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Administered by the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources

Part of an inter-college master’s degree entitled Natural Resources, the Hydrology Option (NRH) couples the Natural Resources core courses in natural resources policy and management with a series of hydrology and related courses. The purpose of the technical option in Hydrology is to educate professionals at the master’s degree level who understand the hydrologic processes of watersheds and wetlands, are skilled at conducting hydrologic studies and directing watershed management programs, and are well-versed in water resources policy and regulation.

The courses specific to the NRH option are taught in several different departments and provide a broad hydrology background with a rigorous quantitative emphasis. Enrollment in the hydrology option requires a Natural Resources related undergraduate degree with a rigorous math and science base.

Job Opportunities

Many of the mid-level management positions in federal and state agencies, private companies, and environmental organizations require individuals with expertise in a technical area coupled with a broad knowledge of policy and management. Students completing a master’s degree in Natural Resources with a technical option in Hydrology will be prepared for positions with federal land management agencies like the USDA Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; with federal and state regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the North Carolina Division of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources; with private companies that hold and manage large areas of land; with private consulting firms; and with many other public and private organizations that deal with the hydrologic impacts of land use and climate change.

Faculty Contacts



Qualifications required for acceptance in both the thesis and non-thesis degree options include: (1) undergraduate degree in a natural resources field with a rigorous background in mathematics and science, (2) minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.00, and (3) minimum GRE score of 304 with a minimum quantitative score of 153. All Master of Science applicants who are accepted will be considered for any available research assistantships in the department’s hydrology research program.

Course Requirements

Total credit hours required for the MNR Hydrology technical option is 32 credit hours. All students (MS- thesis option and MNR non-thesis) are required to take the MNR core curriculum (10 credits, described below).

Master of Natural Resources Core Curriculum

CourseDescriptionCredit Hours
NR 500Natural Resource Management3
NR 571Current Issues in Natural Resource Policy3
ST 5**A graduate level statistics course3
FOR 801FER Graduate Seminar (or equivalent seminar course)1
  Total Credit Hours10

Technical Option Core Courses

A minimum of 9 credit hours from the technical option core courses are to be selected from the following list. Variation in technical option courses are to be considered and approved by a student’s MS or MNR committee. Students on assistantship will normally take a maximum of 9 credits per semester. Students not on assistantship may take up to 13 credits per semester, but 3 courses is the recommended maximum.

BAE 573 Hydrologic and Water Quality Modeling (3 credits)
FOR 520 Watershed and Wetlands Hydrology (3 credits)
MEA 595 Hydrogeology (3 credits)
SSC 511 Soil Physics (4 credits)

Additional Courses/ Requirements

Up to 6 credit hours for MS (thesis) and 4 credit hours for MNR (non-thesis) can be taken, with approval by a student’s MS or MNR committee. Students should enroll in NR 693 Master’s Supervised Research or 695 Master’s Thesis Research credits in any semester in which substantial project activity is undertaken.

FOR 803 Seminar in Forest Research (1 credit hour) – required for all graduate students in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources. FOR 803 should be taken the first semester in residence.

Additional courses as specified by the student’s advisory committee.

Students who do not have a background in natural resources or a related field may be required to take up to 12 credit hours of undergraduate course work that cannot be counted towards the MNR degree program.

Technical Option Electives

A minimum of 6 credit hours are to be selected from the technical option electives, including electives listed below. Variation in technical option electives are to be considered and approved by a student’s MS or MNR committee.

ST 512 Experimental Statistics for Biological Sciences II

Natural Resource Electives

PB 405 Wetland Flora (3)(fall)

PB 760 Principles of Ecology (4) (fall)

PB 762 Applied Coastal Ecology (3)(spring, alt. yrs.)

PB 774 Phycology (3)(spring, odd years)

NR 521 Wetland Assessment, Delineation, and Regulation (3)(spring)

FOR 784 The Practice of Environmental Impact Assessment (4)(fall)

PA 550 Environmental Policy (3)(fall, spring)

PA 763 Public Policy Process (3)(fall, alt. years)

GIS 510 Fundamentals of Geographic Information Science and Technology (3) (fall, spring)

GIS 530 Spatial Data Foundations (3) (spring)

SSC 551 Soil Genesis, Morphology, and Classification (3)

SSC 562 Environmental Applications of Soil Science (3)

SSC 570 Wetland Soils (3)(fall)

SSC 780 Transport and Fate of Chemicals in Soils and Natural Waters (3)(fall)

ZO 509 Ecology of Stream Invertebrates (3)(spring, odd yrs.).

Hydrology Electives

BAE 471 Land Resources Environmental Engineering (3)(fall)

BAE 572 Irrigation and Drainage (3)(alt. spring)

BAE 590 Special Problems

BAE 771 Theory of Drainage – Saturated Flow (3)(fall, alt. yrs.)

BAE 774 Theory of Drainage – Unsaturated Flow (3)(spring, alt. yrs.)

CE 580 Flow in Open Channels (3)(fall)

CE 586 Engineering Hydrology (3)(spring)

MEA 706 Meteorology of the Biosphere (3)(fall, alt. years)

MEA 760 Biogeochemistry (3)(fall, alt. years)

ZO 519 Limnology (4)(fall)

Research component

For the Master of Science degree, the student will usually complete a research project for the master’s thesis that is a component of an ongoing program in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources. However, for professionals who have appropriate research opportunities in their home organization, the thesis research may be conducted at the student’s work location. For the latter situation, the student must obtain approval of his/her graduate adviser and plan the thesis research project in cooperation with the graduate advisory committee.

For the Master of Natural Resources degree, the master’s project is designed to give the student experience in planning, conducting, and reporting on a professional project that is less comprehensive than a thesis research project. The type of project selected to fulfill this requirement is flexible and may be conducted on campus, as part of an ongoing departmental field project, or as part of a professional’s on-the-job duties with proper coordination between the faculty adviser and employer.


Recent Project Titles:

Links / Additional Information

Program Partnerships

For over a decade, the watershed hydrology program at NC State has worked with the North Carolina Division of Water Resources within the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to address the scientific, conservation, engineering and regulatory implications of protecting our state’s water resources.

Related Programs and Research Groups

Research Facilities

In addition to NC State’s Forests & Facilities, much of our watershed hydrology research is conducted on-campus in laboratories maintained by the College of Natural Resources, the Department of Biology in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, or the College of Veterinary Medicine. These resources are augmented by outstanding field facilities such as the Pamlico Aquaculture Field Laboratory; research and extension centers in Eastern and Western N.C.; NC State’s Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology; The Center for Marine Sciences and Technology in Morehead City; and facilities operated by various state and federal agencies or private organizations.

Other Water-Related Organizations

North Carolina Water Resources Association