Geological Sciences - Introduction to the Department (2:18)

Grad Students, Staff, and Faculty of Our Graduate Program (10:01)

Department Facilities and Research with Graduate Students (9:02)

You are also invited to take a graduate student virtual tour of the CU Boulder campus.

The above three videos discuss and are specifically related to the Geological Sciences Department and Graduate Program at the University of Colorado Boulder. These Department videos show the Benson Earth Sciences building, specific to Geological Sciences classes and some labs.

The virtual Graduate tour video to the left, is a tour of the larger CU Boulder campus, in general.

We hope you enjoy and benefit from the videos and visual content we have to offer!

With one of the most successful graduate programs in the nation, the Department of Geological Sciences has enjoyed a reputation of excellence for more than 100 years. Our doctoral program is ranked among the top 10 percent of U.S. geology programs by the National Research Council. University of Colorado Boulder is ranked #1 best global university for geosciences by the U.S. News and World Report in 2019 and #2 in 2020.

Graduate students have an opportunity to work with approximately 36 tenure and tenure-track faculty who support a wide range of interdisciplinary research programs in biochemistry, economic resources, geodynamics, geophysics, glaciology, global climate change, hydrogeology, paleontology, and surficial processes.

The graduate degrees offered include Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Below you will find a brief overview of the admissions process, information on the faculty and the research areas they represent, and a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.

Our response to COVID-19: 

We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive to all and that student experiences in the wake of this have not been equitable. In response to these events, we recognize that some applicants will have concerns about the impacts these events could have on admissions. The graduate programs at the University of Colorado Boulder are dedicated to recruiting and supporting diverse, talented students, employing holistic application review processes and supporting students when they arrive on campus. 

We want to be clear that we understand:

  • students have been facing and will face unprecedented challenges during this time. 
  • testing centers have suspended operations, or moved to remote testing.
  • many students and institutions have chosen to adopt the Pass/Fail (or Credit/No Credit) option due to these events.
  • due to this disruption students may not have performed to their usual abilities during times of remote study or challenging classroom adjustments. 
  • some research projects will have been interrupted or will be incomplete as a result of university and facility closures. 
  • many students will be unable to take on internships and summer research programs or other professional development initiatives.
  • there are myriad other challenging circumstances that have arisen in individuals’ experiences.

We will take this all into consideration as we review applications holistically, understanding that our goal continues to be a graduate student cohort of future leaders, full of diverse life experiences and perspectives that will add new dimensions to our existing graduate community. If you have any questions about your specific circumstances, please contact the department to which you are interested in applying, or


Applying to the Graduate Program:

The online application for Fall 2023 admission will open in August 2022.

Application Deadlines

International Applicants – December 1 at 9:59 pm Mountain Standard Time (11:59 pm East Coast / 10:59 pm Central / 9:59 pm MTN / 8:59 pm Pacific)

Domestic Applicants – December 15 at 9:59 pm Mountain Standard Time (11:59 pm East Coast / 10:59 pm Central / 9:59 pm MTN / 8:59 pm Pacific)

Note: IQ Biology Applicants should apply by IQ Biology's application deadline

Because competition for admission is keen, we strongly recommend that you complete your application weeks before the stated application deadline to ensure that all application materials arrive by the deadline.


Admissions Requirements:

  1. Hold a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university.
  2. Have an undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.00. Most of our competitive candidates have GPA's of 3.50 minimum. 
  3. Complete the online application.
  4. Name 3-5 Geological Sciences Faculty members (found on this Faculty page) that you are interested in conducting research (an MS Thesis or PhD Dissertation) with and potentially serving as your Faculty Advisor.
  5. Note: the GRE General Test scores are NO LONGER REQUIRED.  If you have taken the GRE exam within the last 5 years and desire to submit your scores, the institution code is 4841, but your scores will not be viewed.
  6. Provide three letters of recommendation. (Note: Recommenders will receive information on submitting letters once you input their information into your online application (even before fully submitting).)
  7. Complete Science Study Summary, and upload it with the online application.
  8. Provide a personal statement in essay form according to the application directions. This essay is a combination of academic and career goals, and addressing personal past challenges. In addition, naming specific Geological Sciences Department faculty members is required in this essay.  Log in to the online application for full information. Recommended formatting and length is 2 pages single-spaced with 1-inch page margins and 11 point font. 
  9. Electronically upload one unofficial transcript from each post-secondary institution attended to online application.
  10. International applicants must submit financial statements showing proof of support and TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo scores from exam taken within the last 2 years. Minimum TOEFL scores: 537 (paper based)/75 (internet based). Institution code: 4841. Minimum IELTS scores: 6.0 (internet based). Institution code: 4841.Minimum Duolingo score: 120 on overall score (not per subcategory). The language 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 2 years of the desired admission term. 
  11. Pay the nonrefundable application fee - $60 for U.S. applicants; $80 for international applicants.

