Graduate Degree Information

Earning a Masters Degree in Earth Science

The department offers a Master of Sciences in Earth ScienceSierra Nevada. M.S. candidates follow an integrated course of study recommended by a placement committee and the graduate advisor.

The student must demonstrate, by course work and by preparation of one research paper and by oral comprehensive examination, superior competence in the field of specialization, broad knowledge in the geological sciences, and satisfactory knowledge of sciences other than geology that are relevant to the fields of interest.

In addition to the above composition requirements, the M.S. degrees are normally earned by preparation of a satisfactory thesis; completion of Geology 201A and 201B; Geology 260 each quarter while in residence; completion of 1 unit of Geology 268, Oral Presentation of Research; and completion of 30 units (at least 20 units in graduate courses). Geology 260 and all 500-series courses (except 596) are excluded from these graduate course units.

M.S. degree candidates in geophysics must complete research in geophysics under faculty supervision. Master of Science degree candidates may also be required to present a defense of the thesis in open forum.

Please contact:
Yann Ricard, Graduate Program Assistant , via email or telephone (805) 893-3329.

Earning a PhD in Earth Science

The Ph.D. in Earth Science encompasses study in any of the branches of geology and geophysics. To earn the Ph.D., a Grand Canyonstudent must prepare a satisfactory doctoral dissertation; complete Geology 201A and 201B; enroll in Geology 260 each quarter while in residence; complete 1 units of Geology 268, Oral Presentation of Research; and complete 30 units of geology units (at least 20 units in graduate courses). Geology 260 and all 500-series courses (except 596) are excluded from these graduate course units. In addition, students must successfully complete the following:

Comprehensive Exam

— The student must demonstrate, by course work and by preparation of one research paper and by oral examination, superior competence in the field of specialization, broad knowledge in the geological sciences, and satisfactory knowledge of sciences other than geology that are relevant to the fields of interest.

Qualifying Exam (leading to advancement to candidacy)

The Qualifying Exam is required for Advancing to Candidacy. The exam must be taken sometime in your 3rd year, which normally means by the end of the spring quarter of your 3rd year. (An exception to this is students who arrive with an MS degree: they may--but don't have to--take the Qualifying Exam during their 2nd year.) Under extenuating circumstances, the exam may be taken during the summer; in that case it must be completed by the first day of fall quarter or you will have exceeded normative time.
 
The Qualifying Exam is a milestone exam; you must pass Quals in order to continue in the program. Two weeks before the exam, students should submit a formal dissertation proposal (no more than 10 pages of text) that describes their proposed research. The exam itself consists of a ~20-minute presentation of the dissertation proposal by the student, followed by Q & A from the Dissertation committee for a period of approximately 60-90 minutes. 
 
Note that the Qualifying Exam is distinct from the Comprehensive Exam taken in the second year. In the latter, students present the results of a single research project; during Quals, students will be presenting the plan for their entire thesis, including, perhaps, a quick summary of work that's already completed, but, more importantly, chapters where the research has yet to begin. This is critical: you don't want to  find out in your 5th year that the research for your final thesis chapter is poorly designed and the methods make no sense! Quals is where faculty evaluate the feasibility of your proposed research projects, and help you reshape their design as needed. Think of it as an opportunity to get useful critical feedback on your plans for the next two years. 
 

Thesis defense

— A dissertation must be prepared in a professional style and approved by the committee. The candidate is required to present its principal conclusions in open forum.

Please contact:
Yann Ricard, Graduate Program Assistant , via email or telephone (805) 893-3329.