A student is required to maintain at least a 3.00 (B) average in all work attempted while enrolled in the Graduate School. For the M.S., a course mark below C is unsatisfactory and will not be counted toward fulfilling requirements for the degree.


The requirements for an M.S. degree thesis option include the following:

  1. 24-26 semester hours of coursework, of which 24 hours must be numbered 5000 or above, and at least 15 semester hours must be from ATOC graduate lecture courses, including four of the core ATOC courses. See specific ATOC course requirements for the M.S. below.
  2. A minimum of 4 (but no more than 6) ATOC 6950 Master's Thesis hours. Note: ATOC 6950 Master's Thesis credit hours and ATOC 8990 Dissertation hours are NOT interchangelable.
  3. Successful completion of a M.S. thesis and oral final examination based on this thesis.
  4. Completion of all degree requirements within 4 years of the date of commencing coursework, but normally in 2 years. Students may petition the Graduate School for extension(s).

Note: Students planning to pursue a Ph.D. degree may elect to obtain the M.S. degree, but this is not requirement for advancement to the Ph.D. program.


  • Up to 6 semester hours of approved 3000- and 4000-level coursework from engineering, math, physics, chemistry, or biology may be applied toward the M.S. degree. No credit will be given toward the M.S. degree for ATOC coursework below the 5000 level.
  • A minimum of 15 semester hours from regular ATOC lecture courses (independent study courses cannot be used to satisfy this requirement).
  • All of MS students are required to take the following four ATOC core courses, or their equivalent:

ATOC 5050: Atmospheric Thermodynamics and Dynamics
ATOC 5051: Introduction to Physical Oceanography  

ATOC 5060: Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Oceans

ATOC 5235: Introduction to Atmospheric Radiative Transfer and Remote Sensing  

  • Up to 3 semester hours of ATOC 5900 (Independent Study), and/or ATOC 6020 (Seminar in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences) may be used toward the 30 hours of regular coursework in the degree requirements.
  • A minimum of 4 (but no more than 6) thesis hours. Note: ATOC 6950 Master's Thesis credit hours and ATOC 8990 Dissertation hours are NOT interchangelable.
  • Successful completion of a M.S. thesis and oral final examination based on this thesis
  • Up to 9 semester hours may be transferred from another accredited institution and applied toward an M.S. degree.  Transfer credit for ATOC core coursework must be approved by the graduate advisor.


The M.S. thesis must consist of original and independent research conducted by the graduate student under the supervision of the research advisor. The thesis topic must be related to the major field, and:

  1. Represent the equivalent of 4 to 6 semester hours of course work.
  2. Receive the approval of the major department at least 30 days before commencement at which the degree is to be conferred.
  3. Be completed at the time the final examination is held.
  4. Comply with the University of Colorado Graduate School Thesis and Dissertation Specifications.
  5. Be filed with the Graduate School by posted deadlines for the semester for which the degree is to be conferred.


The examination committee for the M.S. thesis final exam will consist of three graduate faculty members, at least two of whom must be ATOC core faculty members. The examination consists of a 30-minute oral presentation given by the candidate on the thesis subject, followed by a period of questions for the candidate by the committee. The oral presentation is open to anyone who wishes to attend. The full examination typically does not exceed two hours in duration.

Any student with a research advisor outside of ATOC (e.g., an advisor who is from another department, or a full time employee at NCAR, NOAA, etc.), must also have an academic advisor who is an ATOC core faculty member. The academic advisor should be identified by the student in collaboration with their research advisor as soon as possible, and no later than one month after research begins. Once an ATOC faculty member agrees to act as academic advisor, it is their responsibility to communicate ATOC policies and requirements to the research advisor, and to ensure that the student is meeting all ATOC requirements and making good academic progress toward the degree.