Climate Science and Solutions, Master of Science

School of Earth and Sustainability

College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences

The Climate Science and Solutions (CSS) Professional Science Master’s (PSM) program is designed to train students in the scientific basis of global climate change while also helping students to develop highly valued industry-relevant skills. This 36-credit hour (18 month) non-thesis based masters program has been developed in consultation with an advisory board of professionals to ensure the program meets current and anticipated workforce needs.

  • To receive a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject areas, consisting of at least 30 units of graduate-level courses. Many master’s degree programs require more than 30 units.

    You must additionally complete:

    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s). This may include a thesis.
    • All graduate work with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.
    • All work toward the master's degree must be completed within six consecutive years. The six years begins with the semester and year of admission to the program.

    Read the full policy here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 36
Additional Admission Requirements

Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

Fieldwork Experience/Internship Required
Additional Fees/Program Fees Required
Progression Plan Link View Program of Study
Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Plan Optional

Purpose Statement

The Climate Science and Solutions (CSS) Professional Science Master's (PSM) program combines a foundation in climate science and sustainable systems studies with professional training and organizational skills to help graduates effectively communicate and apply their knowledge to jobs in the growing climate industry.

The CSS program provides students with an applied, interdisciplinary experience that develops competencies in the fundamentals of climate change, translating complex scientific concepts to diverse audiences, as well as analyzing policy alternatives and quantifying the emissions and cost savings linked to business and organizational actions. Students in the program come from a wide variety of undergraduate training and contribute to robust discussions of the implications of climate science for policy, business and communities.

CSS students examine interdisciplinary strategies for addressing climate adaptation and mitigation challenges. Building on an interdisciplinary core of knowledge in earth systems, climate, communications, policy and economics students can customize the program to meet their specific career objectives in areas including, but not limited to carbon offsets, energy 42 management, energy policy, climate communications, sustainability, environmental education, health and energy management.

As an affiliated Professional Science Master’s (PSM) Program, professional development and an applied internship are at the core of the CSS program. Students compete an applied summer internship in their area of interest (e.g., local government sustainability, consulting, natural resource management, science communication, climate policy, renewables and climate impact measurement and verification). Students complete the program with knowledge of climate science principles, an understanding of climate communication, policy and implications for economics and other systems, as well as a portfolio of applied professional experience, contacts and practical tools for positioning themselves for success in their careers.

Student Learning Outcomes

Overall Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand and explain the physical nature of global climate change;
  • Apply national and international standards to conduct professional entity-level and or project-based greenhouse gas inventories;
  • Evaluate the social and economic externalities of climate change;
  • Describe the ethical, scientific, and policy strengths and weaknesses of current and proposed mitigation and adaptation strategies; and
  • Identify, analyze, synthesize, and communicate scientific information and uncertainties for public and professional audiences.
Specific Learning Outcomes:
Physical science:
  • Explain what a greenhouse gas is and how it operates in the Earth system;
  • Describe and quantify the role of greenhouse gases in Earth’s energy budget and climate system;
  • Describe past, present, and projected changes to the major stocks and fluxes of carbon in the global carbon cycle;
  • Quantitatively compare natural and anthropogenic sources and sinks of carbon;
  • Describe feedbacks in Earth’s climate system and their potential role in past, present, and future climatic conditions;
  • Recognize and explain how climate change projections vary by geographic region;
  • Explain key uncertainties associated with climate projections;
  • Ability to communicate effectively about climate change to diverse audiences with diverse perspectives; and
  • Describe the current state of climate science in terms of projected changes in Earth’s temperature under contrasting emissions scenarios. 
Climate change mitigation and adaptation:
  • Explain economics of climate change and the policy tools available to address economic externalities;
  • Describe the strengths and weaknesses of existing and potential climate-related policies and the political forces influencing proposed changes;
  • Describe the strengths and weaknesses of different energy resources, technologies, and policies;
  • Quantify energy yield per mass of carbon emitted for major energy resources;
  • Identify the benefits and challenges of developing renewable energy resources and new energy paradigms;
  • Describe the potential climate implications of different mitigation strategies;
  • Recognize the ethical and social justice implications of different climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies;
  • Describe how social conflicts arise surrounding proposed adaptation and mitigation strategies;
  • Identify inconsistencies in social and ethical arguments for various adaptation and mitigation strategies; and
  • Effectively facilitate public discussions focused on climate mitigation and adaptation topics.
Greenhouse gas accounting:
  • Identify, extract, and process relevant data and information for greenhouse gas accounting;
  • Apply appropriate national and international standards to track and report greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Categorize emissions according to their activity type within an organization;
  • Quantify emission factors for a particular activity, and recognize and apply appropriate published emission factors by activity;
  • Identify and explain key uncertainties in greenhouse gas inventories;
  • Develop a comprehensive emission reduction plan for a project or organization;
  • Verify greenhouse gas emissions reported by others;
  • Advise a client on the information and data management needs for robust greenhouse gas inventories; and
  • Communicate professionally (in written and oral form) the results of a greenhouse gas inventory project to a client;
Professional Development:
  • Identify your career and learning goals, learning needs, and learning style preferences;
  • Develop a personal career development plan based on your strengths and goals;
  • Effectively represent your experience, skills and competencies through written (resume, cover letter, social media, application materials) and verbal (interview skills, presentation skills, etc.) communication;
  • Build on your strengths in working with others on team projects;
  • Develop your project management skills;
  • Establish, maintain, and grow your professional network; and
Increase your experience and marketability, as well as your level of knowledge about career opportunities, through a summer internship.


Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • Transcripts.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

    Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies.

    Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

    International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy.

    • Three letters of recommendation
    • Personal statement or essay
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
Master's Requirements
    • Please note that this requirement involves a full-time summer fieldwork experience that will provide you with professional training through practical experiences with a private firm, government agency, or non-governmental organization working in the carbon management and market sector. You will work with the CSS career coordinator to design an experience that will enhance your job skills and develop employment contacts to prepare you for a professional position in this field.

      A maximum of two courses, up to 6 units, may be at the 400-level.

Additional Information
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.

  • This program is available as an Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Plan wherein a student may start a master's degree while simultaneously completing their bachelor's degree.

  • Program fees are established by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR). A program fee of $1500 per semester has been approved for this program.