Meeting society’s grand challenges—climate change, environmental justice, sustainable energy transitions, governance of emerging and/or disruptive technologies, clean water and food security—requires innovative leadership and collaboration among academia, communities, government, businesses, and nonprofit organizations, anchored on interdisciplinary and systems thinking rooted in real-world projects.
The MS-STEP program prepares students to work on issues at the intersection of science, technology, environment, and society that shape human well-being, environmental sustainability, and social justice in a complex and diverse world. The STEP area supports research and outreach through the Center for Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, and graduate education programs through the MS–STEP, the STEP Graduate Minor, and the PhD in Public Affairs.
Curriculum and Opportunities
The Master of Science in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (MS–STEP) at the Humphrey School is one of a few programs in the nation that prepares individuals to work across disciplinary fields to address grand challenges. Students with backgrounds across science, engineering, social science, humanities, and other disciplines come to the MS-STEP program to develop skills to interface across domains of expertise to solve complex problems.
The MS–STEP program combines a rigorous curriculum with opportunities available in many departments, centers, and schools at the University of Minnesota. Students have opportunities to travel to international conferences, work in teams on capstone projects, and collaborate with faculty on cutting edge research in energy and environmental policy. The program allows students to take advantage of being situated in a major metropolitan area with a vibrant non-profit and private sector, co-located near the state capitol and numerous state and federal agency offices. MS–STEP students attend the bi-weekly STEP Seminar Series, which provides an informal setting for feedback, discussion, and engagement with scholars and practitioners in STEP fields.
Class profile and career statistics
MS–STEP Class Profile: 2020-21
- Incoming Students: 17
- Gender: 47% Female, 53% Male, 0% Other, 0% Unspecified
- Minnesota Residents: 76%
- International Students: 0%
- Domestic Students of Color: 6%
- Average Age: 25
- Average GPA: 3.44
- Average GRE Verbal Percentile: 73.8%
- Average GRE Quantitative Percentile: 50%
- Percent of Class Total: 10%
Prospective applicants: please note that all applications are reviewed holistically, and profile numbers should not be viewed as admission cutoffs. Please contact the Office of Admissions with any questions about candidacy.
MS–STEP Career Statistics: Class of 2018
11 graduates, 10 reported (91%)
- Known employed: 10 (100%)
- Continuing for further degree: 0 (0%)
- Actively job seeking: 0 (0%)
- Government employment: 50%
- Nonprofit employment: 10%
- Private sector employment: 30%
- Academic staff: 10%
Note: These numbers reflect the most recent data available; due to rounding, percentages may not always add up to 100 percent.
- Energy and Climate Policy
- Water, Agriculture, and Food Systems
- Urban Sustainability
- Technology Innovation and Policy
- Conservation and Land Use
- Environmental Justice
We've designed an innovative curriculum that combines skills in sustainability systems and social and policy processes with analytic methods. The Master of Science in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (MS–STEP) program requires 36 semester credits. Students enroll in a set of flexible core courses, electives, and complete either a Plan A thesis or Plan C professional paper/capstone.
If you pursue a Plan A program, your master's thesis will count for 10 credits, and you will take additional elective credits to meet the 36-credit minimum requirement. For the Plan C program, you will register for a Capstone Workshop, Writing Seminar, or Master's Professional Paper, write a Plan C professional paper/capstone (3-4 credits), and choose additional electives in consultation with your adviser to meet the 36-credit minimum requirement.
Elective courses provide the knowledge, skills, and domain-specific expertise you need to advance your career goals. Electives may be chosen from a large variety of inter-disciplinary and inter-departmental offerings including (but not limited to): Agronomy and Plant Genetics; Animal Science; Anthropology; Applied Economics; Biology; Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering; Ecology, Evolution and Behavior; Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management; Forest Resources; Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology; Geography; Horticultural Science; Law; Public Health; Sustainable Agricultural Systems; Water Resource Science; and many others.
Although no internship is required, many students complete a professional internship in the summer between their first and second year of study.
REQUIRED CORE COURSES
Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy Overview
- PA 5711 – Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (3 cr.)
- PA 5715 – Survey of Current Issues in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (1.5 cr.)
Sustainability Systems Science
- PA 5722 – Environmental and Resource Economics Policy (3 cr.)
- PA 5741 – Risk, Resilience, and Decision Making (3 cr.)
- PA 5752 – Material-Energy Flows and Sustainable Development (3 cr.)
Social and Policy Processes
Foundational Methods (10 credits)
- PA 5031 – Statistics for Public Affairs (4 cr.) or PA 5045 – Statistics for Public Affairs, Accelerated (4 cr.)
- PA 5032 – Applied Regression (2 cr.) or PA 5044 – Applied Regression: Accelerated (2 cr.) or PA 5041– Qualitative Methods for Policy Analysts (4 cr.)
ADDITIONAL METHODS COURSES TO BRING SUM TO 10 CREDITS
- PA 5033 – Multivariate Techniques (2 cr.)
- PA 5043 – Econ & Demographic Analysis (2 cr.)
- PA 5271 – GIS in Planning and Policy Analysis (3 cr.)
- PA 5311 – Program Evaluation (3 cr.)
- PA 5521 – Development Planning and Policy Analysis (4 cr.)
- PA 5928 – Data Management and Visualization with R (1.5 cr.)
- PA 5929 – Data Visualization (2 cr.)
- PA 5932 – Working with Data: Finding, Managing, and Using Data (1.5 cr.)
- PA 5933 – Survey Methods: Designing Effective Questionnaires (2 cr.)
One course is required; students often take more than one focus area course.
- PA 5243 – Environmental Justice in Urban Planning & Public Policy (3 cr.)
- PA 5721 – Energy Systems and Policy (3 cr.)
- PA 5723 – Water Policy (3 cr.)
- PA 5724 – Climate Change Policy (3 cr.)
- PA 5731 – Emerging Sciences and Technologies: Law, Ethics and Policy (3 cr.)
- PA 5751 – Local Climate and Energy Challenges (3 cr.)
- PA 5761 – Environmental Systems Analysis at the Food/Energy/Water Nexus (3 cr.)
Electives to bring total credits to required number, in consultation with the advisor.
Plan C Paper (3 credits), plus electives to bring total to at least 36 credits
- PA 8081 – Capstone Workshop (Year 2 only, with concurrent PA 5080) (3+1 cr.)
- PA 8921 – Master's Professional Paper (3 cr.)
Plan A Thesis (10 credits), plus electives to bring total to at least 36 credits
See a list of recent Plan A theses and Plan C papers
Positions MS–STEP graduates hold
Positions Our Graduates Hold
- Environmental Impact Manager, National Renewable Energy Lab—U.S. Department of Energy
- Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison, Fish and Wildlife Service
- Pollution Prevention Coordinator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Water Policy Planner, Minnesota Environmental Quality Board
- Sustainability Program Coordinator, City of Minneapolis
- Program and Policy Manager, Center for Energy and the Environment
- Research Consultant, International Water Management Institute
- Managing Director, Eco Lanka Consultants
- Manager of Conservation and Renewable Energy Policy, CenterPoint Energy
- Regulatory Affairs Associate, 3M
- Environmental Specialist, Barr Engineering