For additional information, please refer to the FAQ section below..


Frequently Asked Questions:

For useful information about the University of Colorado Boulder's (CU Boulder's) Geological Sciences programs, please read this Prospective Students page and view our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below.  Additionally, there is a "Graduate" page with more details about our program. Find this page under the Academic tab, "Graduate" bar on the menu to the right.


Our graduate program currently follows a researcher mentorship model. Therefore, it is highly recommended to read the research of, and reach out to, potential Faculty Advisors within our Department.  It's best to read some of their research articles first, and then email a professor.  It's recommended to not ask general questions, but instead specific questions - both about their research and if they have funding for an incoming student at the graduate level (MS or PhD) of which you are interested. 

In general, potential for success in our graduate program can be indicated in a variety of ways.  Strong grade point average (GPA) in undergraduate or graduate courses, a clear personal statement indicating knowledge about the type of research one would like to conduct, and strong and supportive letters of recommendation are all taken into consideration.  Note that applicants are NO LONGER required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test (as of May 2020).  However, most international students are required to take the TOEFL or IELTS exam.  More specific information on GPA provided below. 

Typically, entering students with a solid background in Geological Sciences have completed at least 24 semester hours of basic courses in geological sciences and two semesters each of chemistry, physics, and calculus. This totals about 42-48 credits of specific prerequisite work to ensure a basis of knowledge. Note that these are intended as recommendations, rather than strictly enforced requirements for admission. Please ask the faculty you are in conversation with about their preferred pre-requisites to conduct research with them. 

If an applicant is changing fields and is interested in moving into Geological Sciences from another discipline, in some cases, applicants may consider taking additional undergraduate coursework to be a competitive applicant.  Exactly how much additional coursework, and whether or not an additional Bachelor's degree would be helpful, is a question for the research faculty member(s) you would like to work with. 

Yes, we will consider applicants with undergraduate majors other than Geology.  Note that most applicants were in a related field, although some have gone back to school and obtained a second bachelors degree to be competitive when applying to graduate programs.

In general, the Admissions Committee likes to see good foundational experience and coursework on your transcript in the areas of Math, Chemistry, Geology, and Physics. For more specifics, see the qestion above ("What are the minimum admission standards and requirements for the Department of Geological Sciences?")  Note that there is a Science Summary page that is required as part of the application, which helps our faculty see the breadth of courses you have taken which could be relevant to our graduate degree. 

The short answer is yes, your application will be considered for admission to our program.  We look at the entirety of an application package, not just one element when making a determination.  There is often a deeper question being asked, and so if you are concerned that you will not present as strongly in your application because of numerical data - there are ways to present your qualifications favorably to give you the best chance of admission.  First - if your GPA is lower-than-recommended, do your best to showcase your abilities on other items. Some work with their letter-of-reference writers to convey the qualities they have which will make them a competitive candidate for gradaute school. Others take additional undergraduate courses to help raise their GPA (while pursing one's bachelors or as a Continuing Education student). Second - find a faculty advisor within our department who would like to work with you. See the question below: "How do I apply to the graduate program in the Department of Geological Sciences?" for more details in how to do so.  Third - in some part of your personal essay, discuss the challenges you've faced, circumstances, and how you've actively addressed or overcome them.  Graduate school is not about being perfect; instead it's about resilience and overcoming challenges.  The personal essay is a place to explain what you've learned from challenges and how you have picked yourself up when down, continuing to moving forward toward your goals.  While we do use some numerical data to help us focus our attention towards outstanding applications, we have admitted students with lower numbers previously through the avenues above. (Note that the GRE Exam is no longer required for our Geological Sciences application.) We hope these tips are helpful. 

