Graduate Program

The Master of Science in Geosciences provides an advanced degree that prepares students to work in private industry or government agencies, teach in community colleges or high schools, or continue postgraduate studies leading to a doctoral degree at another university. The graduate program also gives professional geoscientists an opportunity to update and upgrade their job skills.

The Department of Earth & Climate Sciences’ faculty has expertise in geology, hydrology, oceanography, and paleoclimatology –fields critical to understanding many environmental problems, such as air and water contamination, active faulting, coastal erosion, and global warming. There are no formal concentrations within the M.S. program, but most students choose to emphasize research that is aligned with the faculty area of expertise. We encourage students to work on interdisciplinary projects, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. We also encourage students to develop linkages with other departments in the university, and with agencies and firms in the local region.

All students take courses in their respective areas of emphasis plus a common core of three courses: ERTH 700, a seminar that acquaints students with the M.S. program and research in the department; and ERTH 701 and 702, research and quantitative methods courses that prepare students for thesis research. M.S. thesis projects are expected to be grounded rigorously in the sciences and will often involve extensive laboratory, field, and/or computer work.

We strongly recommend that students plan a course of study before beginning the M.S. program, in consultation with a faculty advisor in their area of research interest and the graduate coordinator.

Geoscientists contribute the basic information to society for analyzing problems and establishing policy for resource management, environmental protection, and hazard assessment. Dwindling energy, mineral, and water resources, and increasing environmental concern about global issues such as climate change and sea level rise, present challenges that create a demand for geoscientific expertise.

Graduates of the program are currently working in a wide range of fields in the earth sciences. For the next decade, geologists will find the greatest opportunities in the broad areas of environmental and engineering geology; for example, surface and groundwater hydrology studies aimed at characterizing and remediating toxic sites, assessing earthquake and landslide hazards, developing restoration plans for river and coastal environments, and evaluating sites for urban planning or construction. There also continue to be positions available in petroleum geology and mineral exploration. Recent job trends suggest that the strongest candidates, regardless of the area of specialization, will have a master’s degree, several years of experience, and an interdisciplinary background with strong chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer skills. Earth scientists in the San Francisco Bay Area are employed by a very large number of government agencies and environmental consulting firms.

The M.S. in Geosciences is excellent preparation for a community college or high school teaching career, or for entry into a doctoral program leading to a career in university teaching and/or research. The increased emphasis on science in high schools and the California mandate for earth science education in the elementary science curriculum provide many opportunities for teachers trained in the geosciences. Graduate students have opportunities to gain teaching skills through employment as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) or through course offerings in the SF –SEPAL center. 

To be considered for admission to the master's program as a classified graduate student, applicants must:

(1) Satisfy the University admission requirements.
(2) Have a bachelor's degree in one of the geosciences (geology, meteorology, or oceanography).
(3) Have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 in geoscience and related science and math courses.
(4) Provide letters of recommendation from at least 2 persons familiar with the applicant's previous academic work and/or professional accomplishments.
(5) Submit a statement of purpose.

Applicants lacking the appropriate background (i.e., geoscience degree) may be admitted as conditionally classified graduate students. These students must complete additional course work that will not be counted toward the graduate requirements. Conditionally admitted students take courses but may not file a Graduate Approved Program (GAP) until the conditions have been fulfilled.

The Department of Earth & Climate Sciences will meet three times to review applications for the Fall semester. Applications that are completed by January 15 are considered in the first round of reviews and be considered for financial support (NOTE: applicants who want to be considered for Department fellowships and other financial support must submit their application by January 15th). If seats remain available in the program, the committee will consider applicants who complete their applications by February 15th. During the final meeting, the committee will consider applicants who complete their applications by March 1st.

The Department of Earth & Climate Sciences requires perspective students to submit the following material:

  • Personal Statement
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcripts: You are required to upload legible unofficial transcripts from each college or university attended, including study abroad or community college coursework.  An incomplete academic history will significantly delay review of your application.  The Division of Graduate Studies may request official transcripts from you at any point during the application review process.  If selected for admission, you will be required to submit official transcripts to the Division of Graduate Studies in order to secure your offer of admission.

In addition, students should contact faculty they are interested in working with; identifying an advisor is essential to program admission.

In your personal statement please indicate if you are interested in working as a Graduate Student Assistant.  If you would like to be considered for financial support, please add one paragraph outlining your financial need to your statement of purpose.

All application material should be submitted at:

If you have questions about the program or application process, please contact the graduate coordinator (John Caskey;

Admission to the M.S. Graduate Program is separate from scholarship consideration. Applications to scholarships are separate from, and in addition to, the application to the graduate program. Students who are interested in applying for Department and College scholarships should visit, and enter into the Search bar the names of Department Fellowships, such as "Dempsey", "Monteverdi", "Grove", "Pestrong" in addition to searching through scholarships offered through COSE (College of Science and Engineering).