Degree Requirements

Stewardship of water resources is a critical global issue, and the need for professionals trained as managers and problem-solvers continues to grow each year. 

Water Resources Science is interdisciplinary and collaborative. Students take courses in the Core Areas (Hydrology, Environmental Chemistry, Limnology, Policy, Ethics, and Seminar) and electives.

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Master of Science (M.S.)

The Master of Science (M.S.) in Water Resources Science consists of:

  • Core Coursework
  • Electives (see below for credit requirements)
  • Master's thesis credits (Plan A only) 
  • Thesis or paper
  • Defense seminar (also known as the final exam)

For more information about electives, please visit the Twin Cities Courses page or the Duluth Courses page.

M.S. Plan A

The M.S. Plan A option is for students with a funded research project. The Plan A option provides a more re­search-intensive background.

  • Coursework: Plan A requires a minimum of 32 credits
    • 13 credits of Core Coursework
    • At least 9 semester credits from the WRS Approved List of Electives
    • 10 credits of thesis work (WRS 8777) , which can be taken at any time
  • Thesis: Plan A also requires the successful completion and defense of an M.S. thesis
    • Coursework is individualized to reflect a student's preparation, degree goals, and research topic
    • Thesis is written on a research project that you carry out in consultation with your faculty advisor

M.S. Plan B

Plan B is best suited to students who do not have a funded project to cover research ex­penses or an assistantship. It is ideal for students with few previous courses in water resources science and thus need more coursework to gain the combination of depth and breadth required for a successful career. Students in the Plan B option generally complete in less time or at an individualized part-time pace.

  • Coursework: Plan B requires a minimum of 30 credits
    • 13 credits of Core Coursework
    • At least 17 semester credits from the WRS Approved List of Electives
      • Students are not required to register for any credits of Plan B work, but may count 3 semester credits of WRS 8095 (Plan B Project Research) toward their electives
  • Plan B Project(s): No thesis is required, but each student must demonstrate the ability to work independently by completing one or two project papers.
    • Project must be approved and overseen by the faculty advisor
    • Must utilize field, laboratory, or computer work and the analysis, synthesis, or interpretation of data

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Water Resources Science is a research degree that represents the highest level of academic accomplishment in any field. Persons with this degree are expected to have demonstrated the ability to conduct inde­pendent research and should also have the level and breadth of knowledge about their field that one could reasonably expect of someone who has attained the highest academic degree in their field. Research performance, evidenced by the preparation of a dissertation on an independently pur­sued research topic, is the primary requirement for the Ph.D. degree. Each student degree program is designed in consultation with a faculty advisor to meet the special needs of the student and must be approved by the DGS. Course requirements include: 

  • 24 credits of Core Coursework equivalent to the WRS Masters degree
    • 13 Credits of coursework from the Core Areas
    • At least 11 credits from the WRS Approved List of Electives
  • 24 doctoral thesis research credits
    • Can be taken at any time

Students with a Masters degree must take at least 12 course credits at the University of Minnesota. Up to 12 credits can be transferred from a previous graduate degree or taken while in residence.

For information about electives, please visit the Twin Cities Courses page or the Duluth Courses page.

Limnology and Oceanography Track

The science of inland waters, or "limnology," includes the study of streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. While Lake Superior falls into this category, the style of research, particularly the nature of sampling and the scale of the processes investigated, makes the study of Lake Superior and other Great Lakes more akin to oceanography than to classical limnology. A program that focuses on the study of both limnology and oceanography strengthens understanding of both systems, through comparative studies and by fostering interaction between groups that focus more strongly on one or the other system. Limnology and oceanography are by necessity interdisciplinary fields, with major components contributed by biological, geological, physical and chemical sciences. Such interdisciplinary fields in the modern research university require mechanisms to ensure cross-fertilization of ideas, approaches, methods, techniques, and knowledge. The limnology and oceanography track in WRS provides just such a much-needed mechanism. The goal of the program is to produce scientists with strong technical skills in aquatic science and a broad understanding of limnology and oceanography.

The Limnology and Oceanography track is a concentration within WRS that may be completed at the Masters or Doctorate level.

The faculty advisor must be a member of the limnology and oceanography track. 

The courses in the Core Areas are more prescriptive and different on each campus. See the Limnology and Oceanography Track courses page for details.

Minor in WRS

Students interested in a minor in Water Resources Science must first get permission from their program and formally Request to Add A Graduate Minor. After this request form has been processed, your planned minor coursework will need to be reviewed and approved by WRS ([email protected]).

Masters minor students must complete 9 credits total, including:

  • WRS 5101 (3 credits), and
  • 6 credits from WRS core areas of Hydrology, Environmental Chemistry, and Limnology.

Doctoral minor students must complete 12 credits total, including:

  • WRS 5101 (3 credits),
  • One course from a WRS core area of Hydrology, Environmental Chemistry, and Limnology, and
  • Two courses from the WRS Approved List of Electives.

List of Course Options for each core area can be found on the Twin Cities Courses page or the Duluth Courses page.