UM Launches Joint Wildlife Biology and Public Administration Degree

January 08, 2020

MISSOULA – Recognizing an increasing demand for careers in wildlife biology and public and nonprofit administration, the University of Montana’s Master of Public Administration and Wildlife Biology programs have created a new joint degree. The program is one of the first of its kind in the country.

UM wildlife biology students practice telemetry on campus. UM students now have the option to complete a bachelor's degree in wildlife biology and a master's degree in public administration in five years.The program, referred to as a  “4+1” program, will allow UM students to earn both a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife biology and a two-year master’s degree in public administration at an accelerated pace of just five years  ̶  instead of the usual six.

The new degree program is led by Sara Rinfret, director of the Department of Public Administration and Policy in UM’s Alexander Blewett III School of Law, and Chad Bishop, director of UM’s Wildlife Biology Program. Wildlife Biology is a joint program of the University’s W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, the Division of Biological Sciences in UM’s College of Humanities and Sciences and the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit.

“Our programs are committed to serving workforce demands and our collaboration will help to strengthen the gap between science, policy and public service,” Rinfret said.

Students who graduate with both wildlife biology and MPA degrees will be prepared for leadership roles within government agencies and nonprofit organizations, Bishop said.

“Employers have consistently indicated a need for students majoring in wildlife biology to have a stronger foundation in public administration and policy,” Bishop said. “Our new joint program squarely addresses this need and we look forward to teaching and working with the many UM students who are interested in the program.”  

Rinfret and Bishop first met in early summer 2019 to develop an innovative program that gives wildlife biology students the advantage of enhancing their field work expertise with the core curriculum of UM’s MPA program, which includes training in human resource management, policy analysis, applied research methods, budgeting and finance, and public administration organization theory.

To be eligible for the program, UM students must be wildlife biology majors of at least junior standing with a 3.5 GPA.   

For more information visit the Department of Public Administration and Policy website at


Contact: Sara Rinfret, associate professor, director and chair, UM Public Administration Program, 406-243-4702,