Master’s Degree Curriculum Requirements (MA or MS)

The purpose of the ERG Master’s program is to educate the next generation of interdisciplinary leaders. Specifically, students are taught the range of methods and subjects they should be able to understand, advance, and critique to address critical issues stemming from the interaction of humans and the environment. To that end, the requirements for the ERG Master’s degree are both broad and deep, stressing analytic, methodological, theoretical, and practical approaches to problems in energy, resources, and the environment.

The course requirements provide for a substantive introduction to the disciplinary approaches that are employed in studying energy and resource issues. The requirements also ensure experience in interdisciplinary analysis applied to a key resource concern. The curriculum provides an opportunity — through a topical cluster and an independent project — to extend and deepen the areas of investigation and understanding to satisfy the intellectual interests of each student.

The curriculum is intended to serve those students for whom the Master’s degree will be the final formal education in support of a professional career and also those students who intend to continue their education, for example by pursuing a PhD in Energy and Resources.

To obtain a Master’s degree from ERG, each student must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete a minimum of 40 post-baccalaureate units.
  • Complete a minimum of 18 units of graduate-level study in energy and resources, some of which can be fulfilled by courses from other departments and schools.
  • Complete the ERG Masters Degree Series:
    • ER 201 – Interdisciplinary Analysis in Energy and Resources (3 units)
    • ER 292B – Master’s Research Skills and Project Development (2 units)
    • ER 292C – Masters Project Development (2 units)
    • 292D – Masters Project Presentation (2 units)
    • ER 295 – ERG Colloquium (2 units) Two semesters are required to ensure exposure to a broad array of topics and approaches.
  • Six additional units of approved graduate-level courses
  • Complete one course from each of the A-E Requirements listed below.
  • Complete a Master’s project.  An undertaking of an independent investigation that culminates in an oral presentation before the ERG community and a written report approved by two faculty readers.
  • Complete a cluster of three courses (minimum of 9 units) in a subject area defined by the student and approved by his/her advisor. This cluster is designed to ensure depth of study in a topic within the domain of Energy and Resources. At least one of these courses (3 units) must be a graduate-level course. Suitable areas include (but are not limited to) climate change, energy, water, environmental justice, and development. The cluster may include one of the courses used to satisfy the Area A-E requirement, and cluster courses can fulfill the requirement of 18 units of graduate-level study in energy and resources.
  • The following limits and restrictions apply on credit toward the 40-unit requirement:
    • A maximum of 4 units of 299 (individual research) credits can be counted.
    • 298  units (group study) cannot be counted.

To ensure effective early planning and consultation, ERG Master’s students are expected to submit a completed “Proposed Course of Study” form by the last day of class in their first  semester. This form will indicate the courses that the student intends to take to meet the requirements given above. It will be completed by the student in consultation with the student’s ERG core faculty advisor.  The course of study may change as a student’s interests and plans change. At the end of the second and third semesters, students are expected to submit a revised course of study.  The final course of study must be approved early in the student’s final semester to meet the requirements for graduation.

At the end of the third semester, students also are required to submit their proposed Master’s Project title and abstract to their ERG core faculty advisor, who will provide feedback. Each student, in collaboration with the first faculty reader and the instructor(s) of the Master’s seminar, will prepare a proposed project title and abstract for the Master’s project by the end of the student’s third semester.

The ERG Master’s program can lead to either an MA or MS degree in Energy and Resources. In consultation with the advisor, each student makes a request of the MA or MS degree based on the substantive content of coursework and Master’s project. The ERG core faculty advisor makes a final determination of the appropriateness of the MA/MS selection.


Area (A-E) requirement

Teaching and research in the Energy and Resources Group draws heavily on four academic traditions, as they are applied to the interactions of societies with resources and the natural environment:

  • Environmental science
  • Resource and environmental economics
  • Social science approaches to energy, resources and the environment
  • Engineering approaches to energy, resources and the environment

The ERG Master’s curriculum ensures that each student is well acquainted with each of these academic spheres and also experiences how distinct approaches from these intellectual traditions are brought to bear in interdisciplinary resource analysis. Consequently, one of the cornerstone requirements of the ERG Master’s curriculum is the A-E requirement. Students must complete for a grade (not pass/fail) at least one course in each of the A-E topics.

Alternate courses to those listed are allowed in Areas B-E with permission of the designated responsible faculty, but the alternate course must meet the intent and prerequisites of the area requirement. Attributes that would normally be considered minimum requirements for an alternative course to be acceptable are these: 3+ units, lecture or laboratory-based instruction (i.e., no seminar courses) with substantive intellectual content and topical relevance to the domain of ERG.

Students who have already taken a course similar to those listed in one of the areas are required to take an alternative course in the same area, preferably more advanced, subject to the approval of the designated responsible faculty. A student who has demonstrated a high level of mastery in a given area based on previous academic work may petition the responsible faculty to waive the requirement in that area. For example, a high level of mastery in resource and environmental economics could be demonstrated by completion of an undergraduate degree in economics that included multiple courses in resource economics. In this case, a student could petition to have waived the requirement of completing an additional course in Area C.

Please note that course offerings change each semester, and not all courses are offered each term.  Please consult the online Schedule of Classes at for current course offerings. The following is not a comprehensive list; please consult with the area responsible faculty advisor about proposed alternative courses to satisfy the requirements.


A. Interdisciplinary Energy and Resource Analysis
Responsible Faculty: Isha Ray
The purpose of these courses is to provide the interested entering graduate student sufficient background in the physical and social constructions of the relevant systems to enable them to understand key issues and to begin to conduct research in that area. This course should be taken during the first semester of Master’s study, concurrently with ER 201.

