In the fight against climate change, KU’s PSM in Environmental Assessment fills in important learning gaps

Working with the environment and the natural world can yield huge benefits by generating greater sustainability and more resilient communities.

Professor with students looking at dirt samples in a grassy field

In April 2022, President Biden signed an executive order calling for a U.S. National Nature Assessment and a Natural Capital Account. These initiatives will add nature to our national balance sheet to show the importance of the environment and natural world to our way of life. This will also highlight the extent of our crisis in biodiversity and climate to the general public.

According to ICF, a global consulting firm, the White House initiative highlights another need: There aren’t enough college certifications or courses focused on disciplines such as environmental permitting, monitoring and evaluation, applied ecology and engineering, and adaptive management. 

In light of this fact, KU’s Professional Science Master in Environmental Assessment, along with their Environmental Justice graduate certificate, is even more valuable than before.

The PSM in environmental assessment steps into the gap

“These initiatives highlighted a gap in workforce development in this arena. That caught my eye because our KU Edwards degree, as well as our environmental justice focus, fills this need,” said Terri Woodburn, director and assistant teaching professor in the professional science masters for environmental assessment. 

In the face of accelerating climate change, where millions are forced to deal with increasingly violent storms, unprecedented flooding, and deadly heat waves, a deeper understanding of what’s ailing the environment is more necessary than ever. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Working with the environment and the natural world can yield huge benefits by generating greater sustainability, more resilient communities, and increasing the beauty and worth of natural areas. 

What is a professional science master’s in environmental assessment?

A professional science master’s degree is a flexible way to teach necessary workplace skills to working professionals and qualified undergrads, while also providing advanced training in STEM topics. For students already pursuing a bachelor’s in environmental studies at KU, the PSM can be an accelerated degree, because it takes less time to complete than a conventional master’s degree. Furthermore, students don’t need to take the GRE to get into the program. 

PSM students will finish their degree with a capstone project to gain additional hands-on experience while giving back to the community. 

Scott Schulte, associate professor of the practice, has facilitated several of the capstone projects. 

“It's really cool in that I'm able to continue to support these efforts through Heartland Conservation Alliance,” he said. “We've been marrying up our capstone students with projects that benefit HCA and some of these nature-based solutions that are working with climate action in KC. Now others are starting to work on green infrastructure studies and analysis as well.”

What kind of careers can you pursue with a PSM in environmental assessment?

The combination of courses and real-world training through the PSM program provides students with a strong foundation to help implement nature-based climate solutions in their future careers that will positively impact human health and the economy. Potential job titles include:

  • Environmental scientist 
  • Natural resources program manager
  • Environmental regulatory scientist
  • Habitat restoration project manager
  • Sustainability coordinator
  • Conservation and restoration manager
  • Sustainability consultant
  • Environmental health program manager
  • Sustainability services analyst
  • Environmental compliance specialist
  • Environmental protection specialist


Why choose the PSM in environmental assessment at KU Edwards?

Many of the Environmental Assessment courses require students to assess natural systems or sites, or write technical reports, just as they would in the industry. There are hands-on field components in some courses, while others implement case studies to provide students with opportunities to gain a variety of professional skills.  
The faculty at KU Edwards Campus all have professional experience in the field or are current professionals in the environmental industry. 

“We use holistic systems thinking and discuss adaptive management approaches in courses such as Water Quality, Land Use, and Watershed Ecosystems; Soil Ecology and Restoration; and Water Resource Sustainability, among others,” said Woodburn. “We also have a strong track in community resilience and environmental justice with the Environmental Justice Graduate Certificate.” 

Schulte tries to bring in as many real-world experiences as he can in his classes. 

“Students review real world reports and documents using actual project sites as the basis of hypothetical projects,” he stated. “Then they identify alternatives and do a regulatory analysis.”

Schulte’s work involves making sure that students are ready for the working world once they’ve earned their degree – and to help them find ways to give back to the community. “What I try to bring to my work is that authentic perspective, so that they're not just working with theory in a vacuum,” he said. “They really start to understand how the work they will do in the future, as professionals, is going to benefit the community.”

Here’s how to apply.

KU offers three options for environmental assessment programs. The Environmental Assessment Professional Science Masters and graduate certificate can be completed fully online, or in an in-person/hybrid format at the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park. The Environmental Justice graduate certificate is a hybrid program which can be completed at the Edwards Campus or the KU Lawrence Campus. See the options below and download the program guides for more information. Each guide provides the program’s curriculum, career paths, admissions information, tuition and more.

Learn more about the Environmental Assessment & Environmental Justice program

Download the program guide

cover of the Alumni Survey results

Get Insights from KU Graduates

Download this report filled with statistical and qualitative feedback from more than 500 alumni to help you decide if the KU Edwards Campus is right for you.

Cover to the Tips for a Successful Start PDF

Get started at the KU Edwards Campus

Download your guide for a successful start on your KU Edwards Campus undergraduate or graduate program, including information on financial aid, academic advising and more.

alumni report

Maximize Your Financial Aid

Download your guide for making the most of financial aid at KU Edwards Campus.

Cover to the The Adult Learner's Guide PDF

An Adult Learner’s Guide to Choosing the Right KC University

Helpful tips to choosing the right university in Kansas City.

Cover to the The Adult Learner's Guide PDF

Putting off your academic pursuits?

Download our eBook that addresses and debunks 7 of the biggest concerns adult learners have about returning to school.

Cover to the The Online Learner's guide

Find the right online program for you

Download your guide for tips and questions to ask when researching online learning options.