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e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

The Graduate School

at ESF

Master of Professional Studies

The Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) degree is intended to be a terminal degree. The M.P.S. is offered in the following degree programs: chemistry, environmental and forest biology, forest resources management, environmental resources engineering, environmental science, and environmental studies.

This degree requires the successful completion of a minimum of 30 credits at the graduate level, of which at least 24 must be in course work. The student’s program of study must be approved by the major professor, steering committee and Department Chairperson.

In addition, individual programs may require an integrative experience such as an internship, team project and/or comprehensive examination. If an examination is required, it is developed and managed by the department responsible for the program.

M.P.S. Programs

Communication Skills

All students entering graduate programs at ESF are expected to be proficient in communication skills, including technical writing and library skills. Students are required to have completed at least one course in technical writing and one course in library usage, either as an undergraduate or as a graduate student. Credits for such courses taken during the graduate program are not counted towards degree requirements. Alternatively, graduate students can meet the requirement by demonstrating the equivalent in experience in writing and library skills, as determined by the steering committee.


Participation in seminars, including the preparation and presentation of technical material, is vital to graduate education. All graduate students at ESF are required to participate in graduate seminars, as follows:

    1. Each graduate student is expected to participate in topic seminars, including presentations, as determined by the individual department. This requirement can be fulfilled, with appropriate approval, by seminars offered at Syracuse University or the SUNY Upstate Medical University.
    2. Students completing the Master's degree are required to present a "capstone seminar." The purpose of the capstone seminar is to provide an opportunity for the graduate student to present technical information to a critical body of professionals and peers. This seminar should be attended by the student's steering committee. Each seminar is open to the College community and will be announced College-wide to encourage attendance by students and faculty.

Academic Performance

All graduate students are required to maintain at least a 3.000 cumulative grade point average (4.000 =A) for graduate level courses. Students who do not maintain this average, or who receive two or more grades of Unsatisfactory (U) for work on the thesis or project, will be placed on probation or suspended from ESF by the Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies upon the recommendation of the College Subcommittee on Academic Standards.

Credit Hour Load

To meet academic requirements, graduate students must be registered for at least one credit each semester, excluding summers, from the first semester of matriculation until all degree requirements have been completed. Students are required to register for at least one credit in the summer if they will complete all requirements during that time. There is no full-time credit hour load to meet academic requirements.

To qualify for various forms of financial support, the following credit hour loads are defined: Graduate students who hold an assistantship must be registered for at least nine credits each semester while holding such an award. Graduate students not holding an assistantship are considered full-time if they are registered for at least 12 credits each semester.

Graduate students, holding an assistantship or not, in their last semester of study who have met all academic requirements except for the completion of their thesis or an examination may be considered full-time if registered for at least one credit and have their major professor verify they are working full-time on the completion of degree requirements.

Transfer Credit

Credit hours appropriate to the graduate degree in which a minimum grade of B was earned from an accredited institution can be transferred to the college, but grades and grade points cannot be transferred.

    1. Up to six credits of graduate course work not used to complete another degree may be accepted toward completion of a master's degree as approved by the steering committee.
    2. Students may transfer no more than nine credits of credit-bearing non-degree ESF course work to graduate degree programs.

All transfer credit will remain tentative until official, final transcripts are received. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that official, final transcripts are sent to and received by the college.

Time Limits

Graduate students must complete all requirements for the Master's degree within three years of the first date of matriculation.

Graduate Program of Study (3B)

The program of study must include the sequence of courses that must be completed and a plan for research. The program of study, developed by the student with the advice and approval of the major professor and other members of the steering committee, must be submitted to the Department Chairperson for approval, and then forwarded to the Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies at least by the end of the third semester. This program of study can be changed during the course of studies. Changes must be approved by the major professor, Department Chairperson, and the Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies.

Major Professor

The student’s major professor is appointed by the Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies, upon the recommendation of the Department Chairperson. A major professor should be appointed upon the student’s matriculation into a graduate program. For the graduate student accepted into a graduate program but lacking a major professor, a temporary advisor will be appointed by the DepartmentChairperson. However, every effort should be made to expedite appointment of a major professor as soon as possible.

It is the duty of the major professor to fulfill a primary role as the student’s mentor. Aided by other members of the steering committee, the major professor guides the student in the development and implementation of the study plan, including course selection, research planning, choice of the professional experience, and facilitation of the examination schedule.

  • Request for major professor or steering committee (Form 2A)—Word

Steering Committee

The steering committee for Master of Professional Studies is composed of the major professor and at least one other faculty member or other qualified person. Other qualified people include faculty at other institutions or other recognized professionals. The student’s steering committee is appointed by the Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies, upon the recommendation of the Department Chairperson. The steering committee should be appointed within the first semester. For all students, the steering committee must be established and must have met by the end of the third semester of graduate study. The steering committee assists the student in the development of the program of study (3B), including the development of the student’s research or professional experience. All steering committee members should sign the 3B form before the end of the last year of the student's program.

Part Time Study

Upon completion of 12 credit hours as a matriculated student, the part-time student will request assignment of a steering committee that consists of the major professor and one other person. The steering committee will meet and agree upon a program of study (3B) and specify the delimitation date according to the needs of the part-time student. During any semester, students who are enrolled in part-time graduate degree programs (M.F. or M.P.S.) may register for the equivalent of full-time study, which is at least twelve credits hours. Part-time sudents are held to the policy for continuous registration, but not to the policy for time to degree (delimitation).