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Frequently Asked Questions

Future Students 

What's the PhD program all about?
The Earth, Environment, and Society Doctoral program provides an opportunity for the student to engage in relevant research while acquiring advanced academic training in Environmental Science & Management, Geology, or Geography. One of the goals of the program is to provide a broadly based understanding of the field of environmental science coupled with scientific training in one or more specialty areas. The student will follow a program of study and research approved by the EES program, and will be awarded a degree in Earth, Environment, & Society.

Are students admitted to the EES PhD program automatically granted funding?
No. However, support can come from graduate teaching assistantships, the IGERT program, or the GK-12 program.

What are my funding options for being a doctoral student in the EES PhD program?
There are three main funding options for School of the Environment EES PhD students:

  1. GK12:
    The Cascades to Coast GK12 project is a doctoral fellowship in environmental sustainability research and education. Cascades to Coast Fellows will collaborate with middle schools and high schools in the Portland metropolitan region to develop, enhance and lead environmental science curriculum and field trips. Doctoral students participating in the program receive tuition remission and an annual stipend of $15,000.
  2. IGERT:
    The IGERT program is part of the flagship effort by the National Science Foundation to educate U.S. Ph.D. natural and social scientists and engineers beyond their normal disciplinary boundaries to help solve some of the world’s most complex problems. Successful applicants receive IGERT funding for 2 years based on a competitive awards process. Funding includes a $30,000 annual stipend, fully paid tuition and fees, health insurance and up to $10,500 in research funding to support dissertation research.
  3. Teaching Assistantships
    Applicants wishing to apply for teaching assistantships should contact

How do I apply to the EES PhD program?
See our application instructions.

When’s the program application deadline?
January 15th. Applications will not be considered after this date in any circumstance.

What are the minimum GRE scores required to get in to the EES PhD program?
We have no strict requirement for minimum GRE scores, however, most successful applicants have combined verbal and quantitative scores of at least 300 and an analytical score of at least 3.7. Contact potential advisers to find out the score range they will be looking for. 

What are the ESM department code and school codes for GRE and TOEFL scores?
 School of the Environment: 0599. Portland State University: 4610.

Do I have to identify a potential advisor when applying to the EES PhD program?
Yes. Applicants should specify in their statement of interest which faculty members with which they are interested in working, as placement in the program is dependent upon available advisers. More than one potential adviser may be identified.

How do I identify an adviser prior to my application to the PhD program?
The best way to identify a major professor is to communicate directly with faculty that may share your research interests. When contacting a potential advisor, it is advisable to send them an email with a brief introduction of yourself and your research interests, accompanied by a resume. You should contact potential advisers early on, to let them know you plan on applying for the program and to find out if they would be interested in advising you. Students who are already communicating with willing advisers have a better chance of being accepted, as placement in the program is dependent upon available advisers.

Do I have to have professional experience in the field to apply to the EES PhD program?
No. Some students enter the School of the Environment's EES PhD program straight from earning their undergraduate or Master's degree, and others come to the program after many years of experience in the field.

Do I need a Master's to get in to the EES PhD program?
No. While it is helpful, some students come into the program with an undergraduate degree only. Students may apply Post-Baccalaureate classes to the degree.

What courses are required in the EES PhD program?
A complete program of study for doctoral students will be determined in consultation with his/her adviser and
Advisory Committee. See our required courses.

How long does it take to finish the PhD program?
The amount of time it takes to complete the program varies depending on how long it takes to research and write the dissertation. Generally, full time students will take two years of coursework, then take comprehensive exams the beginning of their third year in the program. Once comprehensive exams have been passed, students finish any courses still needed and begin working on their dissertation in their third or fourth year.

I’m interested in getting a Master’s degree in Environmental Science. Tell me all about it!
The Masters programs are run by the Environmental Science and Management department. Please contact them for more info at,, or 503-725-4982.


Current Students

What is the purpose of the EES PhD comprehensive examination?
The purpose of the qualifying exam is for the primary adviser, advisory committee and the director to certify that the PhD student has mastered an area of study that will contribute to the student’s success. The student must have an advisory committee that has been approved by the director in order to initiate this process. The primary adviser and the advisory committee will determine the content areas that the student will be examined on.

What are the written EES PhD comps?
The written qualifying exams will be a set of exercises designed by the exam committee. The written portion may contain any mix of assignments or exams that is designed for the purpose of assessing the student’s mastery of content knowledge. Reading lists will be provided at least a month ahead of time. The questions are determined by what the examiner decides that a PhD student in our program should know and be able to answer.

What are the oral EES PhD comps?
After the student passes the written portion of the comprehensive exam, there will be oral exam. The oral exam should take place no more than two weeks after the student successfully passes the written exam. The oral exam will include the adviser and the exam committee. The student is responsible for arranging a time and a location for the oral examination. It should last several hours with each committee member asking questions to confirm that the student is ready to advance to candidacy. The oral exam will focus on the results from the written exam and any other topics that the committee wants to explore.

Do I have to schedule my EES PhD written and oral comps at the same time?
Yes. Written and oral examinations must be scheduled simultaneously, and must be scheduled within two weeks (14 days) of each other. The student is responsible for arranging a time and a location for the oral examination.

When am I required to take comps as part of the EES PhD program?
All EES PhD students within the School of the Environment must take their comprehensive examinations by the beginning of their third year in the program. Contact your advisor to arrange your Comps Committee and schedule your exam.

My By Arrangement class isn’t showing up in Banweb. What do I do?
By Arrangement forms typically take ten days to process. If ten days have passed since you dropped it off for signatures and you still aren’t seeing your class, submit a second form to the SOE office in SRTC 118.