While Geologic field credit and experience is not required, it is strongly preferred and encouraged.  Professors considering MS or PhD students like to have the students be able to come in and conduct research right away.  While specific, demonstrable experience in a topic area is not required, one’s ability to show knowledge of research methods and the scientific process are noted.  Obtaining previous field or lab-component research experience is viewed positively. 

Parts of the Application:

The Admissions Committee likes to see good foundational experience and coursework on your transcript in the areas of Math, Chemistry, Geology, and Physics. They often look for research interests and aptitue, and the clarity with which your research interests are communicated.  They strongly consider GPA scores (details under "Admissions Requirements" below), your personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Additionally, fieldwork and/or research experience is valuable to our program.  It is highly recommended that applicants contact potential Faculty Advisors prior to applying.  Be specific with your questions; start a conversation with faculty about their research and ask if they are taking new students in the upcoming academic year.  Also, as an applicant once said: "Do the dance well in advance!"  This is much like "the early bird gets the worm."  The earlier you begin the process of finding a faculty advisor and applying, the better prepared and informed you will be to submit quality materials ahead of (or by) the deadline.  There are not required experiences to apply, per se, but the specific experiences mentioned above help make you a more competitive candidate for our program. 

    To be considered a competitive applicant to our highly-ranked Geological Sciences program, we first recommend that students begin seeking out a Faculty Advisor in their interest area.  While we look at the entire application from a student, applicants with a potential faculty advisor already in place are much more likely to receive funding.  Faculty Advisors' names and specialties can be found on the Research page in subgroups, on the right side of the webpage.  Reach out to faculty members and contact them directly via email with specific questions. It is recommended to read a few of their published research articles to ask critical questions about their research focus and interests. Prospective students asking direct, critical, inquisitive questions about faculty research are most likely to receive responses. Do not hesitate to ask faculty if they will be accepting students for the upcoming academic year, if they have funding to support an incoming student, and what type of student funding or appointment they may have available.  

    After you've identified 3 or more Faculty Advisors that you'd like to work with, complete the online application, including a completed personal statement (2 single-spaced pages in essay form) and Science Study Summary. Upload unofficial transcripts from each college and university attended (see Transcripts section below).  If you are an international applicant, and do not meet the waiver stated above, send your TOEFL/IELTS scores to institution code 4841.  Input your recommender's names into the application system (they will receive an email once entered), and when your application is complete - pay the application fee.  

    Online Application

    Our department accepts only online applications. You can apply at the following website: 

    Initially, an applicant registers for the online application by creating a user account. You will continue to login to this same application page , and upload materials, until your application is complete.   

    Once you have paid the application fee and submitted your application successfully, you can login to the same website to track the progress of your application.  Received and verified items will have a green checkmark next to them.  Missing items will have a red "X", which indicates that your application is actually "Incomplete."  You should also receive an email to this effect, so please check your email regularly.  Follow the directions provided and continue to submit items with a red "X" to complete your application.  Only complete applications will be considered for admission to our program. 

    See these helpful FAQ's from the Graduate School about the application:

    Subplan / Concentration Area

    It is recommended to have an area of subplan/concentration determined prior to applying.  To find our areas of concentration and which faculty are associated with which areas, please see the "Research" page and list of area specialties on the right-hand side. 

    Personal Statement

    This should be uploaded with the online application in essay form.

    In your personal statement, please provide a personal statement in essay form according to the application directions. This essay is a combination of academic and career goals, providing a plan, and addressing personal past challenges. In addition, naming specific Geological Sciences Department faculty members is required in this essay.  Log in to the online application for full information. Recommended formatting and length is 2 pages single-spaced with 1-inch page margins and 11 point font.

    Unofficial transcript submission

    One unofficial transcript, with as many complete semesters as possible, needs be uploaded for each college and university attended.  An electronic copy of your unofficial transcript will satisfy this requriement, but a degree audit will not. 

    Please contact your home college or university and have them send an official transcript to our Graduate Admissions Department - either Domestic (U.S. Applicants) Admissions or International Admissions.  Addresses are below. Note that electronic transcripts tend to process faster than hard-copy/paper transcripts. 

