MA in Environmental Policy


Program Description

A Master’s Degree in Environmental Policy

The Environmental Policy program is structured to give students significant flexibility in their coursework, the opportunity to receive additional certification in five subject areas, and the ability to complement classroom learning with more in-depth research (by completing a thesis) or practical experience (through on- and off-campus internships).

Environmental Policy Program Overview

To earn an MA in Environmental Policy, students must complete 30 credit hours (or roughly 10 courses).  Everyone must take the program’s three (3) core courses and at least one skills and methods course, and do either a master’s thesis or a semester-long internship.  (Students can also choose to combine the EP program with a Community Fellowship.  Those who do would count their fellowship toward this internship requirement.)

While some students take longer, it is possible to finish the program in as few as 12 months.  Most students typically finish the program in 18 months (beginning in August and finishing in December of the following academic year).

Financial aid is available to help cover the cost of coursework, and EP also provides generous financial support for student research and professional travel.

Environmental Policy in the Community

EP at Lehigh is strongly committed to community outreach and environmental advocacy.  While in the program, students put what they learn in the classroom to work for local, regional, national, and international partners.  In collaboration with these partners, service-learning components of classes and student research, and students’ volunteer work and community fellowship and internship experiences, enable students to tackle various environment-related problems and play a significant part in improving the lives of people living in Lehigh’s South Side neighborhood and beyond.  Internship opportunities at the United Nations, available through Lehigh’s United Nation’s Partnership and which a number of EP students take advantage of, expand this reach on an international scale.  Whether focused down the street or across the globe, students gain hands-on experience in creating environmental policies that orient society toward a more environmentally healthy and sustainable future.

Environmental Policy Required Courses

EP’s three core courses provide students with a political, legal, scientific, and sociological foundation in environmental issues and policy:

  • ES 401 Philosophical-Policy and Environmental Legal Design (3)
  • ES/EES 402 Scientific Foundations for Environmental Policy Design (3)
  • ES 404 Socio-cultural Foundations of Environmental Policy (3)

Approved skills and methods courses cover a range of approaches to studying the environment, determining the effectiveness of particular policies, analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, and mapping conditions and trends.

Environmental Policy Elective Courses

Students have a significant amount of flexibility when it comes to their 4 or 5 elective courses.  While by no means students’ only choices, five areas of concentration are especially well-suited to faculty expertise and program resources, and students can receive a graduate certificate (in addition to their Master’s degree) in these subject areas. These include:

Environmental Health:

Focuses on the ways both the built and natural environments affect individuals’ physical and mental health and well-being. 

Environmental Justice:

Grapples with how individuals of different classes and races access environmental amenities, environmental threats, and opportunity-rich environments in drastically different ways. 

Environmental Law and Policy:

Is an intensive study of policy design and analysis and has been a centerpiece of the EP program since its inception.

Sustainable Development:

Considers the feasibility of and best practices for rationalizing urbanization, ensuring people’s economic well-being, addressing environmental quality and reliance on non-renewable resources, and encouraging social inclusion and equitable growth.

Urban Environmental Policy and Planning:

Looks at the policies and programs designed to best integrate our cities and nature, and to create places where people can live, work, and visit in sustainable ways and that provide residents with both a good quality of life and access to opportunity.

Why Environmental Policy?

Right now is a pivotal time to be grappling with environmental issues and studying the policies and tools necessary to create the communities and world we want to see as the 21st century continues to unfold. 

Climate Change:

In the face of climate change, how should we be thinking about alternative energy sources or preparing for rising seas and temperatures? 


As more and more of the world’s population moves from rural to urban areas, how should we be thinking about issues like food production, water, and sewer systems, or the interaction between the built environmental and the natural world? 

Environmental Health:

What do the places we live in mean for our physical and mental well-being or our access to opportunity, and what role do policymakers have in managing or shaping this relationship? 


And what should this look like – and how can it be sustainable – in the booming megacities of the developing world or in America’s own growing regions or declining Rust Belt cities? 

What Environmental Policy at Lehigh Offers

Legal and Political Structures/Social Patterns:

Acting on these questions requires knowing how the legal and political structures currently – or might potentially – oversee, regulate, manage, subsidize, or otherwise affect these realities.  Social practices, moral authority, and economic dynamics, too, need to be unpacked and analyzed.


Environmental Policy students at Lehigh dive into these issues through interdisciplinary coursework and independent research, and explore them, too, through community outreach and internships. 

Facilities and Location:

Not only do students have access to the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and various departments and centers on campus, but they also benefit from the campus’ location on the South Side of Bethlehem.  Lehigh’s location offers a wealth of environmental assets (including the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers, the Appalachian Trail, and 150,000 acres of active farmland), environmental challenges (such as poor air quality, food deserts, low-opportunity neighborhoods, and the impacts of fracking), and public and private organizations addressing both.


From Environmental Policy at Lehigh to the Workforce. A Strong Foundation for Environmentally-Related Careers

The Environmental Policy program positions graduates well for life after Lehigh by providing students with the tools to analyze policies in unconventional ways and provide non-traditional solutions to stubborn problems.  Our graduates tell us that the program’s interdisciplinary approach and their exposure to environmental problems and solutions from several perspectives gives them a significant advantage in the job market.

