The Graduate Program in Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia
There are two deadlines for applying for admission depending on the semester one wishes to begin and the type(s) of financial aid for which one wishes to be considered.
- for September admission: January 15 (for all departmental financial aid including research and teaching assistantships)
- for January admission: October 1 : (no financial aid)
In all cases, anyone applying for admission must submit to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences: (1) an application, (2) an unofficial transcript of your entire college record, and (3) at least two letters of recommendation. Foreign students must also submit a TOEFL score. GRE scores will not be considered/accepted. Admission to the program is based upon a holistic assessment of an applicant’s personal statement, prior research experience, letters of recommendation, TOEFL scores (if required), and GPA. Other information indicative of the applicant’s academic and research abilities should be included. Direct contact with faculty with similar interests is essential. A personal interview is recommended.
Candidates for admission must show a past history of scholarship and academic excellence and a desire and determination to further their studies in the environmental sciences with an emphasis on original scientific research. Although not specifically required for admission, a firm background in mathematics, statistics, physics, chemistry, geology, and biology will be to the student’s advantage. The Dean’s minimum standards for admission are an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (last two years)—successful applicants, however, are more likely to have a GPA of at least 3.4. and have shown particular promise for research through correspondence, telephone conversations,tr personal interviews, or evidence of scholarship and research not represented by grades or test scores. For foreign students, a TOEFL iBT score of 90 or higher is required for admission.
A compilation of frequently asked admission questions is available in this PDF document.
Correspondence and Information
Graduate Admissions Chair
Department of Environmental Sciences
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4123 U.S.A.
Telephone: (434) 924-7761
FAX: (434) 982-2137
Program of Study
The Department of Environmental Sciences (EVSC) is an academic department offering instruction and conducting research in the areas of ecology, geosciences, hydrology, and atmospheric sciences. This unique juxtaposition of several sciences in one department fosters cooperation and exchange among traditional disciplines that share similar methodological and philosophical problems. The research endeavors of both faculty and graduate students, whether disciplinary or interdisciplinary, deal largely with problems of fundamental scientific interest. Research fields include environmental biogeochemistry, coastal processes, hydrogeology, catchment hydrology, microbial ecology, wetlands ecology, terrestrial ecology, boundary-layer meteorology, atmospheric chemistry, and climatology. Initiatives involving groups of faculty in contaminant hydrogeology, global environmental change, and coastal ecosystems encompass a number of graduate research opportunities.
The department offers three graduate degree programs: The Master of Arts, Master of Science, and the Doctor of Philosophy. The majority of our graduate students are enrolled in the M.S. and Ph.D. programs and are engaged in fundamental research. The M.A. degree candidate must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours, including 24 credits of course work at the graduate level. The student’s M.A. program of study is developed in consultation with the candidate’s major professor and includes a thesis. Training in ecology, hydrology, atmospheric science, and geosciences is expected of the degree candidate. The M.S. program emphasizes new scientific research in addition to fundamental coursework. A degree candidate must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours including 24 hours of graduate level coursework. One course from each of the four core areas of the department (ecology, hydrology, geosciences, and atmospheric sciences) is required. The Ph.D. program degree emphasizes original research and independent study. The degree candidate is required to complete the four core-area courses as for the M.S., one additional 700-level course and a minimum of 54 credit hours including thesis research. Thesis committees are usually interdisciplinary and are composed according to the type of research to be conducted. Ph.D. candidates must pass a written and oral comprehensive examination administered by their dissertation committee within four semesters of entering the program.
Departmental facilities include field vehicles, boats, a machine and electronics shop, environmental chambers, analytical chemistry laboratories with extensive instrumentation, greenhouse facilities, state-of-the-art computers including a computational hydrology laboratory, GIS facility, NAFAX and FAA weather information, and GOES-Tap satellite receiver. Departmental field facilities include the Pace/Steger teaching/research site. Major interdisciplinary research initiatives with off-site research stations includes the Virginia Coast Reserve/Long-Term Ecological Research (VCR/LTER) studies of marsh and barrier island ecosystems on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Blandy Experimental Farm and the Orland E. White Arboretum are the focus of ecological research near Front Royal, VA. The Program of Interdisciplinary Research in Contaminant Hydrogeology (PIRCH), which includes EVSC and Engineering faculty and students, conducts research on hydrogeochemical and microbial processes in the subsurface. The Shenandoah Watershed Study (SWAS) investigates catchment biogeochemical and hydrological processes in the Blue Ridge region. An active research group focuses on the study of global environmental change.
All students who complete applications by January 15 are considered for financial aid that is awarded on the basis of background and merit. Fellowships are awarded to the most academically qualified students. Many first-year students are supported 50% by a teaching assistantship and 50% by a research assistantship. The teaching assistantship comes from the Department and typically involves teaching one lab section a week. The research assistantship typically comes from the advisor’s research grant with duties determined by the advisor. Support includes stipend, tuition, and health insurance. A full stipend is $18,000 for nine months; most students receive an additional summer research stipend of $6,000. Most entering M.S. and Ph.D. students are awarded a full tuition fellowship. No teaching assistantship or Departmental Fellowship support is generally available to M.A. students. Small grants to support research and travel to professional meetings are routinely awarded.
Cost of Study
Tuition, depending on course load, ranges between $3,602 and $13,880 per academic year for Virginia residents and $3,602 and $23,876 per academic year for out-of-state students. Students with financial awards receive partial or complete tuition fellowships.
Living and Housing Costs
A variety of affordable housing options exists, from small apartments near Grounds to houses in the country. Most students live off-grounds in shared apartments or houses. The rent for an individual in a shared arrangement ranges from $300 to $500, excluding utilities. Living alone costs $500-$800. Most graduate students are able to meet their living expenses with their stipends.
About two-thirds of enrolled graduate students are in the Ph.D. program and about 65% are women. Students come from a wide range of backgrounds including geology, chemistry, biology, physics, and engineering. Once here, specialization in one area is possible, but many students engage in interdisciplinary research that crosses traditional fields of study.
EVSC maintains an exceptional placement record, largely due to the rigorous interdisciplinary training program, with emphasis on research, and the reputation and connections of departmental faculty. Ph.D. students find employment in universities and colleges, federal laboratories and agencies, and research institutes. M.S. students find employment in federal and state laboratories and agencies, in foundations, and in private industry. Examples include USGS, NASA, NOAA, EPA, and DOE national laboratories at the national level.
The University Grounds are located in Albemarle County adjacent to the City of Charlottesville, near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. The University is 110 miles from Washington, D.C., a short drive from
the Blue Ridge, a two-hour drive from the Chesapeake Bay, and four hours from the Atlantic Ocean.
The University and the Department
The University of Virginia was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson. The original buildings, designed by Jefferson, represent one of the great achievements of American architecture and help to make the Grounds of the University of Virginia one of the most attractive campuses in the United States. The total University enrollment is over 20,000 with 11,500 in the College of Arts and Sciences (10,000 undergraduate, 1,500 graduate). The Department of Environmental Sciences, founded in 1970, is among the oldest and best known interdisciplinary environmental sciences programs in the country.