Forest Science, Doctor of Philosophy


College of the Environment, 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
  • Forest Science Coursework

  • 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
  • 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
Emphasis or Coursework Required

An emphasis or coursework is required for this degree.

Purpose Statement

The Doctor of Philosophy in Forestry (PhD) is the terminal degree offered in the profession of Forestry.  The PhD prepares students to be professional researchers and educators by extensive study of Forestry and the development of original scientific research and knowledge through the completion of the dissertation. The PhD trains students for positions such as professor, instructor, conservation specialist, postdoctoral researcher, and forest health specialist in governmental and non-governmental agencies and organizations.
The PhD program is appropriate for students with a Master’s degree in Forestry or closely related disciplines.  Students lacking a Master’s but having a Bachelor’s degree may be eligible for admission if they have significant research and experience beyond the Bachelor’s degree.  PhD students are expected to generate original scientific ideas and knowledge, have a command of the literature, and have advanced skills in designing, analyzing, and interpreting research, scientific writing, and college teaching.
The PhD program emphasizes training in the focus areas of ecosystem, forest management, and forest social sciences; college teaching; research methods and statistics; quantitative analysis; professional presentations; emerging issues in forestry; and electives that provide advanced training in specific skills.  The dissertation showcases student’s command of the literature; generation of original scientific ideas; research design, execution, analysis, and interpretation; and scientific writing.

Ecology, Evolution & Conservation Biology (EECB) Emphasis
The PhD includes an optional multi-disciplinary emphasis in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology (EECB).  The EECB emphasis provides a structured curriculum for students wanting to focus on ecology and conservation biology within the context of forest science.  The course requirements of the EECB are designed to be taken as elective hours within the PhD degree. 

Student Learning Outcomes

Core Forestry Outcomes

  • Demonstrate the ability to apply graduate level critical thinking skills to identify, explain, synthesize and solve complex professional forestry problems through acquisition and application of fundamental knowledge of forest ecosystems and human management of forests.
  • Demonstrate mastery about a specific research topic in forest science (dissertation topic).
  • Apply an understanding of professional ethics to forest research and professional activities.
  • Design a forestry research study including planning, organizing, scheduling and executing the project.
  • Design and execute a forest science research project that seeks to generate new knowledge and advance the scientific understanding of forests.
  • Select, implement and interpret appropriate methods and statistical analyses for research projects.
  • Effectively communicate through written, oral and visual means, a forest science research project, demonstrating the ability to communicate forest science research to technical and non-technical audiences.
  • Design and implement a college-level course in the forest sciences or related fields, using innovative and learner-centered teaching approaches.
Ecology, Evolution & Conservation Biology (EECB) Emphasis
  • Demonstrate the ability to synthesize and discuss the history and conceptual and theoretical foundations of ecology.
  • Demonstrate the ability to discuss current and emerging topics in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology with peers and experts.
  • Demonstrate the ability to use quantitative research approaches in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of ecology, evolution, and conservation biology at physiological, population, and community scales.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of ecology, evolution, and conservation biology at ecosystem and global scales

Graduate Admission Information
  • 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.

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

    • 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
      • Statement of research interests
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
    • All applicants should make contact with potential faculty members in the department BEFORE APPLYING.
Doctoral Requirements
  • This Doctoral degree requires 63 units distributed as follows:

    • Forestry Common Requirements: 23 units
    • Concentration Requirement: 15 units
      • Ecosystem Science Concentration
      • Forest Management Sciences Concentration
      • Forest Social Sciences Concentration
    • Electives or Emphasis Requirement: 10 units
      • Forest Science Elective Coursework
      • Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology Emphasis
    • Dissertation: 15 units

    Take the following 63 units:

  • Concentration Requirement - Select One (15 units)
  • You must take at least two of the concentration 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.

  • Electives or Emphasis Requirement - Select one (10 units)

    • Forest Science Elective Coursework (10 units)

      • Additional Forest Science electives completed with the recommendation of your research committee. 
  • Dissertation (15 units)

    • FOR 799, for the research, writing, and oral defense of an approved dissertation (15 units)
  • 15 units of dissertation credit may be applied to your degree; however, you may end up taking additional units since you must enroll each term while you're working on your dissertation.

    • 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 PhD 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.

    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.

    • 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.