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One-of-a-kind program lets fisheries and wildlife professionals pursue a master’s online

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Continuing its trailblazing trend in distance education, Oregon State University this year will become the first institution in the country to offer an online professional science master’s degree in the field of fisheries and wildlife. (More information is available online at

Set to be unveiled this spring and offered online via OSU Ecampus, the Professional Science Master’s in Fisheries and Wildlife Administration (PSMFWA) gives students access to a graduate-level degree and “real-world experience” while accelerating their careers in related fields such as biology, ecological management and natural resources.

And it presents a unique opportunity previously unavailable in the United States.

“There is a need for training opportunities for working professionals, particularly those who desire an advanced degree and who may be seeking a management or supervisory role,” said OSU’s Selina Heppell, the program director and a fisheries ecologist. “In most cases, these are people who can’t commit to residency on campus because of work and family. PSMFWA provides an opportunity for an advanced degree in a flexible, online format.”

The cutting-edge element is nothing new for OSU’s renowned Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Science. It rolled out an online bachelor’s degree (the first of its kind in the U.S.) in 2009, and the success of that program – coupled with the demand for advanced online coursework in the discipline – led to the latest educational innovation.

“We have worked hard to translate our on-campus excellence in teaching and advising to the fast-growing world of distance education,” Heppell said. “With our new online program, we hope to extend our expertise to a broader audience across the country and internationally.”

Designed for students who work for agencies, nonprofits or conservation foundations, Oregon State’s online PSMFWA includes training courses in communication, leadership, business practices and ethics – skills that are necessary to effectively supervise people while managing natural resources.

Additionally, all students are required to complete an internship project with a natural resource agency. To set up those internships, OSU will connect students with supervisors across the country.

It’s that invaluable networking component that Heppell sees as the program’s biggest benefit.

“By requiring a strong foundation in natural sciences and human dimensions and ‘real-world experience’ through internships, we assure that our graduates are well prepared for a variety of jobs in conservation biology and natural resource management,” she said. “We really pushed for an experiential component to this degree program.”

The new master’s program, spearheaded by department head Dan Edge, will admit about 10-15 students per year. All applicants must have at least five years of work experience in a natural resource field.


About OSU Extended Campus: Through comprehensive online degree programs and courses, Oregon State Ecampus provides adult learners with access to a high-quality education no matter where they live. OSU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and recently ranked OSU among the nation’s 25 top colleges that administer online degrees. Learn more about Ecampus online degrees and programs by visiting