Environmental dynamics is the study of complex interactions between natural systems and human activity. PhD programs in environmental dynamics focus on human-environmental interactions within the recent history of the Earth, and typically incorporate interdisciplinary course work in geophysical, biological, geochemical, and sociocultural subjects. With many specializations available, candidates in this program must include both environmental and human components into their Ph.D. studies and dissertation research. The Ph.D. in environmental dynamics can lead to a promising career in environmental science, and can also lay the groundwork for a variety of other science- and environment-related engineering and technical professions.
The curriculum of the PhD program in environmental dynamics is intended to emphasize scientific, technical, and research skills. However, students will also learn essential analytical, interpersonal, problem-solving, and writing and speaking skills. Individual concentrations within this program are varied, but it is common for environmental dynamics students to focus their study in environmental engineering, environmental economics, environmental policy, or environmental sociology. This doctoral program is ideal for those who want to continue graduate studies in biology, natural science, earth science, or in a social science field with an environmental focus.
About Online PhD Programs in Environmental Dynamics
The curriculum for a PhD program in environmental dynamics is influenced heavily by science, technology, and social studies. As this program is in a specialized scientific discipline, as of yet there are no fully online Ph.D. programs in this field. Among the few universities offering a comprehensive PhD in environmental dynamics is the University of Arkansas, which features a doctorate in environmental dynamics (ENDY). Sample courses are listed below:
- Quaternary Environments. This course provides interdisciplinary study of the Quaternary Period of the earth's evolution, including dating methods, soil deposits, climates, tectonics, and human adaptations.
- Environmental Dynamics. A required course for ENDY graduate students, this class presents an overview of Earth systems, including the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and cryosphere, as well as how human interaction has affected these systems.
- Special Problems in Environmental Dynamics. Under faculty guidance, this course involves independent study of a topic related to environmental dynamics.
- Climate Through Time. Through this course, students research the earth's climate history over the last two million years and the influence various external factors have had.
- Environmental Isotope Geochemistry. This class provides an introduction to principles of isotope fractionation and distribution in different geological environments.
- Society and Environment. This course examines the relationship between human societies and the natural environment.
The final step toward being awarded a Ph.D. involves presenting the dissertation. For doctoral environmental dynamics candidates, most are required to assemble an advisory committee in their first year, to help guide the dissertation process. After submitting a proposal to this advisory board, students typically perform supervised or independent research to develop their final dissertation. Typically, the dissertation presentation in the last semester of doctoral study is followed by an academic review, exit interview, and faculty confirmation that all program credits have been filled before the doctorate is granted.
Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Environmental Dynamics
Prospective environmental dynamics students may be daunted by the intense curriculum required to obtain a Ph.D. Many students may feel excluded from pursuing their interests in what sometimes seems like a very limited specialty field in the world of science. The course work, demanding comprehensive scientific study and long hours, may seem overly specialized and intimidating to someone considering this as a career path. What options are out there in the professional world for environmental dynamics majors, anyway?
Actually, a doctorate in environmental dynamics can be practical and versatile. In addition to providing unique qualifications for a variety of top-ranking scholarly positions in science, research, and academia, doctoral program graduates will also develop skills to help them achieve universal success in all of their endeavors, such as learning to use technology and equipment, becoming familiar with scientific terminology, and understanding common research techniques, just to name a few. Ph.D.s in environmental dynamics can prepare students for lucrative careers in related disciplines too, like those involving lab research, chemistry, engineering, and technology, for example.
Application & Admission Requirements
Admission into a Ph.D. program in environmental dynamics is competitive and involves several important elements. Prospective students must hold a master's degree in an environmental field such as anthropology, geography, geology, biological sciences, crop, soil, and environmental sciences, or environmental engineering. A master's degree in a social science field with an environmental focus, such as environmental economics, environmental policy, or environmental sociology is also acceptable. If the student does not have a previous degree, they may still be accepted into the program if they satisfy all graduate-level course work prerequisites. Most programs also require a minimum GPA, a comprehensive writing sample, a statement of intent including previous work experience, and several letters of recommendation. Additionally, some schools may require a competency and/or qualifying exam.
Career Options & Job Market
Environmental dynamics may not be a widely known field, but there are a variety of options for Ph.D. candidates studying in this discipline. An environmental dynamics doctorate encompasses a distinctive set of skills that can pave the way for a research-based career in many areas of science, including environmental scientist, geoscientist, or microbiologist, just to name a few, as well as an environmental engineer, or even a teacher at a post secondary institution. Environmental scientists and specialists, for instance, made an annual salary of $61,700 in May 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).Those holding a Ph.D. in the field of environmental dynamics are in high demand in various professional settings, typically eligible for top-level or senior positions that require a doctoral degree.
Where to Find Information
- Climate Interactive Through this website, a team of scientists hosts a variety of interactive, accessible computer simulations that help people visualize the long-term climate impacts of their decisions in everyday life.
- UC Davis Environmental Dynamics Lab Through this affiliate of the UC Davis system, students and staff join other researchers in projects involving field data collection, laboratory experimentation, and numerical modeling in the field of environmental dynamics.
- ScienceDirect.com This website features searchable articles and publications by notable scholars and scientists in various scientific disciplines.
How to Get Funding
Ph.D. students should research available forms of federal financial aid, to be determined by filling out the necessary FAFSA forms. Many individual institutions offer graduate-specific campus aid programs in the form of assistantships and fellowships, as long as the student follows program regulations by maintaining full-time enrollment and a minimum GPA. Some colleges and universities also award funded research opportunities and/or grants, work-study programs, and scholarships, as well as potential discounts for qualifying military personnel and senior citizen graduate students.
- Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This low-interest loan program affords Ph.D. students the opportunity to borrow up to $20,500 per year at a fixed interest rate of only 6.8%.
- Federal Perkins Loan. This loan program distributes an average of $3,500 per academic year at only 5% interest, providing the recipient is enrolled full time and can prove their need for financial aid.
- Campus-Based Aid. There are many campus-based programs for financial aid, varying from one institution to the next. The majority of schools also offer as many federally-sponsored financial aid programs as are available.
- Review your options before making your decision. Since getting a Ph.D. is a big decision, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to think it through. If the positive long-term results do not clearly outweigh the short-term hard work, go back to weighing your options. Don't shy away from asking other Ph.D. students for their opinions.
- Fill out the application. Completing the application is just the first long process in a series of potentially long processes while pursuing your degree. At least if you start the application early, you'll have overcome the first hurdle and you can check it off your list.
- Fit in some work experience. Maybe going straight from your previous degree into this one will seem overwhelming. Use this time before you pick the studying back up to take advantage of getting in some much-needed work experience.
- Work out your financial aid. Once you have your finances organized and you know that all of your school will be paid for, you will be able to focus on your studies and not worry about the financial stress of your higher education.