Graduate Program

Master of Science degree in Environmental Systems—Geology Concentration is one of four options in the Master's of Science program in Environmental Systems.

The Geology Concentration, during its first year, gives a quantitative and qualitative background for research in applied geology. Students usually spend their summers on thesis research. The second year is devoted to research, data analysis, and writing the thesis. Career possibilities: field geologist, engineering geologist, exploration geophysicist, hydrologist, and marine geologist.

We are a small graduate program that matriculates 3-4 new graduate students each year. We emphasize basic research and your graduate experience will revolve around your thesis research done with a mentor. The program consists of a set of required courses (including course options) as well as completion of the  Masters thesis. Courses usually take three semesters to complete, but we expect that you will establish your thesis and get it rolling while you are completing classes.

The thesis is an original, curiosity-driven piece of independent research. The thesis is carried out under the mentorship of a primary adviser within the Geology Department.

How long to complete your master's degree? Residence time for course and thesis completion takes two to three years.  Most graduate student residencies are closer to three years.

You can apply to our program without initially aligning yourself with a potential thesis advisor. However, we suggest you look through our Faculty and Research Associates on the geology home page and contact those faculty with whom you may want to work.

Thesis topics: Historically, our specialty has been (and still is) Quaternary geology, geomorphology and neotectonics; but theses may be completed in any field for which there is faculty mentorship available.  Over the years, most Masters theses have been completed in the general areas of neotectonics or Quaternary geology. But we have had theses completed (or now ongoing) in structural geology, tectonics, economic geology, petrology and micropaleontology/climate change.

Required Courses

  • Graduate Orientation in Environmental Systems (one-time, one day)
  • Topics in Environmental Systems (one course, many options can fulfill this requirement)
  • Graduate Colloquium in Environmental Systems (one course taken by all Environmental Systems graduate students)
  • Data Collection & Analysis (a required statistics course specially designed for, and required of, all Environmental Systems graduate students).
  • Fluvial Processes (within the Geology Department)
  • Hillslope Processes (within the Geology Department)
  • Quaternary Stratigraphy (within the Geology Department)
  • Advanced Geology Field Methods (within the Geology Department)
  • Neotectonics (within the Geology Department)
  • And other relevant courses to reach a required 30-credit minimum. Courses (from other programs) that we encourage to fulfill the additional credits include GIS-skills courses, mathematical modeling (especially Matlab-related) and a soil genesis and classification course.

For a specific list of course requirements that encapsulates the above requirements in an official catalog format please view the Geology option for the Environmental Systems Master of Science.