Academic Programs: Master's
MESM Academics
Core Courses
Eco-Entrepreneurship Focus
Data Science Focus
Communication Focus
Master's Projects

Program Overview

The Master of Environmental Science and Management (MESM) program is a two-year* professional degree program designed for individuals who plan to enter or re-enter the workforce upon graduation. The program focuses on application and problem-solving and has three parts: the first-year core curriculum, the second-year work in one of seven Specializations, and the Group Project or Eco-Entrepreneurship Project.

The MESM degree is not intended as an intermediate degree for the PhD; however, MESM alumni are adequately prepared for PhD studies in many disciplines, including Environmental Science & Management.

*It is possible to complete the program in three years if work or personal factors make it impossible for a student to participate in a full-time program. Students must pay full fees, GSHIP, and tuition (if applicable) each quarter they are enrolled, regardless of the number of units taken. Students interested in the possibility of a three-year schedule can learn more about it by emailing

Core Courses

The Bren School MESM degree requires students to complete a core curriculum that provides solid foundation in coupled human and environmental systems. Students become conversant in the language, knowledge, techniques, and methodologies of various disciplines while developing general analytical skills, problem-solving abilities, and the adaptability that is indispensable to professional success. Our objective is to provide a foundation of multidisciplinary knowledge plus quantitative and analytical skills that will enable students to interpret, design, communicate, and implement policy and management solutions. Students normally complete the core courses during the first year of study; the courses are designed to accommodate varying levels of knowledge.

ESM 201 Ecology of Managed Ecosystems 4 units
ESM 202 Environmental Biogeochemistry 4 units
ESM 203 Earth Systems Science 4 units
ESM 204 Economics of Environmental Management 4 units
ESM 206 Statistics & Data Analysis 4 units
ESM 207 Environmental Law & Policy 4 units
ESM 210 Business and the Environment 4 units
ESM 241 Environmental Politics and Policy 2 units
ESM 401/402 ABCD Group Project or Eco-E Project 14 units total

Descriptions of the Bren School core and elective courses are available here.

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In addition to the broad training they receive in the core courses, MESM students choose one or two of the following specializations during the winter quarter of their first year to pursue in greater depth. With faculty guidance, each student prepares an individual Program of Study (POS) designed for the chosen specialization(s) and the student’s particular background and goals. An acceptable POS includes courses that build depth in a particular area of specialization and develops technical skills. Students are not limited to Bren courses and are encouraged to consider courses from other UCSB departments in developing their program. To find out more about each specialization, please click on the image below:

Student wearing a hard hatEco-Entrepreneurship (Eco-E) Focus

Any one of the above specializations can be enhanced by adding a special focus on Eco-Entrepreneurship (Eco-E), a joint initiative between the Bren School and the Technology Management Program of the College of Engineering. Eco-E students pursue additional coursework and activities that provide them with skills and support to launch new ventures, products, and technologies that address society's environmental and resource problems. Find out more about Eco-E.

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Environmental Data Science (EDS) Focus

Any one of the above specializations can be enhanced by adding a special focus on Environmental Data Science. This focus provides students with data science skills that are commonly used in environmental science and an overview of emerging and more sophisticated techniques. Click here to find out more about the EDS focus.

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Strategic Environmental Communication and Media Focus (Comm)

Any one of the above specializations can be enhanced by adding a special focus on Strategic Environmental Communication and Media (Comm), a joint initiative between the Bren School and UCSB Carsey-Wolf Center. Students in this focus pursue additional coursework to learn how to communicate effectively and strategically around environmental issues. Click here to find out more about the Comm focus.

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Master's Projects

Students presenting a group project posterOne unique aspect of the Bren School is the Master's Project, which can be either a Group Project or an Eco-Entrepreneurship Project.

Serving as the master’s thesis, the four-quarter, 14-unit Group Project begins during the spring quarter of the first year of study and is capped by a final oral and poster presentation to the Bren community, project stakeholders, and local professionals.

Students pursuing the Eco-E focus may substitute an Eco-E Project for a Master's Project, working in teams to develop a business model for a new product or service that addresses an environmental issue.

Proposals for Group Projects are submitted by various agencies and companies having a local, statewide, nationwide, or even international presence. A selection committee comprising Bren students, faculty, and staff chooses the projects that best reflect current problems in environmental policy or management, for which effective solutions require rigorous scientific investigation and analysis within a policy or management context.

The idea for each Eco-E Project may be generated by a single student or a group of students who collaborate and work with professional entrepreneurial advisors to develop a business model for their specific commercial venture.

Each Group Project has three to six students and a faculty advisor. Students in each group work with their faculty advisor, the project’s stakeholders, and other professionals to tackle the environmental problem. Groups must then defend their project, submit a final report and policy brief, prepare a poster, and complete a final public presentation. (Please see the Group Project Guidelines for detailed information).

The Group Project experience provides Bren MESM students with real-world training unequaled at any comparable school, and unparalleled preparation as leaders capable of solving the complex environmental problems of the 21st century. For many graduates, the Group Project experience is a key factor in being selected for their current jobs.

You can view current and past Master's Projects by visiting the Research & Projects section of the Bren School website.

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Career Development

MESM graduates have found employment with government agencies (regional, state, and federal), corporations, nonprofit organizations, and environmental consulting firms. Please refer to our Career Development Placement Statistics for examples of employment obtained by Bren graduates. Additional information regarding career resources, including Career Development program highlights, staff biographies, and internship and job placement information, can be found on the Career Development: Prospective Students page of the Bren School website. Career services-related questions can be directed to

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Student presenting to a class of peers
Master's students present the results from self-evaluations of their carbon footprints.