Forest Science, Doctor of Philosophy


College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences

This is the terminal degree in the profession of forestry, and it prepares you for a career in research and/or education. We offer three concentrations within this doctoral plan-ecosystem science, forest management sciences and economics, and forest social science.
For this plan, which involves completing a dissertation, we expect you to demonstrate your skill in generating original ideas; your considerable command of the literature; your skill at designing, analyzing, and interpreting research; your skill in scientific writing, including publication of research results in major professional refereed journals; and your basic skills in teaching. We expect you to be self-motivated and to largely direct your own research program with advice and counsel from your major professor and dissertation committee. We evaluate your work on the basis of the originality and quality of the new knowledge you generate.

  • Available Emphasis Areas:
  • Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology - 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:

  • Attend the seminar series in the School of Forestry and present two seminars
  • Complete some teaching experience, regardless of the type of your financial support
  • Fulfill Northern Arizona University's residency requirements (for more information about residency and other requirements that pertain to this plan, see Doctoral Requirements)
  • Pass the oral exam on your dissertation (Dissertation Defense)
  • Complete Coursework

Minimum Units for Completion 63
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.
Student Teaching/Supervised Teaching Required

Purpose Statement

The Doctorate in Forestry prepares students as academic professionals, scientists and policy specialists for government and non-governmental agencies and organizations by providing extensive study in the area of Forestry and the development of original scientific research through the completion of the dissertation.

Student Learning Outcomes
Students work closely with their advisor and to create a course of study wherein they achieve the following competencies:

  • First-hand experience with the full range of activities that generate scientific knowledge; expert knowledge about a specific research topic; ability to acquire expert knowledge for new and emerging topics; ability to make novel contributions to scientific understanding through original scientific research; clear, concise oral and written communication; critical thinking; effective teaching. 
  • An expert understanding of fundamental knowledge about forest ecosystems and human management of forests by placing their scholarship into the broad context of subject knowledge in forestry and forest management
  • Expert knowledge about a specific research topic in Forestry, including its major theories, controversies, methods of inquiry, theoretical and methodological challenges, connections with related disciplines, leading edges, and applications to advancing forest management.
  • A thorough understanding of research ethics, particularly the ability to examine how ethical issues impact decisions concerning research design, and applying this knowledge to develop ethical approaches to research methodology and data collection.
  • Skills and ability to make significant and novel advancements in scientific understanding of forest ecosystems and human management of forests through designing an original research study of personal or professional interest and importance including: planning, organizing, scheduling, and executing the project.
  • Expertise with research methods used in Forestry, particularly the modes of inquiry and quantitative methods appropriate to the area of their dissertation.  Identifies and defines appropriate variables and methods of data collection for the dissertation, and analyzes, interprets and explains research findings.  Evaluates the effectiveness of the project and its implications to the field of forestry.
  • Expert communication in oral presentations, writing, and using posters to scientists, forestry professionals, and the general public about the student’s dissertation research and topic. In addition, conducts a dissertation defense to a community of forestry faculty.
  • Ability to plan and teach a college-level course using innovative teaching/learning approaches.


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
    • Demonstrated competence in scientific research usually through completion of a Master of Science (thesis option).
    • Prerequisites (may be completed concurrently with the program)
      • 15 hours of Forestry coursework
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
    • Statement of research interests
    • All applicants should make contact with potential faculty members in the department BEFORE APPLYING.
Doctoral Requirements

  • Please note that you must take at least two of these courses at Northern Arizona University and get your dissertation committee's approval for any courses taken elsewhere.

    Additionally, you can use FOR 506 and FOR 695, as well as special topics courses offered by other departments, in any of these concentrations, with approval by your dissertation committee.
    • FOR 799, for the research, writing, and oral defense of an approved dissertation (15 units)
    • Electives, with no more that 9 units of 400-level courses. Electives may include the Ecology, Evolution & Conservation Biology Emphasis - see below. (19 units)
  • Ecology, Evolution & Conservation Biology Emphasis:
    • BIO 577 (3 units)
    • Select one seminar course from: FOR 505, BIO 698 (1 unit)
    • Breadth Courses (9 units): Select one course from each of the following groups:
  • Please note that you can only count 15 units of dissertation credit toward your degree; however, you may end up taking additional units since you must enroll each term while you're working on your dissertation.
    In choosing courses, please be aware that:

    • At least 39 units must be 500- and 600-level courses.
    • No more than 24 units from a master's plan can be credited toward degree requirements.
    • Your dissertation committee must approve all of your courses.

  • 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.

  • Research Requirements

    In addition to completing 48 units of coursework, you must demonstrate your independence, research skill, and experience in a discipline within forestry 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 successfully pass an oral defense of your dissertation.

    Comprehensive Exams

    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 written and oral exams designed to establish your competence in a breadth and depth of subjects within the larger field of forestry.

    Research Competency Requirement

    Northern Arizona University policy for Ph.D. programs includes a Research Competency requirement that must be satisfied before a student can be admitted to candidacy. In most departments, this is enforced as a requirement to demonstrate an ability to translate disciplinary literature from a foreign language into English. The School of Forestry has chosen to recognize FOR 690, STA 570 (or equivalent), plus one graduate-level course with significant content in statistics, as meeting this requirement.