    U.S. Applicants Only

    For standard international mail or mail within the US, including electronic delivery, USPS Priority and Express:

    Graduate Admissions: - electronic delivery


    Graduate Admissions
    University of Colorado Boulder
    3100 Marine St., Suite A122
    553 UCB
    Boulder, CO 80309-0553 USA

    For overnight or express mail (DHL, FEDEX, UPS):

    Graduate Admissions
    University of Colorado Boulder
    3100 Marine St., Bldg. RL3, Suite A122
    553 UCB
    Boulder, CO 80303-1058 USA
    Phone: 303-492-6301

    International Applicants Only

    For standard international mail or mail within the US, including electronic delivery, USPS Priority and Express: - electronic delivery


    Office of Admissions/International
    University of Colorado Boulder
    3100 Marine St., Suite A122
    65 UCB Boulder, CO 80309-0065 USA

    For overnight or express mail (DHL, FEDEX, UPS):

    Office of Admissions/International
    University of Colorado Boulder
    3100 Marine St., Bldg. RL3, Suite A122
    65 UCB
    Boulder, CO 80303-1058 USA
    Phone: 303-492-6301

    Please see the Grad School website for additional information on transcript(s) required for the application.

    Domestic applicants: . Scroll down and click on the (+) sign next to "+ Transcripts" and information will appear. 

    International applicants: . Scroll down and click on the (+) sign next to "+ Unofficial Transcripts" and information will appear. 

      GRE Scores

      The GRE is NO LONGER REQUIRED.  If you have taken the GRE exam within the last 5 years and desire to submit your scores, the institution code is 4841, but this is no longer compulsory.

      TOEFL / IELTS Scores

      Geological Sciences's minimum overall required TOEFL score is 75 (internet based) and 537 (paper-based). TOEFL scores submitted must be from an exam taken within the last 2 years. Institution code: 4841.

      Geological Sciences's minimum overall required IELTS score is 6.0 (internet based). IELTS scores submitted must be from an exam taken within the last 2 years. Institution code: 4841.

      The language 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 2 years of the desired admission term. 

      Details from International Admissions and Graduate School regarding English Proficiency Requirements are here: 

      Recommendation Letters 

      When you apply online, you will be asked to enter an e-mail address for each recommender. Letters should be from individuals you know in a professional capacity (as a student and/or in the workplace).

      Recommenders are notified by e-mail that you have requested they submit a letter once their email address is entered on the application.  The application does not have to be submitted for recommenders to receive this email; it happens almost immediately.  Recommenders can be reminded or "resent' the link by the applicant, by logging into the application and resending. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that recommendation letters are submitted by the application deadline. 

      Science Study Summary

      The Science Study Summary should be uploaded with the online application when requested. Your application will not be considered complete and eligible for consideration until a completed Science Study Summary is submitted.

      Employment History

      Please provide a resume or CV which lists your employment history. 

      Professional Affiliations

      Professional and Academic Affiliations are professional or academic groups that you may be part of or participate in within the Geological Sciences field.  Please list any relevant affiliations in this section of the application. 

      Application Deadlines for Fall (August) start:

      International Applicants – December 1 at 9:59 pm Mountain Standard Time (11:59 pm East Coast / 10:59 pm Central / 9:59 pm MTN / 8:59 pm Pacific)

      Domestic Applicants – December 15 at 9:59 pm Mountain Standard Time (11:59 pm East Coast / 10:59 pm Central / 9:59 pm MTN / 8:59 pm Pacific)

      No, we do not accept applications for spring semester starts. MS and PhD students begin our program in fall semesters.

      No, we do not offer an application for spring semester start dates. MS and PhD students typically begin our program in fall semesters due to our intensive onboarding process and cohort model. By beginning the graduate program in a Fall semester, students have a better chance of experiencing success and fewer obstacles in our program. 

      It is fine to pay the application fee and submit your application with all of the materials you have direct control over by the deadline (personal statement, resume/CV, Science Summary, unofficial transcripts, etc.).  You can submit your application without external items like TOEFL scores, IELTS scores, and letters of recommendation, although your application will be marked "Incomplete" without these items (red "X").  Once they are received by verifiable sources, these external items will attach to your application (green checkmark). The application will then move from “Incomplete” to “Complete” in our system. Note: all green checkmarks mean that your application is "Complete."

