Accelerated M.A. in Earth Science

As a student in the accelerated M.A. in earth science program at Western Michigan University, you will begin to earn credits toward your graduate degree while completing your bachelor’s degree. In this program, you will gain a broad and interdisciplinary perspective on Earth processes. Your undergraduate coursework will include study of such topics as the earth’s deep interior; surface processes; earth materials such as minerals and rocks, mountains, environmental systems and fossils; and Earth history. Your advanced undergraduate coursework can include such topics as geophysics, geochemistry and hydrogeology. After completing the bachelor’s requirements, your M.A. program is deliberately flexible, allowing you to choose a combination of coursework that best fits your interests and career goals. Coursework is drawn from areas such as geochemistry, geophysics, geomorphology, hydrogeology, petrology, remote sensing, sedimentary systems and economic geology. Additional coursework may come from other disciplines such as biology, chemistry, geography, environmental science, climatology or education. This coursework will provide you with foundational theoretical knowledge, as well as the ability to carry out relevant field and laboratory techniques necessary for an earth science career in state and federal government agencies, non-profit agencies, environmental and geotechnical consulting firms and the education sector.

You should pursue an accelerated M.A. in earth science if...

  • You have a wide spectrum of interests in the earth and environmental sciences.
  • You want to minimize the time and cost of earning a master’s degree.
  • You want a flexible graduate program that you can customize to your specific interests and career goals.
  • You are interested in a career in the environmental or earth science sectors.
  • You are considering going on to additional graduate work in the earth sciences, but are unsure of what specific field you want to pursue.

Program overview

To be eligible for this program, you need to have senior standing (minimum 88 credit hours), have earned at least 30 credit hours at WMU and have earned at least 20 credit hours as a declared major in geology, geochemistry, geophysics or hydrogeology. As you complete the basic coursework toward your major, you may begin to take specialized courses at the graduate level. Up to 12 credit hours of designated coursework can be counted in both your undergraduate and graduate programs. After you complete the undergraduate degree, you automatically progress to the M.A. in earth science degree program. This program allows you to customize your course selection based on your interests and career goals. At least half of your graduate coursework will be drawn from geoscience disciplines such as geochemistry, spatial data analysis, geophysics, glacial geomorphology, hydrogeology, igneous petrology, remote sensing, sedimentary systems and basin analysis, sedimentary petrology and economic geology. Up to half of your graduate coursework can come from other disciplines such as biology, chemistry, geography, environmental science and climatology or science education. A thesis is not required as part of this degree program, although you do have the opportunity to participate in field or laboratory research.

  • Program design: Our graduate students have 20 to 40 percent classroom/laboratory education with a 60 to 80 percent focus on research. Students will gain experience through attending dynamic lectures, performing laboratory research in our state of the art facilities and applying their knowledge in hands-on field courses. Our graduate programs are designed for national and international students coming from diverse scientific backgrounds with a variety of career goals—from industry to academia.
  • Program requirements: To learn more about specific program requirements, consult the 2018-19 graduate catalog.
  • Course listings: To see which courses will be offered when, check out the WMU course listings. You can also read course descriptions for geosciences classes here.
  • Professional development: Students in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences are encouraged to gain valuable professional, research and field experience through joining our highly active student organizations: Geology Club, Student Chapter of American Institute for Professional Geologists, Student Chapter of American Associate of Petroleum Geologists and the Student Chapter of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.


Employment options for holders of a master’s degree in earth sciences are broad. Graduates seek employment with state and federal government agencies, private consulting firms, non-profit organizations and educational services. People with formal earth science training are also needed in industries as varied as journalism, environmental law, sales, marketing, information services, management and publishing. Some specific careers available to those with master’s degrees in geosciences include:

  • Geologist*, geoscientist or geographer
  • Hydrogeologist
  • Teacher*, educational consultant or museum educator
  • Manager or mid-level consultant
  • Environmental technician, scientist and specialist
  • Environmental regulator

*Some positions require additional licensure not provided as part of this program. For more career information, contact your faculty advisor (listed below) and visit the Career Guidance and Alumni Spotlight pages.

Our Students

  • Meet our students: Watch video interviews featuring undergraduate and graduate students from a wide variety of personal and educational backgrounds discussing their experiences in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences.
  • Recent student achievements: Read about the accomplishments of our current students.
  • Alumni spotlight: Read about where our students find careers after graduating.

Associated faculty

  • Faculty directory: Learn about our faculty members' professional and academic backgrounds, their teaching and research interests and publishing history.
  • Faculty and staff research specialties: Learn about each faculty and staff members' unique research interests (links to laboratories are also provided here).


Students in this program must work closely with both their undergraduate departmental advisor and their graduate advisor to ensure that all requirements are met. As early as possible in your junior year, contact the geosciences graduate advisor to apply to the program. Once accepted you will need to meet with both advisors to plan your program of study.

  • Undergraduate academic advising: Confused about planning your undergraduate coursework for this program? Need to check your progress to your B.S. degree? Contact you undergraduate faculty advisor, Dr. Michelle Kominz. Curious about job opportunities for graduates in this program? Contact Dr. Duane Hampton, our prospective undergraduate advisor and career advisor, to set up an appointment.
  • Graduate academic advising: Interested in applying to this program? Confused about which classes to take, how to meet program requirements, or what your progress is towards your graduate degree? Confused about Graduate College forms or deadlines? All of these questions can be discussed with your graduate faculty advisor, Dr. Peter Voice.


What's next?

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