ATOC Prospective Graduate Student Visit: A Birds-Eye View



Degrees Offered

The ATOC Department admits primarily Ph.D. students, with M.S. applications considered in special circumstances and with a reduced chance of receiving financial support.

Master’s Degree (M.S.)

For both thesis and non-thesis options, a total of 30 credit hours is required with at least 15 credit hours of ATOC courses numbered 5000 and above. Other specific course requirements are in the ATOC Graduate Handbook. For the thesis option, the final examination consists of an oral exam on the thesis. The non-thesis option requires the successful completion of a written final examination based on ATOC regular coursework requirements.

Doctoral Degree (Ph.D.)

A total of 36 credit hours of regular coursework is required, of which 30 hours must be numbered 5000 or above, with at least 18 credit hours of ATOC graduate lecture courses including core ATOC course requirements, and a graduate-level course in applied or computational mathematics. In addition, 30 credit hours of dissertation must be completed per Graduate School rules and requirements. Students must pass a two-part comprehensive examination before admission into candidacy. Part I of the comprehensive examination is a written exam based on core course material and is normally taken in the second year. Part II of the comprehensive examination is normally taken in the third year and is an oral examination based on an original research paper prepared by the student. After the PhD dissertation has been submitted, a final examination of the dissertation will be conducted.

Opportunity for underrepresented students

Underrepresented students may apply to participate in the Colorado Advantage graduate preview program. All expenses are paid for participants to visit the CU-Boulder campus to meet faculty and current graduate students, tour facilities, and learn more about the graduate admissions process. Application details may be found by clicking here.

ATOC Graduate Admissions Requirements and Procedures

An applicant may be admitted to the Graduate School as either a regular degree student or a provisional degree student. For acceptance into the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC), the following requirements must be met:

  1. Hold a baccalaureate degree from a college or university of recognized standing, or have done work equivalent to that required for such a degree.
  2. Show promise of ability to pursue advanced study and research, as judged by the student’s previous scholastic record and letters of reference.
  3. Have had adequate preparation to enter graduate study in the chosen field.
  4. Have at least a 3.00 (B) undergraduate grade point average.
  5. Submit directly from Education Testing Service (ETS) test scores from the verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing sections of the General Record Examination (GRE).
  6. International applicants must also submit official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores.

Students with undergraduate degrees in the physical sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry, mathematics) and engineering are encouraged to apply. The general background expected of incoming graduate students includes:

  • Undergraduate courses in calculus, differential equations, and computer programming.
  • One year sequences of undergraduate physics (calculus based) and chemistry.

Students with undergraduate degrees in other fields such as biology, environmental science, geography, or geology, are also invited to apply provided they meet the standards given here.  Upper-level undergraduate courses in physics, chemistry, and mathematics are strongly recommended. Research and computer programming experience is also strongly recommended.  Undergraduate courses in atmospheric science or oceanography are useful but not required as part of the undergraduate background.

While ATOC does admit students in the spring semester, it is rare.  Your chances for admission and financial support from the department in the form of a teaching or research assistant position are much greater in the fall semester.

Answers to frequently asked questions regarding the program can be found here.

Application Procedures

An applicant for admission must present complete application materials that include:

  1. The graduate application (online)
  2. For review and decision purposes you are required to upload an unofficial copy of your transcript(s) in the online application (see more information below).
  3. Four letters of recommendation (submitted online or mailed to the department)
  4. Test scores from the verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing sections of the General Record Examination (GRE) (submitted directly from ETS)
  5. A personal statement of academic interests 
  6. $60 non-refundable application fee for domestic applicants or $80 for international applicants

At a minimum, the personal statement of academic interests should describe the following:

  1. Motivation for applying to graduate school
  2. Experience or other relevant qualifications
  3. Long-term goals

If known, please also describe your specific field of interest, including faculty members or scientists with whom you would like to work. The personal statement will be evaluated not only for content, but also to gauge writing ability.

Answers to frequently asked questions regarding the application process can be found here.

CU-Boulder Graduate School Information for Applicants

All international applicants are required to meet a minimum standard of English proficiency. The Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL), or an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score is required unless English is your native language. If you have completed at least one year full-time academic study at a U.S. institution (or at an institution in a country where English is the native language) at the time you apply, you have fulfilled the English proficiency requirement for the Office of Admissions. The University requires a minimum TOEFL score of 537 (paper based), 203 (computer based), and/or 75 (new internet based). The University requires a minimum IELTS score of 6.0.

For admission in the fall semester with full consideration for financial assistance from the department, complete domestic and international applications must be received by December 1. Late applications will be considered until all positions are filled.

Department financial support is in the form of teaching assistantships (TA), research assistantships (RA), and/or fellowship money. There is not a separate form to apply for this support.

Application Deadlines:

Fall admission:

  • Domestic application deadline: December 1
  • International application deadline: December 1

Spring admission:

  • Domestic application deadline: October 1
  • International application deadline: October 1

For admission in the fall semester with full consideration for financial support from the department, applications must be received by December 15. Late application materials (letters of recommendation, GRE scores, etc.) will be considered until all positions are filled. It is in the applicant’s best interests to submit all application materials as soon as possible.

How to Submit Transcripts

For review and decision purposes you are required to upload an unofficial copy of your transcript(s) in the online application. We require one copy of the scanned transcript from each undergraduate and graduate institution that you attended. This includes community colleges, summer sessions, and extension programs. While credits from one institution may appear on the transcript of a second institution, unofficial transcripts must be submitted from each institution, regardless of the length of attendance, and whether or not courses were completed.  Failure to list and submit transcripts from all institutions previously attended is considered to be a violation of academic ethics and may result in the cancellation of your admission or dismissal from the university.

ONLY after you are recommended for admission will you need to provide official transcripts. Click here for Instructions for Uploading Unofficial Transcripts to Your Application.