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Water Resources Science

UMD Graduate School

Program Overview

Water Resources Science (WRS) is a science-based graduate program with three educational goals:

  • to produce scientists with strong technical skills in disciplines relevant to water resources science;
  • to develop a holistic understanding of the hydrologic cycle and associated ecosystems, as well as the interconnectedness of the sciences needed to understand and manage aquatic resources, and;
  • to generate an understanding of the interplay between the bio-physical sciences and the social sciences in developing and implementing public policies related to water.

Students in the program develop the breadth of scientific knowledge appropriate to understand the complicated aquatic ecosystems and watersheds on which they will work, as well as social dimensions of the topic, including the public policy and legal frameworks in which water resources are protected and managed.

The program draws on numerous water-related courses from departments on the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Duluth campuses and is administered by the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center.

Admission and Application Requirements

The program is flexible enough to accommodate students from a variety of backgrounds. Normally students have a bachelor’s degree in physical or biological science or engineering. Recommended academic preparation includes one year (or two semesters) each of calculus, physics, and chemistry; and one biology course. Further preparation may be expected from students wishing to specialize in certain areas of the program. Students who do not have a master’s degree in a related subject are admitted to the M.S. program first, even if their long-term goal is a Ph.D. Availability of funding and willingness of a member of the graduate faculty to serve as an advisor are important criteria for admission to the Ph.D. program.

Special Application Requirements

A four-year B.S. degree in a physical, chemical or biological science, or engineering program is required with a grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

Letters of recommendation are required. These letters should be from professors qualified to estimate applicant’s class rank and evaluate their ability to complete a program of graduate study, or from persons who can assess their professional or research potential. These letters also may be used in applying for financial aid. Instructions for arranging the submission of letters are provided in the online application system.

Applicants must also submit a résumé of their academic history and professional experience and a statement of purpose, including the proposed area of emphasis. Applicants should submit results of the GRE; only rarely, under extenuating circumstances, will students be considered for admission without GRE scores. Students may be admitted any semester but are strongly encouraged to begin fall semester and to submit their application by January 1 in the year they expect to begin their studies.

Students whose native language is not English are required to submit scores from one of the following English proficiency examinations: TOEFL – 79 internet based; IELTS – 6.5; MELAB – 80.

Degree Requirements

Students may choose Plan A, which requires a thesis, or Plan B, which requires additional coursework and a major project. Both plans incorporate courses offered on the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses.

Students must complete courses in four core areas: 1) hydrology (surface and/or hydrogeology); 2) environmental/water chemistry; 3) limnology; and 4) water resources policy, economics, and management, and two electives in such areas of emphasis as aquatic biology, hydrologic science, watershed science and management, and water management technology. One elective must be from an approved list of technical courses dealing with water quality science/management. A minimum of two supporting courses (at least 6 credits) outside of aquatic science also are required. Training in responsible conduct of research and ethics is also required. Approved core and area of emphasis courses are listed on the WRS program Web site.

A minimum of 20 course credits (plus 10 thesis credits) are required for Plan A and a minimum of 30 credits are required for Plan B (up to 3 credits may be used for the Plan B project). Students who had classes equivalent to those in the WRS core as undergraduates may substitute other classes to meet the Graduate School minimum credit requirements.

Deadlines and Dates

December 15 is the application deadline for fullest consideration for fellowships and assistantships for fall semester. March 15 is the final application deadline, though we strongly urge applicants to submit their application well before this deadline. Please note that in general we admit graduate students for fall semester. Occasionally, applicants are considered for spring semester.

Financial Aid

Research assistantships, teaching assistantships, and WRS tuition and research fellowships are the most common forms of funding opportunities.

Areas of Specialization

Water Resources Science (WRS) faculty come from numerous University departments and are involved in research relating to our areas of emphasis in water resources. 

Areas of Emphasis:

  • Aquatic Biology
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Hydrologic Science
  • Limnology
  • Water Management Technology
  • Water Policy and Economics
  • Water Quality
  • Watershed Science and Management

Contact Information: Water Resources Science Graduate Program, 205 RLB, 2205 E. 5th St., Duluth, MN 55812; 218.726.7435; fax: 218.726.6979;;

Director of Graduate Studies: Randall Hicks,, 218.726.8438

Assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies: Toni Wheeler,, 612.624.7456

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