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Academics: MESM Program

The Bren School Master of Environmental Science and Management (MESM) degree program is rigorous as it prepares students to enter the workforce and succeed in their careers. The 2-year MESM program provides fundamental knowledge, language, techniques, and methodologies for environmental problem-solving, while students develop analytical skills and adaptability needed to succeed in the professional world. This program is offered on-campus only.

Academic Requirements (80 total units):

  • 8 core courses (30 units) to develop breadth
  • Elective courses in a specialization (36 units) to develop depth
  • Master’s Group Project or Eco-Entrepreneurship Project (14 units) to develop professional problem-solving skills


  • Elective courses in a second specialization
  • Elective courses in Environmental Innovation and Entrepreneurship focus
  • Elective courses in Strategic Environmental Communication and Media focus
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Core Curriculum (Required)

The MESM core curriculum is multidisciplinary and emphasizes quantitative and analytical skills, problem solving, and adaptability. Our objective is to educate students to interpret, design, communicate, and implement policy and management solutions. MESM students normally complete core courses during their first year of study; courses are designed to accommodate varying levels of knowledge. All core courses are offered every year.

ESM 201    Ecology of Managed Ecosystems, 4 units
ESM 202    Environmental Biogeochemistry, 4 units
ESM 203    Earth System Science, 4 units
ESM 204    Economics of Environmental Management, 4 units
ESM 206    Statistics and Data Analysis, 4 units
ESM 207    Environmental Law and Policy, 4 units
ESM 210    Business and the Environment, 4 units
ESM 241    Environmental Politics and Policy, 2 units


Specializations (1 Required)

MESM students are required to complete a minimum of 36 units of electives in a primary specialization to build depth of knowledge in a particular area and develop technical skills. Students choose specializations during Winter Quarter of their first year. Guided by faculty, students prepare a customized Program of Study to match their individual interests and needs. Students are not limited to ESM courses and are encouraged to consider courses from other UCSB graduate departments. One specialization is required; students can choose more than one specialization.

Take a closer look at the MESM specializations:

Learn more about the skills you'll learn and apply, gain inspiration for summer internship opportunities and career plans, and view a detailed course curriculum for each specialization.

Focus Areas (Optional)

Build extra valuable skills and enhance your portfolio for the job market with an optional Focus Area. Many students choose an additional academic focus to supplement their academic experience. Students who pursue a focus complete additional courses to build professional skills in the focus area. Focus Areas are not formal requirements or certificates; they are optional elective courses in the MESM degree program.

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    Innovation Focus Area

    To be an effective agent of environmental change, you need to build a compelling case for your ideas. Learn how to bring together science, policy, systems thinking and human context to transform your ideas into an innovation that solves real problems and creates meaningful value. Develop agile thinking, complex problem solving skills, and presentation expertise to advance your career in corporate sustainability, nonprofit management, public sector leadership, or social and environmental entrepreneurship.

  • Three students shooting a video on the beach

    Communication Focus Area

    Your science-based solutions are only as effective as your ability to communicate them to the right audiences. Learn the importance of storytelling, strategic outreach, writing, and audience research. Build skills in video production, writing, presenting, social media, grassroots organizing, data visualization, and more. Work with clients on real projects, such as short films, interactive games, community outreach strategies, and school curricula.

Master's Projects (Required)

As a cornerstone of the master’s program in Environmental Science and Management, students work in teams to plan, develop, and deliver a solution to an environmental problem for a client, building a professional portfolio to launch the student’s future career. Every MESM student is required to complete a master’s project (14 units) and may choose between either a Master’s Group Project or an Eco-Entrepreneurship (Eco-E) Project. Master’s projects begin in Spring of the first year and are completed in Spring of the second year.

Master's Group Projects

Master’s Group Projects bring together teams of 4-5 students to solve an environmental problem for a client such as a business, public agency, or non-profit organization. Clients frequently report the high value of student projects to advance their sustainability and management goals. 

Eco-E Projects

Eco-Entrepreneurship (Eco-E) Projects bring together teams of 3-5 students to develop a business model for a new product or service that addresses an environmental problem. Eco-E graduates have successfully launched their projects as new ventures.

Planning Your Start Date

The MESM program is a 2-year program. Instruction begins in Fall Quarter (typically late September) through Spring Quarter of the second year (early June). There is no instruction during Summer Quarter between years one and two; we encourage and help students complete a summer internship during that quarter.

UCSB Academic Calendar for Summer 2023
UCSB Academic Calendar for Fall 2023 through Summer 2024

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Are you ready to solve environmental problems?

Request more information, bring your questions to an admissions webinar, or start your online application.

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