Barbara offers a PhD in Environmental Science and Management. Optional emphases like Climate Science and Climate Change, Economics and Environmental Science, Environment and Society, and Information Technology and Society are offered.

In addition to environmental science courses, other areas of study such as geography, ecology, earth science, economics, political science, and marine biology may be taken according to interest.

UC Santa Barbara is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

University of Delaware

University of Delaware campus

The University of Delaware offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Energy and Environmental Policy. This interdisciplinary program is commonly supported by 5 different colleges within the university. A 3 course focus in economics may also be available. The completion of 21 credit hours of core coursework plus 24 credit hours of research and dissertation writing is required.

The University of Delaware is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Hawaii – Manoa

University of Hawaii - Manoa campus

The University of Hawaii–Manoa offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Natural Resources and Environmental Management. Core courses include Foundations of Natural Resources and Environmental Management and a Research Seminar in Environmental Management. In addition to the 2 core courses, the program typically offers a wide range of electives.

UH Manoa is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

University of Massachusetts – Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst campus

The University of Massachusetts–Amherst offers a PhD in Environmental Conservation. Concentrations include Sustainable Building Systems, Human Dimensions and Environmental Policy, Forest Resources and Arboriculture, and Conservation Biology. Contacting a faculty member and sending a CV is a required first step in the application process.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Getting Your PhD in Environmental Management Online

student pursuing PhD in Environmental Management Degree Online

If you have a passion for protecting the environment, an online PhD in Environmental Management may be a fitting degree path. Much like with a masters environmental management online program, over the course of your PhD studies, you can learn about sustainability, conservation, and public policy related to environmental protection.

Earning environmental management degrees online may give you the opportunity to pursue a rewarding career with a variety of employers. During the program, you will have the chance to develop advanced scientific, leadership, and critical thinking skills that are applicable in various industries.

You can take the first step toward an advanced career in environmental management today by researching online PhD programs from accredited universities.

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Kama has a master's degree in English from Virginia Tech and a bachelor's in English from Concord University. She previously taught college-level English composition, literature, and English as a second language courses. She is now a full-time writer in the education field, with a particular focus on educational technology and pedagogical best practices for English language learners.