      We prefer that ALL outstanding materials with a red "X" are received 2 weeks after the deadline (deadlines: December 1 for International applicants; December 15 for Domestic Applicants).  Therefore, we'd like all applications to be fully complete by December 15 and December 30.  It is better to submit an incomplete application by the deadline than to submit a late application entirely.

      The GRE is NO LONGER REQUIRED. Faculty decided in May 2021 to "hide" any scores that have been submitted, so even if submitted your scores will not be viewed.

      If you submitted your application by the deadline and it was fully complete at the time of submission (all letters of recommendation submitted and TOEFL/IELTS scores in, etc.), your application should be in the department’s hands by the beginning of January.  The goal is to let applicants know by mid-March (earlier if possible) if they are accepted. You will be notified of any formal decision made by the Admissions Committee via email from the Application program. 

      No; we do not accept late submissions. We encourage you to consider us for next year.  (It's never too early to start working on application materials!) The next application will open in August 2023.

      Application Fee Waiver Program(s):

      Geological Sciences (GEOL) understands that the application fee presents a challenge for some applicants. The department is committed to providing educational opportunities for a diverse range of applicants regardless of their financial situations. The CU Boulder Graduate School provides fee waivers for students who meet certain eligibility requirements (see here under “Submit Application and Fee Payment”). If you are not eligible for the CU Boulder Graduate School fee waiver and meet all the conditions below, GEOL has reserved some funds to pay the application fee on your behalf. You must request this fee waiver AFTER beginning a Geological Sciences application, but BEFORE you click the application “Submit” button, in order for GEOL to pay the application fee on your behalf. 

      The GEOL application fee waiver conditions are:

      • You are not eligible for the CU Boulder Graduate School fee waiver
      • You are a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident, or DACA recipient, or are currently attending a domestic University within the United States
      • You intend to apply for the M.S. or Ph.D. program in GEOL (you do not need to have an MS degree already)
      • You are applying to enroll in fall 2023
      • You meet the GEOL admission requirements of holding a baccalaureate degree from a college or university of recognized standing, or have done work equivalent to that required for such a degree by the start of the semester to which you are applying 
      • You have at least a 3.00 (B) grade point average in your undergraduate or masters degree program
      • You have the necessary transcript(s), and a minimum 2 out of 3 letters of recommendation from recommenders, attached to your online application at the time you request the application fee waiver
      • The application fee is a financial hardship
      • Applicants who have additionally participated in financial hardship, first-generation college, or underrepresented minority (URM) programs are especially encouraged to apply. Programs such as Colorado Advantage, AGU Bridge, GEM Fellowship, etc.

      We are not asking for any explanation of your financial hardship or documentation of the above conditions. Being successful scientists requires that we behave ethically and trust our peers, mentors, and mentees to do the same. In that spirit, we trust you to judge for yourself whether you fulfill these criteria.

      To request that GEOL pay the graduate application fee, send an email to Kara (GeoGPA@ colorado dot edu), Graduate Program Administrator, after you begin a fall application but BEFORE you click the “submit” button, requesting a graduate application fee waiver.  Please state, “I am ineligible for the CU Boulder Graduate School application waiver, but I meet the other criteria for Geological Sciences to pay my GEOL application fee. The full name and email address I entered into the University of Colorado Boulder Graduate School online application is [first middle last name, email address] .”

      This request will not impact your application in any way. There are a limited number of GEOL application fee waivers for fall 2023 cohort entry. Please request your waiver as soon as possible and note that we will STOP taking requests for fee waivers at 6 pm EST / 4 pm MTN time two days before the due-date of the application. 

      Visiting Campus:

      There are a couple different options in terms of visiting the campus. Some people come out to Colorado to visit for another reason and would like to stop by, and others want to plan a specific trip here, to CU Boulder, to get a first-hand experience of our graduate program. 

      First, be assured that most of our current information for Prospective Students about the Geological Sciences program is online.  After reading the available information on this and other pages, please email with specific questions. Note that MS and PhD program-specific information can be found here.  Prepare to Apply (information from the Graduate School) can be found here.  The gold button at the bottom of this page, which says “Graduate Application” is the item to click on to begin an application. 

