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Master of Natural Resources (Online)

Global Issues students in Barcelona, Spain, learning about sustainable urban planning.
Global Issues students in Barcelona, Spain, learning about sustainable urban planning.

Our Master of Natural Resources program has been preparing sustainability leaders for over a decade, ever evolving to meet the needs of our students. Our faculty are recognized experts in their fields, our student-to-instructor ratio is low, and our online format is designed to meet the needs of diverse professionals balancing work and school with their personal lives.

Whether you're about to graduate with your Bachelor's degree, are a recent grad, or have been working for a decade or longer, this interdisciplinary program instills the conceptual and critical thinking skills necessary for lifelong learning and career development. MNR graduates are prepared to succeed on a truly global stage as natural resource, environmental, and sustainability professionals.

Program Format
The online MNR is a 30-credit, virtual, and flexible degree program that prepares students for careers in environmental sustainability. The program combines online coursework and participation in a 10-day, face-to-face Global Study that takes the place of the typical professional graduate degree capstone project.

The non-thesis MNR degree consists of 10 classes (30 hours).  
Students take 5 required core courses plus 5 electives, chosen with the guidance from Graduate Advisor.

Expand your professional network

Many of our students are working professionals who are used to working in distributed and virtual teams. Adept at forming professional alliances at a distance, they apply the same approach to the online graduate program. In turn, the program is designed to offer students many opportunities to network, both electronically and in-person. In fact, students often say that they have more interaction with other students and faculty in the MNR than they had in their campus-based undergraduate program.

Plan of Study

The MNR program Plan of Study (POS) consists of both required core courses and electives. We offer courses on a wide range of topics related to global sustainability and students can choose to design a POS focused on their specific field of interest from the full list of elective courses or by opting for the pre-selected list in a particular area, as shown in the tabs below. 

  • Global Issues in Environmental Sustainability
  • Leadership Communication for Sustainability Professionals
  • Constructing Sustainability
  • Strategies for Sustainability
  • Sustainability Systems

Build the theoretical foundations, conservation strategies, and policy knowledge needed by sustainability professionals; and develop the competencies sought by conservation and development organizations that work with government agencies and community groups to conserve biodiversity at ecosystem scales.


  • Adaptive Management
  • Biodiversity Policy
  • Biodiversity Stewardship
  • Conservation Ecology
  • Human-Wildlife Conflicts 
  • Urban Wildlife


  • Assess the roles and relationships of the economic and social sciences in the conservation of renewable natural resources.
  • Incorporate current scientific knowledge and technologies into holistic analyses of variables that affect conservation issues.
  • Map, document, and prioritize threats to biodiversity and biological integrity and formulate strategies to monitor and mitigate such threats.
  • Integrate strategies, anticipated results, objectives, activities, and conservation goals into monitoring plans.
  • Distinguish critical roles of relevant government agencies, advocacy groups, and businesses in conservation efforts.
  • Design partnerships and events that facilitate community awareness and mobilize biodiversity stewardship efforts.
  • Analyze U.S. and international biodiversity policies for implications to conservation practices and evaluate their effectiveness.
  • Design policies for biodiversity conservation that overcome obstacles and use adaptive management principles.
  • Identify the potential for conflict among simultaneous management objectives and learn strategies to resolve these competing interests.

Learn how to examine the interface of the engineered, natural, and social environments. Employ case studies to dive into the challenges associated with rapid urbanization occurring around the globe, and the strategies used to create healthy human ecosystems and livable communities in which to live, work, and play. 


  • Infrastructure for Resilience
  • Urban Ecology
  • Urban Water Systems
  • Urban Wildlife


  • Understand how urban systems are related to natural resource sustainability and resilience.
  • Evaluate, map, and explain connections between engineered, natural, and urban systems.
  • Compare infrastructure policies, processes, interventions, and innovations and evaluate infrastructure plans for resiliency.
  • Plan for engagement of stakeholders in infrastructure planning efforts.
  • Analyze connections of regional landscapes to urban water systems.
  • Apply water system hydrology concepts and best practices to global rapid urbanization and emergency management challenges.
  • Prescribe best practices to address contemporary water, green infrastructure, and emergency management problems in rapidly urbanizing places.
  • Identify strategies for managing wildlife conflict and promoting and conserving wildlife in urban areas.

Develop the competencies necessary to help communities and organizations address the challenges of climate change. Explore mitigation strategies and adaptation planning; international, global, and local policy and institutions; and the unique role that cities play in creating a more sustainable and resilient future.


  • Climate Adaptation
  • Climate Change Policy
  • Climate Change Science
  • Risk and Rationality in Global Sustainability


  • Explain key causes and consequences of climate change and communicate the related uncertainty and complexity.
  • Evaluate the opportunities, challenges, and impacts of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and carbon sequestration strategies and policies.
  • Predict impacts of climate change on specific environments, communities, and businesses and prepare plans that increase adaptive capacity.
  • Conduct scenario planning at local and national scales and in developed and developing countries.
  • Compare the process, politics, and communication strategies of implementing climate adaptation.
  • Compare and contrast key U.S. and international climate change policies and the missions of climate science institutions.
  • Contrast how different countries’ positions on climate justice drive international climate policy.
  • Compare alternative greenhouse gas accounting systems and explain major business policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Evaluate, map, and explain connections between engineered, natural, and urban systems affecting infrastructure critical to sustainability.
  • Plan for engagement of stakeholders in infrastructure planning efforts and coordinate interdisciplinary planning teams.

