Ph.D. in Ecosystem Science and Management

The doctor of philosophy degree in Ecosystem Science and Management is designed primarily for students who are pursuing an academic or research career in ecology and/or natural resource management, with an emphasis on forest or rangeland ecosystems. Specialization is available in four main broad research areas: ecosystem science; ecosystem management; genetics, systematics, evolution; and spatial sciences. (See the main ESSM graduate programs page for more details on these four areas.)

Credit requirements

  • 64 credit hours for students with a master's degree
  • 96 credit hours for students without a master's degree
  • Maintain a minimum 3.0 GPR on the degree plan and cumulatively, with no grade lower than C in any course on the degree plan

Course requirements

You will plan most of your courses in consultation with your advisory committee. Required credits:

  • 2 credit hours of graduate seminar (ESSM 681)
  • Research credits (ESSM 691)

Advisory committee

You will work with your advisor to form an advisory committee that consists of at least four members of the graduate faculty who represent your fields of study. The committee chair (i.e., your advisor) must be from the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, and at least one committee member must be from another department. You will formalize your advisory committee membership on your degree plan.

Degree plan

You will work with your advisor to develop a plan for the course work and research credits you will take, based on your academic needs. This is called the "degree plan." The degree plan also formally declares your degree objective and advisory committee membership. You must submit your degree plan to the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies for approval. This is done through the online document processing submission system.

DEADLINE: As a Ph.D. student in Ecosystem Science and Management you must submit your degree plan no later than the middle of your fourth regular semester.

Preliminary exams

You must complete both written and oral preliminary examinations, which your advisory committee will conduct upon completion of your formal coursework. These exams are based both on your prior coursework and knowledge of the scientific literature in your general area of expertise.


As a doctoral student, you are expected to conduct independent research that makes a unique and significant contribution to a particular field of study. A dissertation is required as the culminating product of this work. | Recent doctoral dissertations in ESSM.

Final examination

After your advisory committee accepts your dissertation for defense and you have completed all coursework on your degree plan (with the exception of research or professional study hours), you must schedule a final oral examination. The final exam involves a public seminar on your doctoral research immediately followed by a formal dissertation defense with your advisory committee.


A doctoral degree generally requires three years of full time work beyond a master's degree, or four to five years of full time work beyond a bachelor's degree.


> Refer to the ESSM Graduate Programs Manual for a guide to key steps in your graduate program and key resources, student life and professional development opportunities.

> Find detailed information about all requirements in the Texas A&M Graduate Catalog. (Select the most current catalog from the list.)