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Best program for environmental policy? Overwhelmed...


gryphonbones
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I graduated in December from Michigan State with a Bachelor's in Political Science and an additional major in German. My goal is to enter the field of Environmental Policy, but I'm not sure which route to take.

I have been accepted into 5 master's programs: Master's of Public Policy from Chicago, USC, and ASU. Master's of Public Admin from University of Washington Master's of Science at University of Michigan with a specialization in Environmental Policy.

As of right now, only Washington has offered me any real form of financial aide, with instate tuition and a $500/ month stipend. Also, all of these policy programs offer some kind of specialization in environmental policy/management/governance.

I would love to hear any wisdom from you guys regarding my situation. I'm a little overwhelmed and not sure if the debt is worth it and if funding will be an option. Also, would a degree from U of M from the school of Natural Resources and Environment be better or worse than one of the other public affairs programs with regard to my career path?

The graduate world is new to me and any and all advice would be welcome. Thanks!

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It really depends on what your post-PhD plans are...

Well as of right now I haven't even set my sights on a phd.

I would like to enter the professional world and seek a career in environmental policy analysis or consulting.

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Not lobbying, non non-profit. I have a few possible career paths I like to think about-- think tank/research; working for the environmental department of a multi-national corporation as a sort of consultant on policy; or government. Hopefully, I'll get to work in all three of those areas. 

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What specific area of environmental policy are you interested in? Which discipline do you gravitate towards? I am inclined to say that a degree from a resource management program may be more in line with your goals than a public policy program, but this carries the weight of my bias from a professional and academic background in ecology/resource management. As someone with experience working in the government, I've noticed  that the people drafting management plans and making policy recommendations are people with advanced degrees in either environmental management or a field specific to the issue (say, wildlife biology). 

 

Something I did in the decision-making process was search program names in linkedin. What are alumni currently doing? Does this work tend to align with your general interests? It was very helpful to see what people were able do with a degree in x versus y.

 

Hope this helps. 

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I would look at the schools more closely.  Do the classes they offer sound like they are something you want to take and would align with your professional goals?  Do the professers conduct research that align with research you may be interested in or again, align with your professional goals.  Resource management and environmental policy can be kind of broad.  If you don't know for sure what you want to do after a master's, then I would focus on funding.  I also think about location.  Would you want to live in the city or state for the next two or more years?

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I don't know if this is possible with the short amount of time left before decision day but I found it pretty helpful as well to look at linkedin, get lists of jobs by concentration if possible from the career services of the various schools you are considering and finally to go to any alumni events the schools are hosting. I was able to go to one for Michigan and another school I applied to and they were very helpful in seeing where graduates go not only in their first job but where they are 5-10 years out. This also gives you a chance to learn about what it was like to graduate with a specific degree and what their whole career path was like.

 

I only really know about Michigan because I also applied there but a huge percentage do a dual degree(it looks like between 35%-45% depending on the year) with SNRE so if you have in state tuition after attending Michigan State than maybe that is an option if you want to cover both bases? Also at least at Michigan you can apply for assistantships formally and things like that once you are in and accept (or at least that is my understanding).

 

Also if you are considering taking a year and working? I took only one year off from school and received financial aid/assistantships/fellowships (money in some form or another) everywhere I was accepted. It looks like a year of work experience can make a difference sometimes when it comes to financial aid(according to people on gradcafe and generally from talking to other admitted students but take this with a huge grain of salt since I have no comparison). Also taking a year off let me save up some money, not enough to pay everything obviously but enough that it will make to difference with loans and debt.  

 

Taking a year off let me network with alumni of my undergrad who have careers I admire and learn from them about where to apply/what concentrations they see as the most relevant in the future. This really helped me loosely understand what I would like my career path to look like so when I met with the career services of the different schools I could figure out if the schools would allow me to do what I wanted and to learn if they had connections to the kind of organizations I am interested in. This let me apply to only a few schools that I knew would get me where I want to go which at least for me is making the decision process a little easier since my decision is more coming down to finances and location of school and graduates.

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gryphonbones, I sent you a pm message.  There is an excellent young faculty member at Chicago who does a good deal of research in environmental policy, and  who has his PhD from the University Michigan.  He is in a good position to compare the two schools (and perhaps others), including in the environmental policy field.  I sought his advice before making my own decision on where to attend, and the advice he provided was very objective and sound (as I thought at the time, and continue to think with the benefit of experience).  I recommend that you contact him; my pm message includes his name.

Edited by s33
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  • 8 months later...

Hey everyone, 

 

Just came across this thread and, rather than starting a new one, figured I would seek input here. I'm also interested in environmental policy degrees, most likely a PhD. I did my undergrad at a Big 10 school in Env. Science, Policy and Management, with a pretty significant focus on policy and planning as well as hydrology. I'm wondering what some good NR policy PhD programs are out there. Berkeley has caught my eye, but I'd like to find a few other options if possible. Most likely applying for Fall 2016 and accumulating some valuable work experience (or attempting to, at least) in the mean time. 

 

I'm new to the site, so any feedback is greatly appreciated. Also feel free to PM me for more info. 

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Check out UK and Canadian programs out there as well....

 

UToronto now has an MSc in Sustainability Management with either a management or science concentration - UT is top 20 globally

 

Also check out Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, University College London, Kings, the LSE and Edinburgh...all also top 20 globally

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  • 3 weeks later...

If, as you say, all of the schools have an environmental concentration, I would go with whoever offered the most funding. I'm not sure the prestige/name recognition difference between UW and Chicago for example is big enough to justify tens of thousands of dollars of additional debt. Graduating from UW with much less debt will give you more options with regards to what jobs you can take.

 

Check the curriculum, make sure the location is okay, but if you're anything like me, you'll take the money in this situation.

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