Environmental Law Degrees: Doctorate, Master's & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with a master's or doctorate degree in environmental law? Find out master's and doctorate degree program requirements, online options and information on courses and careers in environmental law.
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Studying Environmental Law: Degrees at a Glance

Whether you want to become an attorney, an educator, a government advisor, a lobbyist, an environmental organization manager or an organizer, earning a master's or doctorate degree in environmental law could be the education path for you. A degree program in environmental law can prepare you for a career addressing issues like climate change, energy, land use and urban development. Typically, these programs combine science with politics and economic studies.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for lawyers was projected to increase by 10% from 2010-2020, which is slightly below average. Many environmental law students eventually go into education; positions for postsecondary educators were expected to increase by 17% in the same time period. Administrative services management positions - some within environmental organizations and companies - were anticipated to grow by 15%.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want to manage environmental organizations or companies in the public or private sector, work with non-profits or advise organizations on environmental policies People interested in working as environmental attorneys or in academia as researchers and professors
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Administrative services manager ($86,700)*
- Non-profit organizer (unavailable)
- Environmental advisor (unavailable)
- Postsecondary professor ($74,400)*
- Lawyer ($130,500)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years, full-time 3-5 years after the master's
Common Graduation Requirements - About 20-30 credits
- Master's thesis/research paper
- Master's exams
Many of the master's degree requirements, as well as:
- An additional 4-6 graduate level courses
- Doctoral qualifier exams
- Dissertation proposal
- Dissertation
- Clinic requirement (in some programs)
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in environmental law or a related field Bachelor's or master's degree in environmental law or a related field
Online Availability Yes, but rare None found at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Environmental Law

These Masters of Law in Environmental Law or Master of Environmental Law and Policy programs are typically designed to prepare you for a career managing environmental organizations or non-profits, organizing public campaigns and advising governments and corporations. You can also use this degree as part of a path towards earning your law degree with a specialty in environmental law. Although it's typically more difficult to get into a master's degree program in environmental law than a bachelor's degree program, class sizes are significantly smaller as a rule and you'll have a lot of one-on-one time with professors and advisors.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • With a master's degree in environmental law, you could affect environmental policy and with certain careers, help to improve environmental conditions
  • You'll qualify for many management positions in non-profit organizations, companies and government agencies
  • You could choose to earn your degree online

Cons

  • Some non-profit and organizational management positions only require a bachelor's degree
  • A master's degree program in environmental law can be very time-consuming and expensive
  • Many environmental positions require substantial travel and you may need to relocate

Courses and Requirements

The courses that you'll be required to take in a master's degree program in environmental law depend largely on your chosen area of specialization. For example, you could choose to focus on subjects as diverse as land use, water law, environmental business, preventing pollution and natural resources. A few of the courses that you could end up taking may be:

  • Wildlife and animal law
  • City planning law
  • Moot court and environmental law
  • Renewable energy
  • Climate change
  • Laws and policy for toxins
  • Land law
  • Coastal and ocean law
  • Negotiation
  • International environmental law

In addition to coursework and master's level exams, you'll also usually be required to research and write a master's thesis on your chosen area of expertise.

Online Degree Options

Earning a degree in environmental law online wasn't a possibility until 2011. Although online degree programs in this discipline are still a rarity, if you're currently employed or can't attend an on-campus program for other reasons, then this is an option that is available to you.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

There are a variety of measures that you can take while earning a master's degree in environmental law to help you get ahead. For example, may organizations and agencies, both in the public and private sector, value job applicants with marketing skills. By taking marketing courses, or even earning a minor marketing, you can get ahead in this regard. Similarly, many organizations also seek employees or directors with fundraising skills.

Doctoral Degrees in Environmental Law

If you're considering earning your doctorate in environmental law, keep in mind that these degree programs tend to be extremely competitive and difficult to get into. A common option is this field is to enter a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) in environmental law degree program. Not to be confused with the entry-level Juris Doctor program, an S.J.D. program typically prepares students to become researchers, professors and academics in the field. Like in a master's degree program, you can expect small class sizes, a lot of one-on time with professors and a research-intensive curriculum.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • If you become an attorney, you can work with a wide variety of organizations and agencies to further environmental causes on the legal front
  • Your research findings while earning your doctorate degree could affect environmental policy
  • If you enter a career in academia, you could eventually earn tenure

Cons

  • According to the BLS, job growth for attorneys is slower than the national average, so it may be a difficult to find employment
  • Academic job searches typically are nationwide or even international, so there's a fair chance that you'll need to move
  • Tenure can be very difficult to earn and is by no means guaranteed

Courses and Requirements

The courses that you'll take in a doctorate program in environmental law depend both on the program itself and your chosen area of research and specialization. The following are a few courses that you could potentially encounter:

  • Environmental management and corporations
  • Policies for green energy
  • The environment and constitutions
  • Social justice and property
  • Administrative law

In a typical doctorate program in this field, coursework is only a fraction of what's needed to complete the degree. You'll also need to present your dissertation proposal before a board and have it accepted. Once it is, you'll be required to research and write your dissertation. You may also need to attend advanced seminars or complete clinics.

Online Degree Options

Because doctorate programs in environmental law are research-intensive and often require a lot of fieldwork and time spent with advisors and professors, there are few if any online options at this time. The fact is, a good majority of the research and work you'll need to conduct can't be accomplished with only an Internet connection. You'll need to meet with professors, advisors and spend considerable time on campus and in the real world.

Stand Out With This Degree

There are numerous ways that you can stand out in the job market with a degree in environmental law. The following are simply a few suggestions:

  • If you want to work with state or federal environmental agencies like the EPA, familiarize yourself with their regulations, policies and laws.
  • Try to have the research findings from your dissertation published in a peer-reviewed academic, law or scientific journal. This not only will look good on your resume, but also could possibly help garner you the respect of your peers and potential employers.
  • Stay abreast of current management technologies and maintain a high level of computer literacy.

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