M.S. and Ph.D. students are funded by a combination of research assistantships, teaching assistantships, and fellowships that provide a stipend, health insurance, and pay for graduate tuition and fees. Students supported by funded research projects often receive financial support for expenses associated with their graduate research projects. Financial support is seldom available for MPS students.

It is important to recognize that financial support for graduate students in the Field of Natural Resources is quite variable and largely depends on whether the student’s faculty advisor has financial support for a research assistantship. Each assistantship and fellowship may differ in the amount and duration of support (e.g., whether or not summer funding is included). In addition, some types of funding directly support the student’s research whereas other financial support may require and assistantship on a different research project or serving as a teaching assistant.

Finally, support may come entirely from the faculty member or an outside agency, or may be a joint responsibility of the student and faculty member. Thus, it is important that you discuss specifics about funding with your potential faculty advisor.

Funding Categories

Research Assistantships (RAs): RAs perform non-thesis research on a faculty’s research project.

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs): GRAs perform research directly related to their thesis or dissertation.

RAs and GRAs are awarded to students by individual faculty members, usually the chair of the special committee. Funding for these research assistantships is typically provided by a research grant to the faculty member, and the graduate student participates as part of the research team. In general, RAs and GRAs are available to M.S. and Ph.D. students only.

RA and GRA assignments follow the university calendar rather than the academic year calendar. When the university is closed for official university holidays, RAs and GRAs are not expected to perform assistantship duties. In situations where students are required to perform duties on university holidays, the faculty supervisor and student should make arrangements for other time off. If a student needs time away from his/her duties, he/she should confer with the faculty supervisor to establish a schedule to make up the time. Summer assistantships carry a 10-week assignment with 13-week pay period. For more detailed information, see the Graduate Student Assistantships policy website.

Teaching Assistantships (TAs): An academic appointment in support of the teaching of a course.  The assignment is usually in the student’s major field or a closely related one.

Teaching Assistantships in Natural Resources are awarded to students by the Chair of the Department of Natural Resources, based on requests by faculty for support for their graduate students and on the needs of specific courses. Graduate students interested in a Teaching Assistantship should discuss available options with the chair of their special committee during the Spring semester prior to the academic year when support is needed. M.S. and Ph.D. students receive priority in receiving TA allocations. Some graduate students serve as teaching assistants for courses in other departments (e.g., Introductory Biology courses). Graduate students interested in TA positions in other Departments should contact the relevant department.

TA assignments follow the academic year calendar (approximately August 16-May 15). All TAs who have no prior TA experience are expected to participate in a TA training program in their respective field, their college, or the program provided by the Office of Instructional Support. International students from countries whose first language is not English are required to participate in the Summer International TA Development Program. Additional requirements for international students serving as teaching assistants are provided at the International Teaching Assistant Development Program website.


Fellowships generally are designated for specific categories of students and are awarded competitively. Most fellowships are provided by a government agency or non-profit organization, though several fellowships are awarded through Cornell University. Requirements for these fellowships vary depending on the source of funding. Following are some internal and external fellowships that have often provided support for Natural Resources graduate students:

  • Cornell University Graduate Fellowship: One academic year fellowship for an entering Ph.D. student with superior academic credentials. No work requirement. During the admission process, students are nominated by their perspective graduate advisor.
  • Presidential Life Science Fellowships: The Presidential Life Fellowship (PLSF) promotes broad and integrative inquiry by providing a novel platform for first year graduate students to launch an integrated system for research and education that brings together the field of organismal biology, molecular biology, computational sciences, physical sciences/engineering, and social sciences into a common and highly interactive network. During recruitment season, the DGS may nominate outstanding applicants to be considered for Fellowships.  Typically, 10 appointments are made university-wide, spread broadly among Life Sciences Fields.  Preference is given to interdisciplinary nominees, and there is an expectation of outstanding grades, GRE scores, statements of purpose, and letters of recommendation.  There are three submission deadlines each recruitment season.  The PLSF covers the first two semesters of Ph.D. work and the minimum stipend for the first summer.  Awardees are required to rotate in three labs on campus, at least one of which must be outside the anticipated home Field. 
  • Cornell Sloan & Colman Diversity Fellowship Program: The Cornell Sloan and Cornell Colman Fellowships are designed to increase the diversity of Cornell's graduate student population. These fellowships are administered by the Diversity Programs in Engineering (DPE) Office and are funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Colman Family Foundation, and the Cornell Graduate School.
  • Criteria for the Diversity, Cornell, and other University fellowships can be found on the Graduate School website.
  • National Science Foundation Fellowship: For beginning Ph.D. students. Limited to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
  • Edmund S. Muskie Fellowship: Available to M.S. and MPS students from countries comprising the former Soviet Union.
  • Fulbright Fellowship: Available to international students.