Graduate Students 2017

Interested in coming to the University of Colorado Boulder for a graduate degree in the Department of Geological Sciences? Check out the information and resources for prospective graduate students and apply now through the CU Boulder Graduate School. We require that a Science Study Summary be completed and uploaded with the online application. We look forward to your application. For details on opportunities for under-represented students, please also visit the Colorado Diversity Initiative. For details on the scientific expertise and wide range of research programs of our faculty, please visit our research page.


The Department of Geological Sciences offers Master of Science (MS) and doctoral (Ph.D.) degree programs.  Students interested in graduate work in the geological sciences should carefully read the detailed information regarding admission, degree requirements and registration, available on the departmental website. A brief summary follows. 

Typically, entering students have completed at least 24 semester hours of basic courses in geological sciences and two semesters each of chemistry, physics, and calculus. These are intended as recommendations, rather than strictly enforced requirements for admission. 

This is a research-oriented department affiliated with a number of research institutes and research centers, 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, chemistry, physics, geophysics, microbiology, ecology and evolutionary biology. Degree programs for incoming graduate students are individually designed according to research efforts of the faculty. Because competition for admission is keen, meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. 

Each incoming graduate student acquires a primary advisor and an advisory committee that provides guidance throughout the student’s time in the degree program. Most incoming graduate students have already determined who their faculty advisor will be prior to admittance. The faculty advisor assists in planning a degree program and choosing an appropriate advisory committee during the first semester in the graduate program.

Master's Degree

The minimum requirement for the master’s degree is 30 credit hours, which includes 2 required credit hours of "Introduction to Geological Sciences Faculty" class. A candidate for the master’s degree in geological sciences may complete a Plan I (thesis) option, or a Plan II (course work) option. The Department of Geological Sciences typically does not admit students into a coursework masters. At least 24 credit hours must be completed at the 5000 level or above. For students completing the Plan I degree, the 30 required credit hours may include a minimum of 4 but not more than 6 hours of thesis credit. The Plan II program requires at least 3 credit hours of GEOL 6960 (Plan II Master’s Research) under the supervision of the advisory committee. At least 12 credit hours of course work (Plan I) and 16 credit hours of course work (Plan II) must be at the 5000 level. A maximum of 6 credit hours may be completed at the 3000 or 4000 level at the discretion of the department. Independent study course work cannot exceed 25 percent of the course work required for the master’s degree. The general timeline suggested for Geological Sciences Master's Degree students is four semesters (two Fall and two Spring) or two academic years, though these are general guidelines only. Confer with your Faculty Advisor(s) regarding their expectations. 

Doctoral Degree

Candidates for the doctoral degree must complete at least 30 credit hours of course work at or above the 5000 level, of which at least 20 must be taken at CU-Boulder. These 30 credit hours includes 2 required credit hours of "Introduction to Geological Sciences Faculty" class. In addition to course work, doctoral candidates must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours of dissertation work (GEOL 8990), with not more than 10 of these in any one semester and not more than 10 completed in semesters leading up to the semester during which the comprehensive examination is passed.  To obtain the doctoral degree, one must complete at least 60 credit hours total (30 coursework minimum + 30 dissertation minimum).  The general timeline suggested for Geological Sciences Doctoral Degree students is ten semesters (five Fall and five Spring) or five academic years, though these are general guidelines only. Confer with your Faculty Advisor(s) regarding their expectations. 

Interdisciplinary Certificate Programs

Graduate students in the Department of Geological Sciences may participate in interdisciplinary certificate programs in the areas of geophysics, hydrologic sciences, and remote sensing. Participation must coincide with the pursuit of a master’s degree or a doctoral degree. For more information about these programs, consult the Graduate School section of the University of Colorado Catalog.

Geological Sciences Graduate Association (GSGA) - Geol Grad student governance

Established Fall 2020.  GSGA website : Geological Sciences Graduate Association (GSGA)