students hiking in the snow

Field Naturalists are mature, spirited do-ers with an unwavering sense of purpose. In selecting applicants, we look for individuals who know what they want and hunger for a full immersion experience. Peace Corps volunteers, of whom we have had many, will understand what that means.


In reviewing applications, we look for the following:

     •  sustained interest and engagement in the environment
     •  a track record of academic and professional achievement in science or environment
     •  at least some coursework in the life sciences (a bachelor's degree in the life sciences is not required)
     •  knowledge of this and other programs
     •  at least three years of job, professional, or life experience after college
     •  moxie

Application Deadline

Applications submitted by January 15 will receive full consideration. Applications submitted after that date will be considered as space allows. Offers of admission are typically extended by the end of February or early March.

Application Materials

Application materials and information can be found on the Graduate Admissions webpage or by calling the Graduate Admissions office at (802) 656-3160. Information about degree requirements can be found in the University Catalogue.

Please note that GRE scores are no longer required nor accepted as part of the application. No writing sample (besides the personal statement) is required either.


We strongly encourage prospective students to meet with our students and faculty; there is no better way to learn about the Field Naturalist Program and whether it is a good fit for you. You should do likewise with other programs you may be considering. Talk with our students and ask hard questions about what it's really like here. Gauge whether the graduate student body would provide a stimulating environment for you.

Prospective Students Day

Each year we hold an informational session for prospective students. It is certainly not required for admission to the program, but if you're able to come we encourage it. This event is no longer held in person, rather virtually to make it more accessible to everyone without travel costs. This year's Prospective Students Day took place on November 17, 2023. There is a 2.5-hour recording of the event which we can send to you by file-transfer if you like. When we have a date set for next year's event, we will post it here. Questions? Email us.


We assemble a package of assistance that includes a teaching assistantship with six credits of tuition remission (guaranteed for one semester and sometimes available for more than one), small (four-figure) scholarships, and fellowship aid on a similarly modest scale. We also reduce tuition to in-state rates for out-of-state students. This assistance is, unfortunately, not full support, so students do have to find funds outside of the program for remaining tuition, fees, and living expenses. We are working on a homeshare program with alumni in the greater Burlington area, through which a current student could rent a room in a home for an affordable price.

Field Naturalist Program logo - graphic of layered landscape


Why are applicants required to wait for at least three years after college before applying?

We have found that it makes for a richer educational experience when all incoming students have spent significant time outside of academia (typically four years or more), which can help them home in on an educational and career trajectory. If a nontraditional student had worked for a while before their undergraduate degree, an exception could be made, but internships and summer jobs during college do not generally count toward this life experience requirement.

I want to go on to a Ph.D. Is the FN Program right for me?

Probably not. This master's program is designed as a terminal degree program, with the intent that graduates will go on to applied careers in conservation, land management, occasionally outreach. If you want to be a research scientist — one day heading a lab as a principal investigator, for example — it would make more sense to pursue a research master's program or Ph.D. We'd be happy to talk this through with you.

Does the program have a DEI strategy?

The program and the work that we do is strengthened by students, faculty, staff, and community partners with diverse backgrounds and experiences, in all senses of the word. Of particular note, we are striving to expand our circle of mentors with an eye toward broader representation of all those involved in the environmental field. It is our priority that all feel welcome in our program and we encourage prospective students to reach out to us to learn more.

Do students choose their own advisor?

Our program director Walter Poleman advises all incoming Field Naturalists. In the second semester, working with program faculty and taking the sponsored project work into account, students choose their own advisor.

How do students find their sponsored projects?

The program solicits potential projects from various sponsors each year. Generally, faculty work with students to choose from the available projects during the second semester. Occasionally, students seek out their own projects.

Is it possible to hold a part-time job while in the program?

At least in the first semester, we discourage students from working a job in addition to coursework because there simply isn't time. During some semesters, students will also have a teaching assistantship with a stipend (they are guaranteed a TAship for at least one semester), in which case a part-time job on top of that may prove difficult. A part-time job during semesters without a TAship would be possible and has certainly been done.

Can I do the program part-time?

The small, tight-knit cohort model is at the heart of our immersive program. For that reason, we do not allow part-time students, with two exceptions: UVM employees with access to tuition remission, who would most likely still need to drop to 75% employment in order to complete the program; and parents of young children or some other type of essential caregiver. Reach out to us to discuss your situation.

What was the Ecological Planning Program and how did it connect to the Field Naturalist Program?

The Ecological Planning Program was founded in 1999 as our sister program in UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. At first, it was a distinct track that focused more on sociological and policy aspects of conservation. Over time, the two programs absorbed each other's curricula until the differences between them were mostly administrative, and they became collectively known as the FNEP Program. The EP Program retired along with its director, Deane Wang, in 2017. The FN Program has slowly grown until there are now typically as many students per cohort as there were in the FNEP cohorts.