The Human Environment Relations M.S. is a two-year graduate program. The research tradition within the Human Environment Relations major is based in the social sciences, and particularly on environmental psychology and human factors/ergonomics. Evidence-based design is fundamental to the major. The research conducted in HCD contributes to the knowledge base that guides design solutions. The underlying premise is that systematic, empirical research based in the social sciences--when combined with imagination--can contribute to the planning, design, and management of environments that enhance the individual and organizational effectiveness.

The M.S. program brings together faculty and students with expertise in the fields of interior design, industrial design, graphic design, architecture, art, building technology, environmental psychology, human factors/ergonomics, engineering, geography, and facility planning and management to work on problems related to the interior environment.

The M.S. in Human Environment Relations major rests on the following basic premises:

  • Development of the knowledge base guiding the planning, design, and management of physical settings requires systematic, empirical research.
  • Individual and organizational behaviors are affected by the form of the environment.
  • The users of environments are diverse and have different needs. Individual characteristics such as gender, stage in life cycle, family structure, role or task affect our environmental needs. In addition, organizational characteristics such as organizational culture, goals, and structure help to shape building form and use.
  • The planning, design, and management of good environments require consideration of all users, from owners, managers and administrators, to clerks, tenants, patients, and students.
  • Understanding organizational and human needs is no less critical than understanding financial, technological and aesthetic factors influencing the planning, design, and management of our physical surroundings.
  • The processes through which environments are planned, designed, and managed are as important as the physical designs themselves.

There are five concentrations within the Human Environment Relations major:

Environmental Psychology and Human Factors is a multi-disciplinary concentration that focuses on the inter-relations between humans and the physical environment at various scales.

Facility Planning and Management focuses on the planning, design, and management of facilities for complex organizations such a corporations, health care institutions and universities.

Sustainable Design Studies examines the development of a new worldview founded on a skeptical, critical approach to reasoning, a deep sensitivity for things living, and a broad understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of the human/nature relationship.

Emerging Technology for Design explores the development and application of various technologies -- from virtual and augmented reality to architectural robotics -- to foster the creation of beautiful environments that support/augment human activity and well-being.

Design + Health focuses on the many ways that environments we design can affect human physical health, mental health, and health-related behaviors. These explorations span various settings from home and community to schools, workplace, and healthcare settings.

M.S. Requirements

Curriculum requirements for each of the five concentrations within the M.S. in Human Environment Relations:

The M.S. degree is a two-year, post-professional degree program intended for students with a wide variety of undergraduate degrees who want to study the relationship between people and their physical surroundings, some aspect of facility planning and management, human factors, and design.

M.S. candidates must also select a minor from fields throughout the University. Students should identify their minor committee members early on in the program to ensure they have time to take the minor’s required courses, typically 1-2 courses total.

Prospective students are encouraged to check out our frequently asked questions below. If you have a question that you can't find the answer to, please contact the Graduate Field Assistant at deagrad@cornell.edu.

Applications are due December 1st. Application are accepted for Fall Admission only.  The application system opens August 15.

In addition to the online application via the Graduate School website, the following required documents must be submitted online:

  • Academic Statement of Purpose (within 500 words)
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts
  • GRE general test (The desired combined score should be greater than or equal to 310—for the new scoring system effective November 2011—or, a combined score of 1200 for the old scoring system.)
  • English Language Proficiency Requirement, As an international applicant, you must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by taking a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. (See exceptions)
  • TOEFL - test for International students (DEA overall minimum: 105, plus Graduate School minimums must be met for each section: writing: 20; listening: 15; reading: 20; speaking: 22)
  • OR IELTS - The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS

Funding is not provided for the M.S. degree. Please refer to the Graduate School Tuition and Cost web page for information.

Any questions, please contact the Graduate Field Assistant: deagrad@cornell.edu.

For additional information on how to apply, please visit the Graduate School Admissions web page.

Prospective Master Student Application Requirement FAQ

Contact the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), Jack Elliott, at jre15@cornell.edu or 607-255-9714.

No, you must make a choice at the time of application.

Yes, the Graduate School can help with this, but you must still adhere to our requirements and deadlines. 

No, we only have one admission cycle, applications are due in December for Master’s; students start in the Fall semester.

All application materials are submitted online via the Graduate School’s application system (available on the web at: http://www.gradschool.cornell.edu/admissions/applying/apply-now). 

A portfolio is required for the MA in Design (both the Interior Design concentration and the Sustainable Design Studies concentration), but not for the MS degree.

No, D+EA does not offer any scholarships. We encourage you to identify outside scholarships and apply for them.

If you have an outside scholarships, the terms vary.  Often, the tuition waiver can be 50%.

D+EA does not provide assistantships to Master’s students.

Yes. Note that GRE scores must be less than five years old and TOEFL/IELTS scores must be dated within two years of the application deadline.

No. Academic letters of recommendation are valuable; however recommendations should be from people who can best assess the qualities, characteristics, and capabilities of the applicant. 

