Master of Science Degree Program

Yaks graze along the Bangon-Nujiang suture zone in Central Tibet. Recent and ongoing work by department researchers and graduate students aims to understand how the crust in the region of Tibet has responded to the India-Asia collision.

The Master of Science (M.S.) degree program in Earth Sciences is adapted to the needs of students who plan an immediate career in industry, private consulting, a governmental agency, or teaching at the secondary level. Most M.S. degree candidates conduct independent research and prepare and submit a thesis. A M.S. degree may be conferred upon completion of either a thesis (normally within two years, but after not more than 3 years) or approved course work (normally within one year).

The thesis master's program may be used as an initial step toward the Ph.D. degree, in which a student gains knowledge and confidence in carrying out and completing a scientific project. As an alternative, qualified candidates who plan to proceed to a Ph.D. may bypass the master's degree, which is not a requirement for the doctorate.

The coursework M.S. track is designed to allow students to increase their breadth, quantitative depth, or emphasis on a particular specialty; to provide the student with a stronger background toward competition for jobs or an enhancement of skills for current employment (e.g., K-14 teaching); and to allow students from other related disciplines to acquire advanced training in the Earth & planetary sciences. At the beginning of the first quarter of study, students confer with their advisor(s) to develop a study plan of at least nine courses and a statement of objectives. This study plan is then approved by the department.

M.S. students must take a minimum of 35 quarter units of graduate and upper-division level courses, of which no more than 15 units may be upper-division undergraduate courses.

Research M.S. students must enroll in EART 203 Introductory Teaching Seminar (2 units) fall quarter of their first year. Coursework M.S. students are required to fulfill a capstone requirement: either one quarter of independent study (EART 297 or 298) resulting in an independent report or a comprehensive exam based on their course work.

In addition, the following standard graduate curriculum includes these required courses:

  • EART 204, Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) Foundations
  • EART 206, Great Papers in Earth Sciences
  • at least one of the following: EART 207 Tectonics, EART 209 Solid Earth Geochemistry, EART 210 Stellar/Planetary Formation and Evolution, EART 220 Ground Water Modeling, EART 231 Igneous Petrology, EART 254 The Climate System, EART 262 Planetary Interiors, EART 265 Order of Magnitude Estimation, EART 270 Global Seismology, EART 275 Magnetohydrodynamics
  • EART 292-01, Whole Earth Seminar and EART 292-02, IGPP Seminar - every quarter
  • EART 293, Graduate Research Seminar (1 unit) - every spring quarter


EART 292-01, Whole Earth Seminar (Tuesdays, 4 pm) and EART 292-02, IGPP Seminar (generally Fridays, 3:30, but schedules vary) are weekly seminars that bring researchers from other institutions and organizations to give talks and interact informally with E&PS students, researchers, faculty, and staff. These multi-disciplinary seminars are intended to keep faculty and students up-to-date on recent research developments in the sciences. In addition, most visitors are happy to meet with interested students - be sure to contact the seminar host if you are interested in meeting with a speaker, and tell the organizers if you know of excellent speakers we should bring to give a talk.

During the Graduate Research Seminar, two to three graduate students (generally in their 2nd, 4th, and occasionally 6th year) give oral presentations on current or anticipated research and are critiqued by their peers for both content and presentation. The primary purpose of this seminar is to give students practice in presenting research results. Students should prepare carefully and practice for these seminars. E&PS graduate students have received a large number of awards for presentations at national and international meetings, and EART 293 has helped contributed to this. This seminar also helps keep students and faculty aware of the kinds of research projects planned or underway.

Students considering applying to do a M.S. in Earth Sciences at UCSC are encouraged to contact prospective faculty and researcher advisors in areas of mutual interest as early as possible.