Master of Science in Geosciences

The Master of Science in geosciences at Western Michigan University prepares you for professional work in geology and further graduate study.

Geosciences has four core areas of specialization:

  • Geochemistry and petrology
  • Geophysics and tectonics
  • Hydrogeology
  • Stratigraphy and sedimentary geology


You will need to meet the following requirements to be considered for admission to this program.

  • Undergraduate major in geology or a related field: You must have completed, or will be required to complete as soon as possible upon enrollment in the program, GEOS 1300, GEOS 1310, GEOS 3010 or GEOS 3350 and a field experience such as GEOS 4380, GEOS 4390, or equivalent. Any remedial coursework completed upon enrollment must be completed with a grade of B or better. If you enter the program with coursework deficiencies, the Master of Science in geosciences timetable will begin once remedial work has been satisfactorily completed, rather than upon matriculation in the program.
  • Good academic standing: A grade point average of at least 3.0 (out of 4.0) for the previous two years of undergraduate work is strongly recommended and required for full consideration for teaching assistantships.
  • Recommendations: Submit three letters of recommendation from persons well situated to evaluate your qualifications. Have the original recommendations sent directly from the recommenders. If the letters are coming from a faculty at a college or university, the letter should be on that school's letterhead. Letters without a seal, appropriate letterhead, or the recommender's initial on the envelope are not accepted.
  • Advanced quantitative, verbal and analytical skills: Please submit your Graduate Record Examination score.

Program requirements

Strictly follow the Master of Science in geosciences timetable. Only under exceptional circumstances, can you request your advisor to petition the faculty for a timetable modification.

  • Choose your graduate advisor: Choose a graduate advisor by the end of the first semester after matriculation. Complete three hours of research in GEOS 6340 with your advisor. Choose your Master of Science committee composed of a primary advisor and at least two other geosciences faculty and file the paperwork identifying the committee by the end of the second semester.
  • Qualifying criteria: This requirement must be completed no later than the end of the second full year in residence. You must achieve a grade of BA in two of four core graduate courses. One graduate course in each of the four areas of specialization listed above will be designated as a core course. If you enter the program with a strong background in the core areas, you may be excused from enrolling in one or more core courses by achieving a grade of BA on the final examination for the courses. If you do not achieve a BA on your first attempt, you will be given an additional opportunity to pass either the course or the final examination with a grade of BA.
  • Proposal examination: By the end of the third academic semester, you must develop a written proposal describing your planned research. Give a 15-20 minute talk about the proposal followed by a closed-door oral examination conducted by your committee covering both the proposal and related aspects of geosciences. If you do not pass the exam, you may be allowed a second attempt which must be made within a time frame determined by your committee and must occur no later than the end of the next academic semester.
  • Coursework: Complete at least 30 total graduate credit hours in geosciences and related areas (mathematics, physical sciences). At least 15 credit hours must be at 6000 level or above, and at least 21 of the total credits must be completed in geosciences.
  • Departmental seminar presentation: In the second and each subsequent years in residence, you must give a 12-minute seminar presentation. The thesis defense presentation, if completed during the academic year, will fulfill this requirement in the final year of study. Formal enrollment in GEOS 6600 during one semester is recommended.
  • Master's thesis: Satisfactorily complete six hours of GEOS 7000 Master's Thesis.
  • Publication and presentation: At least one paper with first author must be submitted for publication in an approved refereed journal prior to graduation, or at least one scientific presentation must be given in an approved external venue prior to graduation. Journals and venues must be approved by your committee. Consult with the advisor to select approved journals and presentation.
  • Successful thesis defense: You will give a 30-45 minute public presentation about your research output, followed by a closed-door defense conducted by your committee. The graduate catalog contains policies and procedures in the event of an unsuccessful defense. Please check the dissertation and theses frequently asked questions for additional information. The final written thesis must conform to the requirements explained in the University's theses guidelines and may be written choosing one of the following two options:
    • Present a traditional comprehensive thesis based on your master's research. The thesis must include an introduction, literature review, methodology, results and discussion.
    • Present at least one journal as first author based on your master's research that has been submitted for publication and deemed publishable by your committee. A separately written document including introduction, literature review, significance of the work and appendices of data (where appropriate) must be submitted.