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.


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. To make the day more accessible to anyone who is interested, we have decided to hold it virtually this year. Prospective Students Day will take place on MS Teams on November 17, 2023. The day consists of a full morning of programming, followed by time in the afternoon for brief one-on-one conversations with faculty and alumni. Register with this link. Questions? Email us.


We assemble a package of assistance that includes a teaching assistantship with six credits of tuition remission (guaranteed for at least one semester and often 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 work 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.

How does the program recruit students of color?

For most of our history we have relied mainly on word of mouth to advertise the program. As in much of the environmental field, this resulted in a mostly white student body. The program and the work that we do would be much stronger with students and faculty from more diverse backgrounds, and we would like to counter the exclusion of people of color from environmental work. As we take steps toward a more active recruitment process and put in the work to ensure that all feel welcome, we strongly encourage prospective students of color and other underrepresented groups to reach out and apply for the program.

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.

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.