Achieve high scholarship in both law and science.

Prospective students with an interest in specializing in environmental or natural resource law are invited to explore a new joint degree program at the University of Illinois. This unique program is offered through a collaboration between the College of Law and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES).

Students enrolled in this innovative program of study will earn the Juris Doctor of Law degree and a Master of Science degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the same time.

Many law schools have responded to public concern about the environment by offering more courses in natural resources and environmental law. The University of Illinois goes one step further, however, allowing students to supplement a law program with training in a related scientific field. With this training, laws and regulations may be understood fully and applied accurately.

Student studying at a computer.
Student studying in Law School library.

About the program

Graduate students in the Law/NRES joint degree program will be offered the opportunity to achieve high scholarship in both law and science. Although this curriculum is intended for students specializing in environmental and natural resource law, students with other career objectives are welcome. Entering students will select a specialization in NRES that complements their chosen area of legal studies.

The following specializations are examples of areas of emphasis offered through the Department of NRES:

  • Natural Resource Ecology
  • Natural Resource Policy
  • Water Quality/Hydrology
  • Watershed and Ecosystem Management
  • Wildlife Ecology

Opportunities for graduates

Graduates with a Law/NRES joint degree will be equipped to help meet the increasing need for wise stewardship of land and natural resources. New professionals will be ready to confront legal issues in areas such as ecosystem management, mineral and oil mining, water and air quality, fisheries and wildlife conservation, and public and private land ownership. Those with a Law/NRES joint degree will be in high demand in private law firms, government agencies, and a wide range of profit and not-for-profit organizations.

How the joint degree program works

Students in the joint program must complete the requirements of both programs. They may, however, count up to 12 hours of NRES course work toward the required 90 hours of Law course work. They may also receive 8 hours of credit toward the 32 hours required for the M.S. degree by completing relevant course work in Law.

Currently, NRES offers both research and non-research options in its M.S. program. Students choosing the research option, which is required of students proceeding on to the Ph.D., will typically be required to take additional hours of research credit. They must also complete a thesis.

Students enrolled in the joint degree program and choosing the non-research M.S. option in NRES could complete the requirements of both degrees in as little as seven semesters.

Course requirements

All students in the Law/NRES joint degree program are required to take NRES 500 Graduate Seminar (1 hour); NRES 501 Special Problems (4-8 hours); LAW 616 Environmental Law and Pol, I (3-4 hours); and at least 2 other College of Law courses relevant to the area of interest from: LAW 617 Environmental Law and Pol, II (3 hours); LAW 618 Natural Resources (2-4 hours); LAW 621 Read in Conservation Theory (3 hours); LAW 622 Land Use Planning (3 hours).

University of Illinois College of Law

At the College of Law, teaching goes hand in hand with scholarship and public service. The college ranks among the best law schools in the country in terms of quality of faculty production, size and breadth of the law library, credentials of entering students, and success in launching careers. The Ultimate Guide to Top Law Schools awarded Illinois faculty an A for both quality of teaching and faculty accessibility. Illinois was one of only a few schools to achieve distinction in both categories. In addition to more than 590,000 volumes, the law library provides students with access to both LEXIS and WESTLAW full-text computerized legal research systems.

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

The Department of NRES, part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, is an innovative multidisciplinary unit which offers flexible M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. The mission of the department is to establish and implement research and educational programs that enhance environmental stewardship in the management and use of natural, agricultural, and urban systems in a socially responsible manner.

NRES faculty are known for their achievements, both in the classroom and in the research arena. Opportunities for students to work with top-rate scientists are also facilitated by a close relationship between the Department of NRES and the Illinois Natural History Survey. The INHS is recognized as the nation's premier natural history survey.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois is one of the world's largest and best universities. Facilities include world-class computer facilities and the third largest public institution library in the nation. This, in combination with comparatively low tuition, makes an education at the University of Illinois an outstanding value.

Admission to the Law/NRES joint degree program

Students are required to fulfill specified course requirements and prerequisites before admission to the joint degree program is offered. All students entering the NRES program must have an adequate background to begin a masters-level scientific program. Students needing additional preparation will be required to take further course work.

To enter the Law/NRES degree program students must gain admission into both programs separately.

The College of Law

The College of Law requires an application form, personal statement, transcripts, LSAT scores, and 2 letters of recommendation. Transcripts should be sent to the Law School Data Assembly Service, with whom applicants are required to register. Recent classes had a median GPA of 3.41 (A = 4.0) and a median LSAT score of 161. A TOEFL score of at least 600 is required for admission of applicants whose native language is not English. A rolling admission process begins in October and ends on March 15. Those who apply before January 15 often have a competitive advantage. Students may enter only in the fall semester.

The Department of NRES

The Department of NRES requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 (A = 4.0) for the last 60 semester hours (or last 2 years) of undergraduate study, submission of the Graduate College application form, statement of purpose, transcripts, GRE or LSAT scores, and 3 letters of recommendation. It is best to apply 6-10 months before the semester in which the student plans to enroll. January 15 is the deadline for review of students for departmental financial awards.

Students already enrolled in either the College of Law or the M.S. degree program in the Department of NRES should apply in a like manner. A student already enrolled in the law program may have relevant application materials forwarded from the College of Law to the Department of NRES for consideration in determining what additional information is needed.

College of Law students may have the appropriate credits transferred to the Department of NRES upon their acceptance into the M.S. program. However, the American Bar Association forbids the awarding of Law credit for courses begun before enrolling in Law school.

Please contact the College of Law and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences for further information on the Law/NRES joint degree program and the application process.

College of Law
Lesley Wexler
Associate Dean, Academic Affairs
504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Champaign, IL 61820
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
Graduate Coordinator
N-509 Turner Hall
1102 S. Goodwin Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801