Master of Marine Affairs Program Overview

What is the Master of Marine Affairs Degree?

The Master of Marine Affairs (MMA) degree is a professional degree for college graduates and mid-career government and industry officials interested in an interdisciplinary, human-dimensions focused education in the field of marine and environmental affairs. SMEA educates students about contemporary issues in marine systems, policy, and management, helping them to become tomorrow’s leaders and stewards of marine and environmental resources. The MMA is a two-year, in-residence graduate program of studies.

Who Should Apply to the MMA Program at SMEA?

Students with a wide variety of educational, cultural, and work experience are encouraged to apply, so that the student body reflects the diversity and multidisciplinary interactions of the marine and environmental affairs field. Students with natural science degrees find an opportunity to learn more about the context in which science and technology are applied, while those grounded in the social sciences or professional fields can develop skills in the management of marine and environmental resource problems.

Please visit the "Areas of Concentration" section to learn more about the diversity of study possible at SMEA and for more information about Admissions requirements and procedures, please visit our Admissions page.

Now Two Tracks to the MMA Degree: Professional and Thesis

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.

Why Two Tracks?

SMEA has implemented these curriculum changes to better meet the needs of today's MMA students. SMEA has always served students preparing for careers as practitioners as well as those who are focused on academic or research-oriented careers. The Professional track will allow practice-oriented students to obtain vital "real-world" experince through applied learning via the capstone project, which will typically be performed by small groups in service to a real-world client. The Thesis track will allow research-oriented students to develop and hone research skills appropriate for academic careers. Regardless of which track a student chooses, all MMA students will graduate with the same well-rounded, interdisciplinary training that SMEA has provided for 35 years.

What's the Difference?

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.

Please read the MMA Curriculum Page for a detailed explanation of the different degree requirements for the two tracks.

The curriculum is an evolving process, and as such, requirements vary among entering class. The entering class of 2013, for example, has slightly different requirements from the entering class of 2014. The entering class of 2015 will have different requirements because of the new curriculum choices, and so on. Please refer to the appropriate Program of Studies for explicit requirements for your entering class.

How Do I Select 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.

Applicants are encouraged to talk with our Graduate Program Advisor, Tiffany Dion (email: or phone: 206-543-0106), to discuss which track is right for you.