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The MELP is a 30-credit master's program with three required courses (adding up to 9 credits) and five core courses from which students select three courses (adding up to an additional 9 credits) to ensure that they have a broad interdisciplinary foundation. The remaining credits allow students to conduct independent research projects, pursue externships, and/or focus their classroom learning by choosing from the 50-plus courses in the VLS environmental curriculum related to land, water, climate, energy, and the general environment.

The required courses include:

A Public Law course that educates students in the basic design and operation of the public law-making systems at the federal, state, and local levels, including the development and implementation of administrative law.

An Environmental Law course that surveys the different approaches to environmental protection and natural resource management adopted in the United States and examines major U.S. environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

A Communications, Advocacy and Leadership course that trains students to be effective public policy advocates, to use modern communication tools, and to organize and lead environmental management and policy organizations.

The core courses (students pick three out of five) include:

An Environmental Economics and Markets course that addresses the fundamental principles of economic theory with a particular emphasis on the economic analysis of environmental problems, economic aspects of regulatory policies, and the use of economic tools to solve environmental problems.

A Science for Environmental Law course that surveys the scientific underpinnings of environmental regulatory policies and addresses the challenges of converting sound scientific data and analysis into effective public policy.

A Natural Resources Law course that surveys the major programs and statutes guiding management of the nation's public lands and the conservation of wildlife resources.

An Environmental Ethics distributional requirement designed to introduce students to some of the fundamental ethical issues posed by environmental problems and their potential solutions, which can be satisfied by taking one course from a list of approved ethics courses.

A Dispute Resolution distributional requirement designed to educate students in one of several techniques for resolving environmental disputes, which can be satisfied by taking one course from a list of approved dispute resolution courses.

Apart from these requirements, students can design their own course of study by choosing electives from any of the following subject areas:

  • Dispute Resolution
  • Energy and Climate Change
  • Environmental Business
  • Environmental Ethics
  • International Environmental Law
  • Land Use Law
  • Natural Resources Law
  • Ocean and Coastal Law
  • Pollution Prevention and Abatement
  • Water Law


One-on-one academic advising is available to help students choose courses, identify valuable experiential opportunities, and otherwise take advantage of the extensive environmental program at VLS.

Summer Session

An important feature of the MELP degree program is the Summer Session at Vermont Law School, studying environmental law and participating in a community of fellow students and scholars exploring the cutting edge of environmental law and policy. The summer faculty, including regular VLS faculty, scholars from other law schools and other nations, public-interest advocates, experienced government attorneys, and lawyers from private practice, teach approximately 35 courses in five two- or three-week terms between early June and early August.

Students typically spend three hours in the classroom four days a week, leaving ample time to enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities in the Green Mountain State, such as tubing down the White River, hiking the Long Trail, or enjoying a leisurely meal in South Royalton or any of the many other picturesque villages surrounding the law school.

The law school also hosts four Distinguished Summer Scholars who are leaders in environmental law, energy law and policy, agriculture and food, and international law. Each of these scholars is available to meet with students during their two-week residencies. In addition, the summer faculty, the Distinguished Summer Scholars, VLS Media Fellows, and other visitors offer several lunchtime "Hot Topics" lectures each week over the course of the summer term.

Download the MELP Guidelines (.pdf).

Download the Summers-Only Non-law MELP Guidelines (.pdf) for non-law students.

Download the Summers-Only MELP Guidelines (.pdf) for students at other law schools.

Download the Environmental Law Courses by Subject Area (.pdf)

View the complete list of MELP Courses.

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning opportunities with state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and advocacy groups ensure that MELP graduates are prepared for the first day on the job. Most MELP students pursue an externship for academic credit, either on a part-time basis with one of Vermont's many environmental organizations and agencies while also taking classes on campus, or full time for a semester after completing their coursework at VLS. These "fourth semester"" externships allow students to gain experience on the ground in the same city or town where they plan to pursue a career. Visit our Master's Externships page for more information.


Students who wish to pursue a particular specialty within environmental law may obtain a certificate in Climate Change Law, Energy Law, Land Use Law, or Water Resources Law. More information about the VLS environmental certificates is available here.