Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
- Environmental Conservation
- Environmental Observation & Informatics
The Nelson Institute's professional programs offer environmental leadership training in areas of identified and emerging need across our sector, convening people and perspectives from around the world and equipping graduates with the necessary environmental knowledge to tackle their next career challenge. We have two professional master's programs. Within the Environmental Conservation master of science degree, students can select a named option in either Environmental Conservation or in Environmental Observation & Informatics.
The Nelson Institute professional master's program in environmental conservation is a 15-month, 32-credit blended learning curriculum designed to train conservation leaders in practical interdisciplinary skills.
Upon degree completion, graduates will receive an M.S. in Environmental Conservation with a named option in one of the above. The curriculum in our professional programs is designed in close consultation with leaders in environmental practice to meet emerging global challenges and demands. We offer our professional master's in an accelerated, 15-month blended curriculum with on-campus and remote experiences to accommodate working professionals and busy lives. Students are in Madison for the summer and fall semester—two of the most beautiful seasons in Wisconsin—and then have classes online in spring that can be taken wherever you are in the world. The final, fourth semester is spent completing the student's M.S. leadership project.
This program really packs a lot of information into a small amount of time! If you do your due diligence and keep up with the readings (which can be extensive), you can learn a lot in the 15-months you'll spend here. Just be ready to dedicate a lot of time to coursework, because the three semesters that you spend taking... This program really packs a lot of information into a small amount of time! If you do your due diligence and keep up with the readings (which can be extensive), you can learn a lot in the 15-months you'll spend here. Just be ready to dedicate a lot of time to coursework, because the three semesters that you spend taking classes will be busy. As is the case with many graduate programs (I suspect), some classes teach more useful skills than others. I found the Conservation Planning and GIS courses to be some of the most challenging yet most valuable courses available to students. This is a cohort-based leadership program, so you will spend a lot of time working with the ~30 other students in the program with you. I really enjoyed the support and diversity of viewpoints this structure offered. Opportunities to specialize in this program are limited, as you only have two elective courses you can choose and the rest are all required for the program. So if you're looking for something that will let you dig into a specific research question or discipline, I would recommend exploring some thesis-based options. What this program offers is a set of practical skills that you will get to put into practice during your last summer semester, when you join a conservation organization somewhere in the world to complete a capstone project (this is another opportunity to specialize, as you have a decent amount of input in choosing where you go).
The one cautionary note I would offer is that some of the classes are pretty easy if you approach them from a homework standpoint, and it can be tempting to skate through. Don't - you'll get out exactly what you put in. Overall, I enjoyed my time in the program and grew professionally as a result of attending.