Graduate Degree Program(s)

Doctoral Degree in Geophysics

The interdisciplinary doctoral program in geophysics encourages students with a variety of undergraduate backgrounds to pursue graduate study in the physics of the Earth, with special emphasis on the interior of the planet. Students specialize in one of the subfields of geophysics while gaining a broad, general background in the discipline and in-depth education in the relevant aspects of the parent fields of geology, physics, and engineering.

Students enter the program by applying for admission to one of the following departments:

  • aerospace engineering sciences;
  • astrophysical and planetary sciences;
  • civil, environmental, and architectural engineering;
  • electrical and computer engineering;
  • geography; geological sciences;
  • mechanical engineering; or
  • physics

Upon satisfactory performance on the doctoral preliminary examination given by the home department, the student may formally apply for admission to the geophysics doctoral program.

The program is administered by the geophysics graduate program committee, which includes representatives from each of the participating departments. The comprehensive examination and the dissertation defense are directed by this committee, with a faculty member of the home department normally chairing these procedures.

For more information, please consult the Geophysics Studies Program website at

Hydrologic Sciences

The CU-Boulder Hydrologic Sciences Graduate Program focuses on quantitative studies of water in the environment including its role in geologic and biogeochemical processes, ecosystem functions, and global elemental cycling. The program is interdisciplinary and interdepartmental. It is intended for science and engineering graduate students, both currently enrolled and prospective. It allows students to obtain recognition for their accomplishments in hydrologic sciences and demonstrates the quantitative multidisciplinary education desired by many prospective employers.

Students can choose to enroll for a full Hydrologic Sciences PhD degree or obtain a hydrologic sciences graduate certificate while concurrently obtaining a master’s or doctoral degree in an associated academic department. Prerequisites and course requirements are identical for the PhD degree and graduate certificate. 

Students are members of the broader CU-Boulder Geophysical Sciences Program, which has two specialization options: solid-Earth geophysics and hydrologic sciences. All hydrologic sciences students are admitted through one of the participating departments: civil, environmental, and architectural engineering; ecology and evolutionary biology; environmental studies; geography; or geological sciences.

Students may apply for admission either concurrently with their application to one of the participating departments or after admission by a department. The program is designed to encourage students with a variety of undergraduate backgrounds to enter the field. Nevertheless, all students in the program must have a substantial background in math and physics, including fluid dynamics. At the time of acceptance, the student will be informed of any undergraduate deficiencies that they will need to address within the first year in the program. 

Most hydrologic sciences students conduct research with participating departments, research institutes, and centers (e.g., INSTAAR), or partner government agency labs in the Boulder area (e.g., USGS and NOAA). Primary supervision of the student’s research may be provided by any faculty member approved by the department.

Additional information is available at, or by contacting the Graduate Coordinator, Hydrologic Sciences Graduate Program, University of Colorado Boulder, 450 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0450,

Certificate Program

Geophysics Certificate

The geophysics graduate certificate offers a coherent curriculum in geophysics that can complement and supplement a student's regular degree program and encourages multi-disciplinary education in the area of geophysics. The geophysics certificate program allows students to obtain recognition for their accomplishments in geophysics, without having to switch into the geophysics degree program. This program was approved by the CU-Boulder Graduate School, spring 2002.


All students must take at least three geophysics core courses, and the Geophysics Seminar course, listed below. At least one of the three geophysics core courses must be from the earth and planetary physics (EPP) series, and at least one of the remaining core classes taken must be from outside the student's home department. Most geophysics core courses are offered once every two years.

A Certificate in Geophysics will be awarded upon the student's completion of degree requirements in their home department. Upon request from a student, the program director and the student's advisor will determine whether a student has met the requirements for the certificate and will generate a letter to the appropriate department head and dean. The certificate is not intended as a substitute for a degree and will be awarded only upon completion of a graduate degree.

Core Courses

  • ASTR/GEOL/PHYS 6610 Earth and Planetary Physics 1 (Seismology)
  • ASTR/GEOL/PHYS 6620 Earth and Planetary Physics 2 (Geodesy)
  • ASTR/GEOL/PHYS 6630 Earth and Planetary Physics 3 (Geodynamics)
  • APPM 7300 Nonlinear Waves and Integrable Equations
  • ASEN 5060 Satellite Geodesy
  • ASEN 5090 Introduction to the Global Navigation Satellite Systems
  • ASTR/PHYS 5140 Astrophysical and Space Plasmas
  • ASTR/PHYS 5150 Plasma Physics
  • ASTR 5300 Magnetospheres
  • ASTR 5760 Astrophysical Instrumentation
  • ASTR/GEOL 5800 Planetary Surfaces and Interiors
  • ASTR/ATOC/GEOL 5820 Origin and Evolution of Planetary Systems
  • ASTR/GEOL/PHYS 6650 Geophysics Seminar
  • CVEN 5718 Mechanics and Dynamics of Glaciers
  • CVEN 5768 Introduction to Rock Mechanics
  • CVEN 6595 Earthquake Engineering
  • GEOG 5231 Physical Climatology: Field Methods
  • GEOL 5680 Global Tectonics
  • GEOL 5714 Field Geophysics
  • GEOL/PHYS 6670 Geophysical Inverse Theory
  • MCEN 7123 Dynamics of Continuous Media
  • MCEN 7143 Advanced Theory of Elasticity

Requirements for Certificate

  • Completion with a grade of B or better of a total of three geophysics core courses (at least one from the EPP sequence) and one semester credit for the Geophysics Seminar.
  • Completion of degree requirements for graduate degree within the student's home department, with a thesis on a topic that uses geophysics in some way, including the successful defense of this thesis before a committee that includes at least one of the geophysics certificate faculty members.

Admission Requirements

A student wishing to be considered for a Certificate in Geophysics must first be admitted as a graduate student into one of the participating graduate departments (ASEN, APS,CEAE, ECEN, GEOG, GEOL, MCEN, PHYS). Students from outside the participating departments can apply for entry to the geophysics certificate program by letter addressed to the Geophysics Graduate Program Committee. A student must have a course background that includes mathematics through three semesters of calculus and four undergraduate science or engineering courses.