Graduate Degree Information

Earning a Masters Degree in Earth Science

Sierra NevadaThe department offers a Master of Science in Earth Science. MS candidates follow an integrated course of study recommended by their placement committee and Graduate Advisor.

To earn our MS degree, you must pass the Competency Exam, complete research in Earth Science under faculty supervision, prepare a satisfactory thesis, and fulfill the following course requirements: Earth 201A and 201B; Earth 260 each quarter while in residence; one unit of Earth 268 (Oral Presentation of Research); plus thirty additional units of electives and/or assignments from your placement committee (at least twenty of which must be from graduate courses). Note that Earth 260 and all 500-series courses (except 596) are excluded from these thirty course units.

Competency Examination
In the Competency Examination, you must demonstrate—by preparation and presentation of one research paper and by oral examination—competence in the field of specialization and the sciences relevant to your field(s) of interest.

 

Questions? Ask Yann Ricard, Graduate Program Coordinator, via email or telephone (805) 893-3329.

 

Earning a PhD in Earth Science

The department’s Ph.D. encompasses study in any of the branches of Earth Science.Grand Canyon

To earn our PhD degree, you must pass the Competency and the Qualifying milestone exams, complete a body of research in Earth Science, prepare a satisfactory doctoral dissertation, present a thesis defense, and fulfill the following course requirements: Earth 201A and 201B; Earth 260 each quarter while in residence; one unit of Earth 268 (Oral Presentation of Research); plus thirty additional units of electives and/or assignments from your placement committee (at least twenty of which must be in graduate courses). Note that Earth 260 and all 500-series courses (except 596) do not count towards the thirty unit requirement.

Competency (“Comps”) Exam 
For the Competency Examination, you must demonstrate—by preparation and presentation of one research paper and by oral examination—superior competence in the field of specialization and the sciences relevant to your fields of interest. The Competency Exam is a milestone exam. You must pass Comps to continue in the program. 

Qualifying Exam  (resulting in Advancement to Candidacy)
For your Qualifying Exam, you will discuss during a 20 minute presentation and 60-90 minute Q&A, a formal dissertation proposal describing your research as outlined in a written document submitted in advance to your committee. Distinct from the Comps, in which you described a single project, the Quals are where you present your plan for your entire thesis, including both work already completed and detailed plans for the remainder of your dissertation research. Quals are where faculty evaluate the feasibility of your proposed research projects, and help you reshape their design as needed.

The Qualifying Exam is normally taken during your third year (usually by the end of your third spring quarter). Students who arrive with an MS degree may—but are not required to—take their Qualifying Exam during their second year. Under extenuating circumstances, Quals may be taken during the following summer, but this exam must be completed by the first day of fall quarter to remain within degree normative time. Quals are a milestone exam. You must pass Quals to continue in the program. 

Thesis Defense
For your thesis defense (held after a draft of your dissertation has been approved by your doctoral committee), you will present the principal findings of your thesis research in an open forum, then defend your conclusions in a closed door session with your doctoral committee.

 

Questions? Ask Yann Ricard, Graduate Program Coordinator, via email or telephone (805) 893-3329.