Geological Sciences

The Geological Sciences program is a research-oriented department that offers individually designed graduate programs. As such, the department does not have a formal program of rigidly defined courses leading to the MS or PhD in geological sciences but offers the following areas of concentration:

  • Geodynamics of Modern and Ancient Orogens
  • Quantitative Geomorphological Analysis
  • Biogeochemistry and Geobiology
  • Astrobiology and Planetary Geology
  • Past Global Change
  • Sedimentology
  • Petroleum Geology
  • Hydrogeology and Water Resources
  • Geophysics and Seismology
  • Isotope Geology and Geochemistry
  • Geochronology
  • Paleobiology
  • Mineralogy and Volcanology
  • Environmental Geochemistry

Research is global in scope with faculty working on every continent and many ocean basins on Earth. Our department also capitalizes on the proximity of the campus to the natural laboratory of Colorado and the western U.S. A number of research centers and institutes are affiliated with the department, including the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Research (CIRES), the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), the Center for Astrobiology, the Energy and Minerals Applied Research Center (EMARC) and the University Museum. Related areas of study are geography, astrophysical and planetary sciences, atmospheric and oceanic sciences, physics and geophysics, ecology and evolutionary biology and environmental engineering.

In general, applicants should have completed 24 semester hours of basic geological sciences, and two semesters each of chemistry, physics and calculus. In some cases, an applicant may substitute part of the 24 credits with other fields of science, mathematics or engineering. These are intended as recommendations, rather than strictly enforced requirements for admission. 

Please visit the department website for additional information.

Degrees Offered


Degree Details

Requires 24 semester hours of formal coursework including four to six credits of thesis research for a thesis (Plan I) or 30 semester hours without a thesis (Plan II). At least 24 semester hours must be in courses numbered 5000 or above.

Requires 30 semester hours of formal coursework in courses numbered 5000 and above. Students must complete an additional 30 hours of dissertation research credit.

Admissions Requirements

  1. Hold a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university.
  2. Have an undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.00 to apply.
  3. Complete the online application.
  4. Submit GRE General Test scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing) from exam taken within the last five years, scoring on average in the upper 50th percentile. Institution code: 4841.
  5. Provide three letters of recommendation for U.S. applicants, or four letters of recommendation for international applicants.
  6. Complete Science Study Summary, and upload it with the online application.
  7. Provide a statement of purpose in essay form providing background information, research focus, academic and professional goals, uploaded with the online application.
  8. Submit one unofficial transcript from each post-secondary institution attended.
  9. International applicants must submit financial statements showing proof of support and TOEFL scores from exam taken within the last two years. Minimum TOEFL scores: 537 (paper based)/75 (internet based). Institution code: 4841. The TOEFL requirement may be waived for applicants whose native language is English or for applicants who have completed at least one year of full-time academic study at a U.S. institution (or at an institution in a country where English is the native language) within two years of the desired admission term. The department does not accept IELTS.
  10. Pay the nonrefundable application fee: $50 for U.S. applicants; $70 for international applicants.

Fall Domestic Application Deadline

January 7, 2017

Fall International Application Deadline

December 1, 2016

Contact Information

University of Colorado Boulder
Department of Geological Sciences
Graduate Program Assistant
Benson Earth Sciences Building Room 285
399 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0399
Phone: 303-492-2607
Fax: 303-492-2606

Department of Geological Sciences website