      We do not typically host formal visits from prospective students, or students in the applicant stage, until one’s application has been officially submitted and reviewed.  Our program is competitive, and unfortunately, we do not typically have the bandwidth to meet with each interested person before his or her application has been submitted and evaluated.  So while we do not set up formal pre-visits, if you would like to visit CU Boulder’s campus, you are welcome to. The CASE building houses our outstanding Admissions department, and they can provide you with a campus map and/or walking tour guide. 

      In February 2021, we created videos for Graduate Students unable to visit our campus due to COVID-19. Click the below links to access the videos: 

      (1) Geological Sciences - Introduction to the Department (2:18)

      (2) Grad Students, Staff, and Faculty of Our Graduate Program (10:01)

      (3) Department Facilities and Research with Graduate Students (9:02)

      You are also invited to take a virtual tour of the CU Boulder campus.

      Thank you for taking advantage of our online, virtual offerings to tour the campus and Benson building. 

      Graduate-Program specifics:

      Please view our faculty's research areas by subtopic on our Research page.  See the list on the right side of the page and click on the sections to expand. 

      It is highly recommended that you locate a faculty member whose research interests most closely match your own. Faculty member's contact information is provided on the Research and Faculty pages so you can discuss your graduate school interests directly with faculty members.

      Currently, our graduate program has relatively few specific course requirements, or degree outlines or course plans, to obtain a graduate degree.  There are 2 required credits, but beyond that, it is a flexible program that you and your Faculty Advisor agree upon during your first semester in the program.   During the first year all new MS and PhD graduate students are required to take two sections of the 1 credit graduate seminar "Introduction to Geological Sciences Faculty.”  This course runs in both the Fall (1 credit) and Spring (1 credit). These two credits are required to graduate from the Geology Department.  Additionally, incoming students are required to attend the weekly department colloquium at 4:00 PM on Wednesdays. The "Intro to Geological Sciences Faculty" course (affectionately called "Parade of Professors") introduces you to each of the faculty members in the Department and their research, plus provides opportunity for discussion of the week’s Colloquium topic and other graduate study matters.  Both the Wednesday Colloquium and seminar class require new student attendance. Outside of these two required credits, the remaining credits needed for a Geological Sciences MS or PhD degree are agreed upon between student, their Faculty Advisor, and proto-committee.  To graduate, MS students need 24-26 coursework credits and 4-6 Thesis credits (30 credits total, minimum).  PhD students need 30 coursework credits and 30 Disseration credits (60 credits total, minimum) to graduate.  More information about our degrees can be found on the "Academic / Graduate / Graduate Degree Requirements" page to the upper right.

      A number of items! The first is that we are located in an incredible place to study geological sciences, with many fascinating wonders right outside our door.  Being in Boulder and the Front Range easily allows for a number of hands-on experiences within 20 minutes. Beyond our location, another incredible resource is the breadth and depth of our faculty and researchers' knowledge of the earth and planetary sciences. Benson Earth Sciences, our building, houses over 38 faculty and 20 experienced research scientists and has a dedicated Earth Sciences Library. Currently, both of our MS and PhD students conduct original research and produce a thesis/dissertation as a final body of work.  Our students are well-versed and prepared to pursue academically-focused careers post-graduation.  While some graduates may choose an applied path or industry position post-graduation, our overall program is less focused towards placing graduates in applied field / industry positions. While field work is often a part of research, our program emphasis is on research and teaching. Please speak with your potential faculty advisor(s) about the expectations for your specific area and program.  

      No, not at this time.  We do not currently have an online or hybrid program. We are currently offering in-person courses with the understanding is that structure may need to shift due to COVID-19.  But the University as a whole is operating from an in-person model for a Fall 2022 start.  More information will be released for future semesters as it becomes available. 

      The Department of Geological Sciences recognizes the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in maintaining academic excellence and an intellectually and culturally enriching environment. We appreciate that diversity extends to different races and ethnicities, gender identities, nationalities, disabilities, and body types. As such, we expect all members of our Department to respect each other and to work to combat systemic racism and other biases. 

      For more information, please view our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department webpage and statement here: 

      The Colorado Advantage Graduate Preview Weekend provides an opportunity for underrepresented students to visit campus and preview doctoral programs in science, math, and engineering departments at CU-Boulder.

