The Professional Track and the Thesis Track

Beginning with the class admitted for Autumn Quarter 2015, SMEA has established two curriculum tracks for completion of the MMA degree: the Professional track and the Thesis track.

Students choosing the Professional track will complete a capstone project, while those choosing the Thesis track will perform research leading to a scholarly publication. Students in both tracks must complete coursework in addition to their capstone or thesis research, and all students must complete a total of 59 credits to graduate. Prior to this change, all MMA students were required to write a thesis except those few students who qualified and petitioned to complete the degree without writing a thesis.

What Are the Two Tracks’ Degree Requirements?

All students must complete 59 credits to graduate, but the two tracks differ in the balance of coursework versus research and in the number of elective versus required courses that comprise those 59 credits. Also, in selected cases, and with faculty approval, students in the Professional track may complete the degree through a “courses only” approach. The table below illustrates the difference degree requirements for the two tracks:

 Course Course Number Professional Track credits Thesis Track credits
Introduction to the HDGCME SMEA 500 3 3
Tools for Integrated Marine Affairs Practice SMEA 501 3 3
Decision Making & Action Taking SMEA 502 3 3
Marine Law SMEA 506 or 515 3 3
Policy Analysis SMEA 519 3 3
Environmental/Resource Economics SMEA 530 or FISH 561 3  3
Policy Processes SMEA 507 or 521 3 3
Marine Science SMEA 510 or 591 3 3
Research Skills (Statistics) TBD with advisor 3 6
First Year Advising SMEA 600B 2 2
ELECTIVE COURSES TBD with advisor 21 12
CAPSTONE, ADDITIONAL ELECTIVES, or THESIS credits  SMEA 650, 700, or TBD  with advisor 9 15
TOTAL 59 59

The curriculum is an evolving process, as such, requirements vary among entering class. Please refer to the appropriate Program of Studies for explicit requirements for your entering class.

Selecting a Track

Students will self-select into either the Professional or Thesis track at the time they apply for admission to the MMA program. Adjustments can be made within the first three quarters of study, following petition by the student and approval by faculty. Admission to the Thesis track requires concurrence of a faculty advisor, and students in the Thesis track must propose a research project and establish their thesis committee by the end of spring quarter of their first year.


Please contact Tiffany Dion, Graduate Program Advisor, at or (206) 543-0106.

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