The program requires a minimum of 68 semester hours (SH) beyond the baccalaureate degree. Students entering the program with a Master's Degree from ECU or another institution may apply up to 24 semester hours approved by the students committee to the 68 hour requirement. The actual number of hours will be determined by Masters level and transfer credits earned and approved by the student's committee; mastery of the subject matter demonstrated through examination and research; and gaps identified in areas such as skills and methods required to conduct research or teach in the student's declared area of concentration.
All students accepted to the program must take a common set of foundation courses (44 SH) and pass a core competency examination (CCE) no later than the third semester following admission. This written examination is designed to confirm the student's mastery of core concepts and processes and academic readiness to advance to the selection of a primary field of study and will be prepared and administered by faculty teaching in the core curriculum.
Upon successful completion of this examination the student, in consultation with the major advisor and PhD committee will prepare a Plan of Study that identifies the primary concentration area (minimum 18 SH beyond the core), and secondary concentration area (minimum 6 SH beyond the core). Students who select Coastal Geosciences or Coastal and Estuarine Ecology as their primary area of concentration must choose Social Science and Policy as their secondary area of concentration; those who select social science and policy as their primary area of concentration can choose either estuarine ecology or geosciences as their secondary area of concentration.