General Info

  • Faculty working with students: 31
  • Students: 13
  • Students receiving Financial Aid: 100%
  • Part time study available: No
  • Application terms: Fall
  • Application deadline: December 14
Application Info


Erika Weinthal
Director of Graduate Studies
University Program in Environmental Policy
Duke University
Box 90328
Durham, NC 27708-0328
Phone: (919) 613-8002



Program Description

The University Program in Environmental Policy (UPEP) is a multidisciplinary, research-focused five-year doctoral degree, intended to prepare candidates for positions in applied academic departments and professional schools (e.g., environment and natural resources, public policy, public administration, international affairs), domestic and international public agencies and environmental organizations, research institutes, and policy consulting firms.  Although the program is multidisciplinary, it is designed to ensure that students have strength in a particular social science discipline.  Students designate their concentration when applying and currently may select either environmental economics or environmental politics.

Students interested in doctoral studies at Duke can also study the environment from a social science perspective through the disciplinary PhD program in Economics and PhD program in Political Science, and the interdisciplinary PhD program in Marine Science and Conservation.  Students interested in an applied social science degree without a specific focus on the environment should apply to the PhD program in Public Policy Studies.  Students interested in natural science aspects of the environment should consider the PhD program in Environment, PhD program in Earth and Ocean Sciences, PhD program in Marine Science and Conservation, and PhD program in Ecology.

UPEP is the first and only PhD program in the United States jointly administered by a school of the environment and a school of public policy.  It provides a focal point for faculty and graduate students in the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Sanford School of Public Policy who are interested in environmental policy.  It draws on the intellectual resources of not only the two schools but also related disciplinary departments (Economics, Political Science) and other professional schools (Law School, Fuqua School, Pratt School of Engineering) at Duke.  Faculty in the program conduct research on economic and political aspects of a wide range of topics, including air and water quality, biodiversity conservation, climate change, community resources management, corporate sustainability, ecosystem services, energy, environmental health, fisheries, forests, freshwater, and marine resources, in both U.S. and international contexts.  Applicants are encouraged to contact faculty members with related interests to learn more about their current research projects and interest in accepting new doctoral students.

Students in the program:

  • Successfully complete a minimum of 40 course credits (approximately 13 three-credit courses), which include:
    • A set of common requirements, including courses in the political-economic theory of public policy (PUBPOL 901/902, 6 credits), a series of research workshops leading to the dissertation proposal (ENV 834S, 4.5 credits), and at least one course in environmental/resource economics (3+ credits).
    • Disciplinary concentration requirements, including core theory (6+ credits) and research methods (6+ credits) in economics or political science, and corresponding environmental field courses (i.e., environmental economics or environmental politics; (6 credits).
    • As needed, appropriate training in natural sciences relevant to the student's research.  The level and content of such training is flexible and is worked out in consultation with the student's advisor and committee.
  • Regularly attend and participate in one or more research seminars in which faculty and others present their research.
  • Attain dissertation status, including meeting qualifying requirements and passing the preliminary exam, by the end of the third year.
  • Pass a final examination, which consists of an oral dissertation defense to an approved supervisory committee.  This is typically completed by the end of the fifth year.  A successful Environmental Policy PhD dissertation must constitute a significant contribution to policy-relevant knowledge, either through innovative application of social science methods to environmental policy problems, or by innovation in theory or methods appropriate for addressing environmental policy problems.

Students normally receive a stipend and a scholarship to cover tuition and fees for up to five years of study if they maintain satisfactory progress toward their degree.  Support during the first 2-3 years is usually in return for service as a teaching assistant, with support during the remainder of the program expected to come from research grants managed by a student's major professor.  Some students also compete successfully for fellowships offered by the Graduate School and other sources at Duke.  Applicants are encouraged to explore external sources of fellowship support (e.g., National Science Foundation) during the application process.

Students in the program can interact with researchers at several centers and institutes at Duke University including the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the Center on Global Change, the Duke Global Health Institute, the Social Science Research Institute, the Duke Center for International Development, and the Triangle Census Research Data Center.  They can also interact with visiting researchers through two research seminar series supported by UPEP--the Environmental Institutions Seminar Series held at Duke and the regional Triangle Resource and Environmental Economics Seminar Series organized by Duke, North Carolina State University, UNC Chapel Hill, and Research Triangle Institute, along with numerous other seminar series in the Nicholas School, the Sanford School, the Departments of Economics and Political Science, and other Duke schools, departments, institutes, and centers.


  • Environmental Policy: PhD Admissions and Enrollment Statistics
  • Environmental Policy: PhD Completion Rate Statistics
  • Environmental Policy: PhD Time to Degree Statistics
  • Environmental Policy: PhD Career Outcomes Statistics

Application Information

Application Terms Available: Fall

Application Deadline: December 14

Graduate School Application Requirements
See the Application Instructions page for important details about each Graduate School requirement.

  • Transcripts: Unofficial transcripts required with application submission; official transcripts required upon admission
  • Letters of Recommendation: 3 Required
  • Statement of Purpose: Required
  • Résumé: Required
  • GRE Scores: GRE General (Optional)
  • English Language Exam: TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test required* for applicants whose first language is not English
    *test waiver may apply for some applicants
  • GPA: Undergraduate GPA calculated on 4.0 scale required

Writing Sample
None required

Additional Requirements:
On no more than one page, please briefly highlight the following:

  • Your academic preparation and/or professional experience in quantitative methods and skills (e.g. math, statistics, epidemiology). Provide a bulleted list of relevant academic coursework with final grades, and any relevant research projects, extracurricular engagement, experience with software, and/or professional responsibilities
  • Your academic and/or professional writing experiences, as evidenced through research papers, an undergraduate thesis, scientific writing courses, or professional writing.

We strongly encourage you to review additional department-specific application guidance from the program to which you are applying: Departmental Application Guidance