      The Colorado Advantage website is:

      We began working with the AGU Bridge program in January 2020, so we have now been part of their networking program for three application cycles (Fall 2020, Fall 2021, and Fall 2022 entry). 

      The AGU Bridge website is:


      This Department has an unusual structure with many faculty holding joint appointments between the Department and various on-campus research institutes. The institutes exist to facilitate interdisciplinary research but do not admit graduate students or grant graduate degrees. These functions reside solely with the Department. However, should you be admitted to the Department to work with an institute-related faculty advisor, you may be housed in an institute and not in the Benson Earth Sciences Building, the latter being the Department home.


      Entry to the Geophysics Program is through admission to one of the participating departments; Geological Sciences is one of the principal departments for geophysics. Once admitted to Geological Sciences under the supervision of a faculty member aligned with the Geophysics Program, and after about two years in our program, a Ph.D. candidate can apply to enter the Geophysics Program.


      If you are considering attending without funding support, and thus paying your own way, please see the Bursar’s website and Tuition and Fee Rate Sheets here: .  Click on the “+” sign of “Fall 20XX & Spring 20XX Per Semester” and then scroll down to “Graduate.” Look for the "Arts & Sciences" discipline sheet.  Note there are two sections: one for In-state student (CO Resident) or Out-of-State or International student.

      To locate current student fees, applicants to the MS & PhD degrees should scroll to page 2 and look under the “Master's; Grad Status A, B, C” column. The cost is broken down by credit hour.  A typical MS and/or PhD student credit load is 6-9 credits.  Some students take up to 10 credits per semester, though this is a high course load. You should be able to see the cost in the columns.

      Note that these figures are for the current Academic Year.  While we do not anticipate a large change, future years are not yet published.

      Typically, most incoming students are provided financial support for their first two years in our Geological Sciences program.  That funding is often in the form of a 50% Teaching Assistantship (TA) or a 50% Research Assistantship (RA) position.  (For context, 50% appointments are work that is expected to take about 20 hours/week of a student’s time.) Some students also arrive with funding that has been awarded to them by a third party, like a fellowship from government organization, NASA, their workplace, or other external funding source.  If students can obtain third party funding for their education, we encourage it and are happy to work with students who have this type of support. The Admissions Committee does not discriminate based on funding, however, and are happy to admit students with Departmental funding packages (two year TA or RA).

      This initial two years of funding applies to both MS and PhD students. The entire funding package includes a substantial tuition waiver, monthly monetary stipend, and most of the student Gold Plan health insurance expense.  For those in our PhD program who are here past two years (just about everyone), their funding will then typically come from a research project they are working on with their Faculty Advisor, although this funding is more of an arrangement between Faculty Advisor and student. Occasionally, PhD students after their initial two years continue to take on TA or RA appointments if the appointments are available and need within the Department exists.

      Late applications will be considered only at the discretion of the department and are unlikely to be competitive for funding support consideration.

      We recommend that applicants consider applying for external fellowships when appropriate. The Department will advance the names of qualified individuals for certain university fellowships, but applying for most fellowships is the responsibility of the applicant. Please note that the deadline for most external fellowships is usually before our application deadline (usually in October or November).

      • The NSF Graduate Fellowship program deadline in October.
      • Graduate Fellowships for STEM Diversity (formerly The National Physical Science Consortium Graduate Fellowship Program) is an exceptional opportunity for support (to the tune of $150,000 - 200,000) for a Ph.D. in the physical sciences with an emphasis on underrepresented students and women. Deadline is in December.

      for more information on external fellowships click here .


      Request For Information

      If you have additional questions, please contact Kara, our Graduate Program Administrator, at:
      Email:, or Graduate Program Administrator
      Zoom ID: - please contact to make an appointment



      Graduate Degree Programs

      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. A candidate for the master’s degree in geological sciences may complete a Plan I (thesis) option, or a Plan II (course work) option. Note that students are not typically admitted into an MS Plan II degree. 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.

      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. 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.

      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.



      Please contact Kara, our Graduate Program Administrator, at:
      Email: Graduate Program Administrator
      Please email with additional questions, or to set up an appointment (via phone or Zoom). 

      Thank you!