Substantial Environmental Hands-on Experience

Community-based internships, independent research projects, and service-learning opportunities give Environmental Policy students several ways to get hands-on experience with the issues and in the fields which they plan to move into after graduation.  Each year, as they run educational programming, create community gardens and parklets, manage farmers’ markets, draft policies that promote environmental sustainability, and evaluate the overall environmental quality of places throughout the Lehigh Valley, EP students are both gaining necessary skills and also directly shaping the local environment and quality of life.

Many Possible Environment Career paths

Armed with these academic and professional skills, our graduates are well prepared for Ph.D. programs (in fields such as public health, environmental studies, and international politics) as well as public and private sector policy work (at nonprofit organizations, government agencies, research institutes, and consulting firms). 

A Growing Network of Environmental Career Alumni

Collectively, our graduates are part of a growing network of individuals making a positive impact on the environment and communities around the country and the world.  We connect current students to this network through informal gatherings and online exchanges.  Ensuring that current students can easily tap graduates’ expertise (about the program and the job market) helps maximize their success while at Lehigh and beyond.

Information for Applicants

To be eligible to apply, you must have completed your undergraduate (either BA or BS) degree.  No specific major is required or preferred, and our intentionally interdisciplinary program has drawn students with backgrounds in a wide range of disciplines, such as biology, ecology, environmental engineering, environmental science, environmental studies, economics, history, political science, and sociology.

Applicants are required to submit the following:

  • General GRE (this requirement is waived for Lehigh students)
  • At least two Letters of Recommendation
  • Personal Statement

Any materials not electronically submitted can be sent to:

Office of Research and Graduate Programs
Lehigh University
College of Arts and Sciences
9 West Packer Avenue
280 Maginnes Hall
Bethlehem, PA 18015

Please note the following deadlines for admission:

  • March 1st for financial aid for the following Fall Semester
  • April 30th for the following Summer Session
  • July 15th for the following Fall Semester
  • December 1st for the following Spring Semester

Applications submitted past these dates will be reviewed for admission, but cannot be considered for financial aid (except for Presidential Scholarships for Lehigh University students).

Financial Aid

Students may apply for a range of financial aid options to support their pursuit of an EPD degree.  These options include scholarships, Teaching Assistantships, and Community Fellowships. 

Please note that students receiving some forms of financial aid (such as a Teaching Assistantship) must receive the EPD Program’s permission before considering additional outside employment.  Approval will be contingent upon a student’s academic performance and fulfillment of TA-related responsibilities. 

Also, the continuation of any financial aid is contingent upon both the availability of funding and the student’s performance.  The college and EPD program make every effort to see that resources remain available, and we ask that students do their part as well:  maintain at least a 3.0 grade average and (if applicable) adequately perform all TA or fellowship duties. 


Scholarships consist of tuition credits only (no stipend is included). EPD has a limited number of scholarships to award annually, and awards are typically based upon a combination of merit and need. 

Presidential Scholarships are available to Lehigh undergraduate who achieve and maintain a 3.75 GPA by their junior year and cover the 5th year of study at Lehigh.  The application is submitted to and approved by Lehigh University’s Office of the Registrar.

50/50 Scholarships are available to new students as they enter the EPD program, and pay for half of the cost of tuition for each semester students are enrolled.  These scholarships are based on merit and are designed to help attract the best students to our program.  They may not be combined with any other form of financial aid (such as a Teaching Assistantship).

Thesis Scholarships are available to EPD students who need additional time to complete a thesis.  Students who are making progress in the program and who are in good standing may apply to use this scholarship to register for 1-credit hour of thesis (ES-490) during their terminal semester.  (Lehigh requires that you be registered for the semester prior to your graduation.)  Requests for thesis scholarships should be made to the EPD Director (Dr. Karen Beck Pooley,, 610-737-8504) prior to the start of your terminal semester.

Teaching Assistantships

Teaching Assistants provide 20 hours per week of service to the program and university.  In exchange, TAs receive up to 9 credits of tuition per semester (and, in some cases, 3 credits of thesis hours (ES-490) during the summer session) and a monthly stipend for the 9-month academic year (late August to late May). 

A TA position may be split between two students during the academic year, meaning each student would receive one semester’s worth of tuition for 9 credits and 4.5 months of stipend. 

Community Fellowships 

The Community Fellows Program places graduate students with community-based partners where they work 15 hours per week while also taking classes toward a degree.  Fellows receive academic credit for their off-campus work, allowing them to earn their EPD degree in one full year of work and classes.

The Community Fellowship is paid by Lehigh University and the community-based partner and covers all but 9 credits of graduate school tuition.  As a result, the Community Fellow is only responsible for 3 credits of tuition in both the fall and spring semesters, and 3 credits of tuition in the summer session.

Applicants interested in a Community Fellowship should submit a letter to that effect along with their regular application to EPD.

Last updated Jun 2020

About the School

As Lehigh’s largest and most diverse college, we are home to the social sciences, arts, humanities, and natural sciences. With 1,894 undergraduate students, 342 graduate students, 270 full-time facult ... Read More

As Lehigh’s largest and most diverse college, we are home to the social sciences, arts, humanities, and natural sciences. With 1,894 undergraduate students, 342 graduate students, 270 full-time faculty and 90 professional staff, we are comparable in size and offer the intimacy of a liberal arts college, yet benefit from the resources of a research university. Our faculty are accomplished scholars, artists, and writers, recognized nationally and internationally as leaders in their fields, who share a commitment to the integration of teaching and scholarship into innovative, dynamic curricula set in an intellectually stimulating environment. Read less