The Department of NRES provides an interdisciplinary graduate education. Consequently, students who succeed in our programs come from a variety of backgrounds. There are certain standards that apply to all applicants, regardless of their proposed area of focus.

In order to be admitted to the NRES online M.S. program, applicants:

  • Must have at least a 3.0 grade point average for the last 60 hours of their undergraduate coursework (or the last two years if the undergraduate institution used a system other than semester hours). The minimum GPA for any graduate coursework must be at least 3.5. Students who do not meet this requirement may occasionally be admitted on "limited status," so please contact NRES Student Services (217-333-5824 or to discuss the possibility.
  • Must have earned a baccalaureate degree and should have adequate preparation in the fundamental sciences and courses appropriate to their proposed field of study in natural resources and environmental sciences. In general, this will require coursework in the biological and/or physical sciences from an accredited University or College. Prerequisite coursework should include, at minimum, two or three classes in biological or physical sciences, a course in mathematics, and routine communication courses, all at the college level. Students with deficiencies may still be accepted conditionally, but they may be asked to make up undergraduate level coursework from an accredited college, university, or community college or to successfully complete (B or higher grade) two or three upper level University of Illinois classes before admission is granted to the M.S. degree program.
  • Students whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System. Test scores must be less than two (2) years old from date of enrollment. Check the Grad College's minimum score requirements.

The GRE is not required for admission to the online M.S. program.

Please note that admission into this program is competitive. In many semesters, we receive more applications meeting the minimum qualifications than we are able to accept. Consequently, not all students who meet these minimum standards will be admitted into the program. Students who need to strengthen their academic background are welcome to take NRES courses as a non-degree student, but succeeding in them does not guarantee admission. Up to 12 hours taken as a non-degree seeking student may be counted toward the degree if admitted.

Application Process

There are two approaches to beginning the online M.S. program in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. You can apply for admission or you can enroll in a few courses as a non-degree seeking student, which allows you to try out the program to see if it is a good fit for you.

To Enroll in a Few Courses

You can find the NRES courses being offered online at the Online Illinois course finder (be sure to click on the down arrow on the right side to pull down the full list). For course information, contact us at

Please note that only 400- and 500-level courses can count toward a graduate degree.

As a non-degree seeking student, you will also register through the Online Illinois website.

To Apply for Admission

  1. Students must apply online through the Graduate College. The application will not be processed until the fee ($70 for domestic and $90 for international applicants) is paid by credit card (Visa or MasterCard). You are applying to Natural Res & Env Sciences MSU. Our Program Code is 10KS0190.
  2. Upload the following documents into the application system:
    • Academic Statement (no more than 1,000 words)
      • How has your academic and professional background, including any professional training, prepared you for graduate study?
      • How will our program help you achieve your intellectual and professional goals?
      • What are your academic interests, and why do you wish to pursue graduate studies in this specific program? Specifically, what is your motivation for seeking a Master of Science degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign? Why are you interested in this rigorous program?
    • Two short Personal Statements (no more than 250 words each)
      1. Please describe any experiences and/or challenges that may have shaped your intellectual and personal development.
      2. Provide insight into your potential to contribute to a community of inclusion, belonging, and respect in which scholars with diverse perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn and collaborate productively and positively.
    • Your curriculum vitae or resume.
  3. Request letters of reference from three people who are familiar with your academic abilities, research skills, and/or potential as a professional in the field of environmental science and natural resource management. These letters should be from current or former instructors or supervisors of your NRES-related experience. If you do not have three people who meet that description, you should consider taking courses as a non-degree student before applying in order to enhance your chances of admission. If one of your references is unable to upload the recommendation into the application system, he or she should mail it as directed below.
  4. If your native language is not English, you must request the submission of your TOEFL, IELTS, or TSE scores to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (institution number 1836, program code 00). The scores must be less than two years old on the first day of the proposed semester of entry.
    View minimum scores.

Application Deadlines

  • Fall semester - June 15
  • Spring semester - November 15
  • Summer term - March 15

Please note: If an applicant wishes to appeal the denial of his/her application, the applicant must send a written letter detailing the reasons for reconsideration. This must be submitted by e-mail to within 30 days of notification of denial. The NRES Departmental Grievance Committee will consider the original application for admission and the letter of appeal only.

Degree Requirements

The NRES M.S. curriculum is designed to maximize flexibility and allow you, with the help of your adviser and committee, to craft the education most appropriate to your goals. At Illinois, graduate courses are those at the 400- and 500-level.

All online students are admitted into the non-thesis program. If you wish to consider completing a thesis, you should contact NRES Students Services at or (217) 333-5824 for more information.

Required Courses Non-thesis - Required Hours Thesis - Required Hours
Total Hours 32 32
Minimum 500-level Hours Required Overall 12 12
NRES 594 1 1
Capstone requirement, choose one of
  • NRES 503 Capstone Research Project
  • NRES 505 Capstone Internship Experience
  • NRES 507 Capstone Group Res Project
Thesis Hours Required   4-12
Minimum GPA 3.0 3.0
Other Requirements Written final examination; preparation, presentation, oral exam, and approval of a capstone project report. A departmental petition must be submitted and approved in order to pursue this option.
Completion, defense, and deposit of thesis.


Contact NRES Student Services at (217) 333-5824 or