About the Program

A Pioneering Program | An Appreciation of Earth Systems | A Hands-On Craft Approach to Teaching Public Policy | A New Breed of Environmental Professionals | Professional Resources



The Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy trains sophisticated public managers and policymakers, who apply innovative, systems-based thinking to environmental issues. The program challenges students to think systemically and act pragmatically. To meet this challenge, we offer a high-quality graduate program in management and policy analysis that emphasizes practical skills and is enriched by ecological and planetary science.

Our approach reflects the system-level thinking that is needed to understand ecological interactions and maintain the health of Earth’s interconnected ecological, institutional, economic, and social systems.

Graduates are creating a new profession of earth systems problem-solvers: individuals who are prepared for leadership positions in local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as in nonprofit organizations and the environmental divisions of private corporations. They are also well suited for designing cost-effective programs and implementing policies. Most importantly, a deep understanding of earth systems informs their work, allowing them to craft the kinds of solutions necessary for our increasingly complex environmental problems.

This twelve-month program, that starts in late May, offers students a unique educational experience at Columbia University's Morningside Campus in New York City.


A Pioneering Program

We have designed the Environmental MPA Program by combining Columbia University’s hands-on approach to teaching public policy and administration with pioneering thinking about the environment. Completion of this professional program leads to a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree in Environmental Science and Policy from the University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).


An Appreciation of Earth Systems

Two fundamental insights shape this master’s program: the realization that institutional, social, and economic processes interconnect to both sustain and endanger the planet and the need for professionals who can maintain the health of this interconnected system. Only by combining an understanding of earth systems issues with management strategies will it be possible to cope with the threats to planetary sustainability.


A Hands-On Craft Approach to Teaching Public Policy

To train effective earth systems professionals, the program focuses on the practical skills necessary to understand the formulation and management of public policy. The teaching of public policy and administration is the core of the program. This set of classes focuses on specific professional and vocational skills, such as memo writing, oral briefings, group process and team building, leadership, strategic thinking, spreadsheet and other forms of financial analysis, and the use of computer programs, case studies of earth systems issues, and various internet resources.  The principal goal of the core curriculum is to provide students with the analytic, communication, and work skills required to be problem-solving earth systems professionals.

The skills and concepts include an understanding of:


A New Breed of Environmental Professionals

Courses in environmental science round out the training so that our graduates will be able to inform the decision-making process and manage science experts. The policy and management challenges our graduates are being trained to address include global change issues, such as global warming, but more frequently they focus on air, water, solid waste, and toxic waste management issues. Graduates of the Environmental MPA Program are prepared for the roles of analyst, manager, and translator of scientific knowledge. This Environmental MPA Program requires more environmental science than any other public policy master’s degree in the world. The skills and concepts involve an understanding of scientific method, including observation, hypothesis generation, and hypothesis testing; the chemical processes affecting environmental quality and public health; collection and analysis of field and laboratory data; and systems modeling.


Professional Resources

The MPA-ESP program helps graduates advance their professional careers. The professional development initiative focuses on skill building, access to leading practitioners, career networking, and specialized job search strategies and tools.

Skill building

The Sustainability Seminar Series comprises half- and full-day, non-credit seminars that help students gain cutting-edge skills they can use to succeed in the field. Recent seminars have included the following.


Career Networking

The program’s 550 graduates provide dynamic and varied professional contacts across numerous sectors. Each summer, we survey our alumni to be able to provide comprehensive, up-to-date information about their careers to alumni and to current students.

Students also network with sustainability practitioners at special events and at the annual All Ivy Environmental and Sustainable Development Career Fair. Every fall, the MPA-ESP program hosts an alumni reception where current students can mingle with alumni from all previous classes of the program. Students also have the opportunity to participate in the annual SIPA Career Conference in Washington, DC, where they are able to network with SIPA alumni. Graduates may also join the SIPA LinkedIn group of over 3,000 members from around the globe.


Access to Leading Practitioners

Many of our faculty members are also leading environmental and policy practitioners, who provide students the benefit of their expertise and experience.  Students also benefit from consultations with their assigned faculty advisors.

Professional Development Seminar

All SIPA students are required to take part in the SIPA Office of Career Services Professional Development Seminar. Through this seminar, they learn about resume techniques, interview tips, and best practices for job searching and interviews. Additionally, students are encouraged to take advantage of the Office of Career Services career coaches and advisers. The Office of Career Services sends weekly bulletins and hosts dozens of workshops, interviews and information sessions throughout the year.