The following courses meet this requirement:

  • ER C200 – Energy and Society (Prerequisite: at least one course in college physics or chemistry)
  • ER 275 – Water and Development  (Prerequisite: at least one college-level development-focused or water-focused course)


B. Environmental Science
Responsible Faculty: Lara Kueppers
The purpose of this course is to provide the necessary concepts and analytical tools in environmental science expected of all ERG graduates.

All Master’s students must take this class (no substitutions):

  • ER 102 – Quantitative Aspects of Global Environmental Problems (Prerequisites: calculus (Math 1A-1B or 16A-16B), or physics (7A-7B or 8A-8B), or chemistry (1A or 4A), or biology (1B or 11), or consent of instructor.)


C. Resource and Environmental Economics
Responsible Faculty: David Anthoff

The purpose of the economics requirement is for students to become acquainted with the tools and analytical methods used in economics. For students that have never taken an intermediate microeconomics course before, this requirement can only be fulfilled by an intermediate microeconomics course. Students who have taken an intermediate microeconomics course before can choose from a large number of economics courses from ERG, the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, the business school and the department of economics to fulfill this requirement.


D. Social Science Approaches to Energy, Resources and the Environment
Responsible Faculty: Isha Ray
The purpose of this course is to ground ERG students in a broad range of the methods, theories and policies that underpin the diverse social sciences, through methodological, political, sociological or philosophical approaches to natural resources and the environment. Reading seminars are not allowed, even if they are graduate-level courses, unless the student has already taken an upper division course in e.g. environmental politics, and is seeking to fulfill this area requirement through an advanced seminar on the same theme.

Note: These courses generally have as prerequisites undergraduate level courses in geography, sociology, anthropology or political science.

Some of the courses that meet this requirement:

  • ER 273 – Research Methods in Social Sciences
  • ER 151 – Politics of Energy and Environmental Policy
  • ESPM 155 – Sociology of Natural Resources
  • ESPM 161 – Environmental Philosophy and Ethics
  • ESPM 168 – Political Ecology
  • ESPM 169 – International Environmental Politics
  • CRP 254 – Sustainable Communities
  • ESPM 260 – Governance of Global Production
  • GEOG 215 – Seminar in Comparative and International Development


E. Engineering Approaches to Energy, Resources and the Environment
Responsible Faculty: Duncan Callaway
The purpose of this course is to provide all ERG students with exposure to and experience with the problem-solving, design-oriented approach of relevant engineering disciplines. Other courses may be allowed by petition, but must have substantive engineering content and topical relevance to the domain of ERG, and must be offered in the College of Engineering or in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Note: These courses will have various prerequisites.

Some of the courses that meet this requirement:

  • ER C226/MSE C226 – Photovoltaic Materials
  • ER 254 – Electric Power Systems
  • CEE 103 – Introduction to Hydrology
  • CEE 111 – Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 218A – Air Quality Engineering
  • CEE 268E – Civil Systems and the Environment
  • ME C105B / BioE C105B – Thermodynamics and Biothermodynamics



The ERG Master’s Degree Seminar Series

Semester I – Fall

  • ER 201 – Interdisciplinary Analysis in Energy and Resources
    3 units, graded.  Required for all Masters students in their first semester. Introduction to the Masters final project process; survey of previous Masters final projects; survey of energy and resources classic texts; external funding searches and proposal writing skills; introduction of ERG faculty research topics; interactive group research projects.
  • ER 292A – Tools of the Trade
    2 units, S/U. Recommended for all new Masters students who want to refresh their quantitative skills; students with substantial remedial needs may need to take some undergraduate coursework. Quantitative methods for energy and resource analysis. Topics include linear algebra, differential equations, statistical methods, chemical equilibrium theory and thermodynamics. 

Semester II – Spring

  • ER 292B – Master’s Seminar: Research Skills
    2 units, graded. Critical reading and analysis of research papers; development and discussion of project ideas. Students begin to identify and solicit faculty readers for their projects. Human subject research issues, ethics and protocols introduced.

Semester III – Fall

  • ER 292C – Master’s Seminar: Research Project Development
    2 units, graded. Final Development of research project ideas; final solicitation of faculty readers; critical feedback from cohort on projects.

Semester IV – Spring

  • ER 292D – Master’s Seminar: Final Project Presentations
    2 units, graded. Students meet as needed with faculty readers and advisors; following Spring Break students meet as a group for practice presentations.  End of semester all students do a final 15-minute presentation of their project.


Sample Program of Study

Note: the minimum enrollment requirement for all graduate students who are not yet advanced to doctoral candidacy is 12 units per semester.

1st Semester (Fall)

  • ER 200 (4 units) or ER 275 (3 units) — Area A requirement
  • ER 201 (3 units) — Interdisciplinary Analysis in Energy and Resources
  • Elective C-E — satisfy one of the Area C-E requirements
  • ER 292A – Tools of the Trade (2 units)
  • Early December – submit proposed Course of Study form

2nd Semester (Spring)

  • ER 102 (4 units) — Area B requirement
  • ER 292C (2 units) – Master’s seminar
  • ER 295 (1 unit) — ERG colloquium
  • Elective Cluster  — Cluster course no. 1
  • Early May – Submit revised Course of Study

3rd Semester (Fall)

  • ER 292D (2 units) – Master’s seminar
  • ER 295 (1 unit) — ERG colloquium
  • Elective Cluster — Cluster course no. 2
  • Elective C-E — satisfy one of the Area C-E requirements
  • Additional Elective
  • Early December – submit updated Course of Study and Title/Abstract for Master’s Project

4th Semester (Spring)

  • ER 292D (2 units) — Master’s Project
  • Elective Cluster — Cluster course no. 3
  • Elective C-E — satisfy one of the Area C-E requirements
  • Additional elective course
  • Receive feedback and approval of Course of Study and Title/Abstract for Master’s Project