Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, Doctor of Philosophy

School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability

College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences

This Doctoral program will prepare you to be part of a growing industry of leaders, scientists, and engineers addressing issues of climate change, water scarcity, natural resource demand, and environmental sustainability in the Southwest, United States, and the global community.

  • Available Emphasis Areas:
  • Climate and Environmental Change - Emphasis
  • Earth and Planetary Systems - Emphasis
  • Engineering Sustainable Systems - Emphasis

  • To receive a Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses, from one or more disciplines, ranging from at least 60 - 109 units of graduate-level courses. Most plans require research, a dissertation, and comprehensive exams. All plans have residency requirements regarding time spent on the Flagstaff campus engaged in full-time study.

    The full policy can be viewed here.

In addition to University Requirements:

Minimum Units for Completion 60
Additional Admission Requirements Required
Dissertation Dissertation is required.
Comprehensive Exam Comprehensive Exam is required.
Oral Defense Oral Defense is required.
Research Individualized research is required.

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.

    • GRE® revised General Test
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • A writing sample
    • A personal statement or essay
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
Doctoral Requirements
  • Take the following 60 units,  with a minimum GPA of 3.0:

    • ENV 555 (3 units)
    • EES 605, EES 606 (2 units)
    • Coursework selected by student and committee from Environmental Law and Policy, Modern Languages (at the upper division level), Public Outreach and communications, Management and Business, Education, or Engineering (examples include ENV 698 Environmental Leadership, EGR 501, ETC 655) (6 units)
    • Select courses specific to student's area of emphasis and dissertation topic, with at least 6 units in your area of emphasis chosen from the following (30 units):

  • You may have no more than 6 units of 400-level courses. These 400-level courses cannot have been used to satisfy the requirements for any previous degree program(s). You must get your dissertation committee's approval for any courses taken outside of NAU.

  • 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.

  • In addition:
    • 698 (seminar) courses selected by student and committee (4 units)
    • EES 799, for the research, writing, and oral defense of an approved dissertation. You can only count 15 units of dissertation credit toward your degree; however, you may end up taking additional units because you must enroll for it each term while you┬┐re working on your dissertation. (15 units)
    In choosing courses, please be aware that:
    • At least 39 units must be 500- and 600-level courses.
    • Your dissertation committee must approve all of your courses.


    In addition to completing 45 units of coursework, you must demonstrate your independence, research skill, and experience in a discipline within earth sciences and environmental sustainability by choosing a problem and research area in consultation with your dissertation committee and then satisfactorily completing a dissertation.

    Your dissertation research meets our standards when it is soundly based in the theoretical context of the subject, proceeds with a sound design that gives due attention to statistical adequacy, and concludes with findings and inferences set forth within an appropriate theoretical context. Your dissertation must demonstrate that you have mastered your field of specialization, carried out independent scholarly work, and contributed significant new knowledge. You must pass an oral defense of your dissertation.


    We also require that you demonstrate written and oral communication skills in English at a level that will allow you to effectively communicate your ideas and knowledge to a wide range of audiences. Part of this demonstration involves comprehensive oral exams by the end of your 4th semester designed to establish your competence in a breadth and depth of subjects within your emphasis area and the larger field of earth sciences and environmental sustainability.


    NAU policy for PhD programs includes a research competency requirement that must be satisfied before a student can be admitted to candidacy. This interdisciplinary doctoral program recognizes ENV 555, EES 605, and EES 606, plus one graduate level course with significant content in statistics and/or science/engineering research methods, as meeting this requirement.