Cornell’s institutional test code for ETS is 2098. DEA’s department code is 4499.

D+EA recommends a combined verbal/quantitative GRE score of 310 but this is not an absolute cutoff. Candidates with strong applications, but scores below 310, may be considered. You may submit scores to D+EA more than once if you re-take the test. Your scores may not be older than 5 years.  Please plan to take the GRE in time to submit your scores by the application due date.

No, the GREs can't be waived.

We strongly encourage you to take the GRE and TOEFL/IELTS tests early enough that your scores will be received by our application due date. We may allow some latitude, however. If your official scores have not arrived by the due date, but your unofficial scores have, we may hold your application if approved by the DGS. Your scores are automatically reported to Cornell by the testing service (ETS) as soon as they are ready, and the Graduate Field Assistant will automatically add them to your application packet.

Yes. GREs can be retaken, but scores must be submitted by the application deadline. 

he answer to this question depends upon the degree and concentration to which you apply. 

  • For the MA in Design, a prior undergraduate studio based degree in design (e.g. interior design, architecture, product design, etc.). For the MA in Design, Sustainable Design Studies concentration, a prior degree in a design-related field is preferred, but not required. 
  • For the MS in Human-Environment Relations, no specific prior degree is required for any of the concentrations. Students often have undergraduate degrees in Psychology, Architecture, or Interior Design; but sometimes in English, Economics, Anthropology or other fields.

D+EA recommends a GPA of 3.0 (minimum), but this is not an absolute cutoff. 

The online application requires you to upload an unofficial copy of each official transcript from each college or university previously attended. To prepare your transcripts, follow the steps below:

  1. Do not upload transcripts that include a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN). Redact, cross out, or cover your SSN, if applicable, prior to scanning the document.
  2. The online application will not accept or properly display encrypted or password-protected documents. Official electronic transcripts (e-transcripts) must be printed first, then scanned and uploaded.
  3. Scan or save each transcript (and the English translation, if applicable) as a PDF, TIFF, JPEG, or GIF file. Combine multiple pages from the same transcript into one file; the file size for each upload cannot exceed 10MB. 
  4. Ensure each scanned or saved image is clear and easy to read before submitting your application.

Admitted students who accept the admission offer are required to submit an official paper transcript prior to matriculation. This requirement will appear on the “response to offer of admission” form. For more information visit: https://gradschool.cornell.edu/admissions/prepare/transcripts/

 It is advised that you periodically check your application on line to see if your application is complete, especially if you are waiting for letters of recommendation to be uploaded. D+EA’s Graduate Field Assistant may, as a courtesy, send you a reminder if you have missing information when the committee begins to review applications. If you have questions, please contact D+EA’s Graduate Field Assistant at deagrad@cornell.edu or 607-255-2168.

Yes, we allow deferments up to one year, but this must be decided when responding to the department’s offer.  To request a deferral, by the "reply by" date (typically April 15) an applicant must first accept the offer of admission and then request (and provide a reason for) the deferral.  Applicants cannot defer admission after declining our offer; instead the applicant must re-apply.

If you would like to schedule a visit, you should first make an appointment with D+EA’s DGS. If you would like to meet with other D+EA Faculty, you could also schedule meetings with them while you are on campus. Many students also enjoy taking a walking tour of campus while they are here: http://www.cornell.edu/visiting/ithaca/walking_tours.cfm.    Other useful links include the campus map and the Visit Ithaca web site: http://www.visitithaca.com/

Master's Program FAQ

The career trajectories of our graduates are quite diverse.  Some work as designers or design researchers, as design educators, as ergonomists or environmental psychologists.  Some go on to pursue Ph.D.’s in psychology, architecture, gerontology.

No, D+EA does not offer online classes for the master’s program.

Yes.  Both the M.A. in Design and the M.S. in Human Environment Relations are STEM certified.

Yes, M.A. and M.S. students are expected to be on campus for the duration of the 2-year degree. For more information please see Cornell Living.

No, you must make a choice at the time of application. 

 Unfortunately, we are unable to provide Teaching Assistantships (TA’s) to our M.A. and M.S. students. Occasionally, our students are able to find TA positions in other departments.

Note that for the M.A. in Design, there are 4 concentrations:

  1. Design for Interaction
  2. Emerging Technology for Design
  3. Design + Health
  4. Sustainable Design Studies

For the M.S. in Human-Environment Relations, there are 5 concentrations:

  1. Environmental Psychology and Human Factors
  2. Facility Planning and Management
  3. Sustainable Design Studies
  4. Emerging Technology for Design
  5. Design + Health

To be your “chair” (advisor) the faculty member must be a member of the D+EA graduate field AND be among the faculty specified for your concentration.  For this information, please see the D+EA Graduate School page.

Yes.  As long as the faculty member is a member of the graduate field you would like to minor in.

Yes, but this is on a case-by-case basis, and the D+EA Graduate Faculty (and the faculty member who teaches the required course) will make decisions as to what waivers are allowed or not allowed. Typically, you will need to provide a syllabus for your prior course(s).