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Doctoral Program

The doctoral program with a major in natural resources emphasizes interdisciplinary research approaches toward the understanding and management of natural resources in a broad context. Areas of study include:

  • Forest, wildlife and fisheries biology
  • Ecosystem function and structure
  • Natural resource economics and policy
  • Human dimensions of natural resource management
  • Wood sciences
  • Multidisciplinary natural resources management

Admission Requirements

Applicants to the PhD program normally should have completed a master’s degree prior to beginning the doctoral program. Specific admission requirements include:

  1. A minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  2. A minimum composite score from the verbal and quantitative sections for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) of 302 under the new scoring system or 1,100 under the old scoring system.
  3. A written statement of your educational and professional goals (which is entered on UT Graduate Admissions online departmental information form—see below).
  4. Three recommendations from individuals capable of evaluating the applicant’s potential for graduate work in interdisciplinary natural resource management (see UT Graduate Admissions web pages for instructions on submitting recommendations).

Admission to the department is competitive. If applicants meet the minimum requirements for consideration (at least 3.0 GPA and 1100 V+Q or 1650 all three sections), their files are circulated to potential major professors (graduate advisors). They are admitted only if a professor agrees to advise them. As a consequence, we deny admission to many students who meet the minimum requirements for admission due to the lack of an advisor. This is especially true in terrestrial wildlife, which is the most competitive. Because of this, students are advised not to formally apply unless they have contacted a professor and have been encouraged to do so. This saves the student time, money, and disappointment.

A collage of doctoral students doing field work related to natural resources.

Degree Requirements

A candidate for the doctoral degree must complete 72 semester hours of coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree, and 48 hours must be in graduate coursework approved by the student’s doctoral committee. Up to 24 hours of master’s-level coursework may be applied to the 48-hour requirement. A minimum of six hours must be taken in UT courses at the 600-level, exclusive of dissertation hours. View a listing of the departmental graduate courses in the online Graduate Catalog.

Specific Requirements Are:

  1. Research Methods and Analysis (9 credits in at two of the subject areas):
    • Research/Experimental Design
    • Statistics/Econometrics/Biometrics
    • GIS/Remote Sensing
  2. Core Subject areas (33 credits to be determined by doctoral committee)
  3. Professional Development (5 credits):
    • Teaching: All students will be expected to complete FWF601 and assist in teaching a course during their tenure in the program.
    • Professional Communications: All students will be required to complete FWF612 as part of their program of study. Part of the seminar requirement is assisting in the development and conduct of FWF512.
  4. FWF 600 Doctoral Research and Dissertation (24 credits).

A doctoral committee consisting of at least four faculty members must be identified by the student and major professor. At least two of the committee members must be from the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, and one member must be from outside the department. Three of the committee members, including the major professor, must be approved by the Graduate School to direct doctoral research. The committee should be formed during the first year of the student’s program.

All students are required to successfully complete an oral and written examination on all coursework completed as part of the PhD requirements. The exam is scheduled when the student has completed all or nearly all of the coursework. The PhD committee will determine the content, nature, and schedule of the comprehensive exam and certify the results.

During the first year, the student should develop a research prospectus that outlines the research problem to be addressed as part of his/her doctoral research. The prospectus is presented to the student’s committee, and the committee will approve the research topic and approach.

All students are required to complete, present, and defend a dissertation. The student should provide each member of the committee a copy of the dissertation at least two weeks prior to the scheduled defense. All students are required to present a seminar on their dissertation as part of the degree requirements. The seminar can be part of the dissertation defense or presented before the formal defense.


Minor in Environmental Policy

The department participates in a program designed to give graduate students an opportunity to develop an interdisciplinary specialization in environmental policy. View more information about the Environmental Policy minor. 

Additional Resources

The department and University have extensive financial aid available on a competitive basis. Stipends average $12,500 per year for twelve-month, half-time (twenty hours per week) appointments. The master of science degree assistantships include health insurance for the student. Some assistantships provide for remission of tuition and fees. Graduate assistantships, scholarships, fellowships, and traineeships are offered by the department. Please inquire for additional details about these types of financial aid. Student loans and employment are coordinated by the Financial Aid Office on main campus. Almost all graduate students in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries receive financial support. Part-time and contract employment are available from several of the above-named cooperating agencies.

The flagship campus of The University of Tennessee is located in Knoxville, the major economic, industrial, and metropolitan hub of East Tennessee. Knoxville is located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in close proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee National Forest, and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Headquarters of the Tennessee Valley Authority are in Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory is only 15 miles from Knoxville in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. East Tennessee enjoys a mild climate with four seasons, and students can pursue outside activities year round. With I-40 and I-75 intersecting in Knoxville, one can easily reach other metropolitan centers in the southeast such as Atlanta, Nashville, and Cincinnati.

The University utilizes more than 21,000 acres of wildlands available for teaching, research, and demonstration. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Division of Forestry, Tennessee Valley Authority, National Park Service, US Forest Service, UT AgResearch, UT Extension, and private industries provide lands and facilities for teaching and research programs. Lands available for forestry research include the Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Centers and the 18,400-acre Ames Plantation in West Tennessee. These areas have a wide variety of forest types and wildlife habitats, ranging from boreal forest types to southern pines and bottomland hardwoods. Fisheries habitats include cold and warm water streams, large reservoirs, and farm ponds. 

The department is housed in a modern, educational teaching and research complex, including the Plant Biotechnology Building, a state-of-the-art research facility. The department has other teaching and research facilities, including research greenhouses, clonal propagation greenhouses, conventional wet-lab/dry-lab space, a forest products laboratory, and a human dimensions research laboratory. A US Geological Survey Field Laboratory is located on campus, with additional facilities and scientists engaged in cooperative departmental research. Students have access to the Herbert College of Agriculture’s microcomputer laboratory and to the University computing system. The UT Knoxville libraries’ membership in the Association of Research Libraries reflects the University’s emphasis on graduate instruction and research and the support of large, comprehensive collections of library materials on a permanent basis.

The University provides excellent apartment facilities in several locations. University residence halls and off-campus housing are also readily available; however, rates vary widely. A listing of off-campus housing available to students is provided by the Off-Campus Housing Office. Many off-campus apartments are located on University bus routes. For additional housing information, visit the University Housing website or the Off-campus Housing website.

More than 6,000 graduate students are enrolled on and off campus at the University of Tennessee. Graduate enrollment in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries averages about forty students. The University uses a variety of modes—traditional and nontraditional—in offering quality programs designed to serve a diverse student base.

The University of Tennessee is the official land-grant institution for the State of Tennessee, with its main campus in Knoxville. UT-Knoxville is the state’s oldest, largest, and most comprehensive institution, and is the only state-supported “Research University l” (Carnegie classification) in Tennessee. The University celebrated its bicentennial in 1994; many ceremonies and special programs were conducted to reflect on 200 years of University history. Total enrollment is nearly 29,000 students with almost 1,300 faculty who teach and/or conduct research at the Knoxville campus. A wide range of graduate programs leading to master’s and doctoral degrees are available. The University offers master’s programs in 86 fields and doctoral work in 52 fields.