To address complex environmental problems, sustainability professionals are most effective when they understand not only what needs to be done, but how it might be implemented. This requires an awareness of the processes by which environmental laws, regulations, and policies are designed, implemented, permitted, and enforced at various levels of government. Students in this multidisciplinary focus area will learn from instructors who also work in a range of environmental governance positions, and will come away prepared to apply ecological, political, regulatory, social, and economic lenses to complex issues like climate change, biodiversity, water quality, energy sources, agriculture, and related systems, and most importantly, how to design effective response strategies.


  • Biodiversity Policy
  • Climate Change Policy
  • Food Policy & Sustainability 
  • Water and Marine Policy


  • Understand how we are (and should be) constructing legal regimes and effective political institutions to conserve Earth’s endangered forms of life across multiple levels (ecosystem, landscape, species, population, and genetic diversity). 
  • Examine U.S. legal and political responses to biodiversity loss, with a focus on the Endangered Species Act, as well as the role of international laws and treaties. 
  • Review institutional responses to climate change at the international, national, and sub-national levels, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and U.S. climate policymaking under the Clean Air Act and state and regional initiatives. 
  • Analyze the economic, ecological, and social dimensions of food and farming policy on contemporary urban and rural issues, such as climate change, land use and livelihoods, biotechnology, national security and political instability, trade and subsidies, and human health.

Gain a broad understanding of how corporations and the private sector are contributing to a more sustainable future: explore sustainability theory and best practices; how businesses are managing supply chains to improve efficiency and reduce risk; sustainability accounting and reporting practices; and how businesses are helping design, build, and transition to a circular economy.


  • Business Sustainability Applications
  • Sustainability Accounting and Reporting
  • Sustainable Purchasing & Supply Chains
  • Circular Economy


  • Analyze the costs and benefits of business sustainability choices and how businesses influence change.
  • Compare Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability programs, and design them for employee recruitment and retention, insurance, and risk management.
  • Assess markets and demand for “green” goods and sustainable brands as impacted by global trends in demographics.
  • Assess and manage supply chain risk, and improve efficiency.
  • Analyze how improving resource efficiency and reducing risk scale-up can contribute to more sustainable systems of production and consumption at regional and global scales.
  • Explain how governance by disclosure influences businesses, consumers, investors, governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders.
  • Apply reporting practices for key sustainability concerns such as greenhouse gas emissions, water, and fair labor.
  • Compare and prioritize sustainability accounting, reporting, and compliance platforms and practices in different market sectors and in different countries. 
  • Defend policy, marketing, and production interventions needed to promote a circular economy.

Learn the basic issues surrounding water management including hydrology and infrastructure, regulatory and legislative issues, and funding and financing challenges and explore innovative partnerships designed to address these issues. Cases are used to investigate examples of water management and conflict around the world.


  • Water Conflict and Management 
  • Coastal and Marine Management
  • Urban Water Systems
  • Watershed Stewardship
  • Water and Marine Policy


  • Analyze connections of regional landscapes to urban water systems.
  • Compare the roles of US government agencies and global water management agencies responsible for water issues.
  •  Compare and contrast technical, financial, regulatory, and planning aspects of storm, clean, and drinking water sectors.
  • Assess funding gaps in the water sector and compare traditional and innovative funding and financing strategies to address those gaps.
  • Apply partnership strategies and governance to propose and plan partnership programs to meet community storm, clean, and drinking water needs.
  • Prioritize characteristics of successful water management programs.
  • Prescribe best practices to address contemporary water, green infrastructure, and emergency management problems in rapidly urbanizing places.
  • Analyze case studies of exemplary sustainable, integrated urban water systems.
  • Analyze examples of historical and current water conflicts and mismanagement around the world.

Visiting Graduate Students 

Students who are enrolled in a graduate degree program at another university, and who would like to take online classes offered by the Virginia Tech MNR program, can apply as a Visiting Graduate Student. Please contact Lindsay Key at with questions and to access the application form.

Non-degree (Commonwealth Campus) Students

Students who would like to enroll in up to 12 credit hours of online courses from the Virginia Tech Online MNR curriculum, without pursuing either a graduate certificate or graduate degree, may do so by registering as non-degree. Please contact Lindsay Key at ltkey@vt.eduwith questions and to access the application form.

MNR Degree Options for Virginia Tech Students

Virginia Tech undergraduates who are interested in pursuing graduate studies at Virginia Tech are invited to apply to the Master of Natural Resources program and start earning graduate credentials while finishing up their undergraduate degree. Learn more

Related Pages

Faculty Spotlight 

Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins highlights the main themes of "Leadership Communication for Sustainability Professionals," a core course in the MNR program.

Dr. Daniel Marcucci introduces "Sustainability Systems: Living in the Biosphere," one of the five core courses in the MNR program.

Learning Outcomes 

Student Perspectives

Fall 2023 Application Deadline 

Master of Natural Resources 
Deadline: August 1, 2023 
Term Dates: Aug 21 – Dec 13, 2023