Doctor of Philosophy in Geosciences

As a graduate student in the doctoral program in geosciences at Western Michigan University, you will gain a broad perspective on Earth processes as well as a research specialization in a specific discipline within the geosciences. Through your coursework and research, you will choose to specialize in one or more areas such as geochemistry, geophysics, geomorphology, hydrogeology, petrology, remote sensing, sedimentary systems, earth science education or economic geology. Your coursework will provide you with foundational theoretical knowledge, as well as the ability to carry out relevant field and laboratory techniques. During your dissertation research, you will learn how to design an investigation, collect and analyze your own data, form interpretations and share your results with peers, faculty and members of the geoscience community in both oral and written formats. This program provides the specialized knowledge, critical thinking and communication skills necessary to succeed in a wide range of careers. Graduates of this program have attained positions in colleges and universities, state and federal government research labs and private-sector industry.

You should pursue a Ph.D. in geosciences if...

  • You want a program that blends theoretical work, laboratory and field training and original research.
  • You want to conduct original, cutting-edge research in specialized areas of the geosciences.
  • You want to gain experience in presenting your research and writing it up for publication.
  • You are interested in a career as a university professor, laboratory or field researcher or working as a researcher in private industry.


Employment options for holders of a Ph.D. in geosciences are broad. Graduates seek employment with colleges and universities, state and federal government agencies and research labs, private consulting firms and non-profit organizations. People with formal geosciences 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 Ph.D. degrees in geosciences include:

  • College or university professor of geosciences
  • Geologist*, geoscientist or geographer
  • Hydrogeologist
  • Research associate or senior researcher in a government agency or private firm

*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.

Program overview

After completing basic coursework in three areas (either geophysics, geochemistry, hydrogeology or sedimentology), you choose to specialize your coursework and research in a discipline within the geosciences. Our faculty have research programs in geochemistry, spatial data analysis and informatics, geophysics, glacial geomorphology, earth science education, hydrogeology, igneous petrology, remote sensing, sedimentary systems and basin analysis, sedimentary petrology and economic geology. In your fourth semester, you begin your dissertation in which you design and carry out an original research study. During this program, you will present your work in poster or oral format at at least one professional conference and have a first-authored paper accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

  • 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 2019-20 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.

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).


Graduate students have a departmental advisor who helps you meet the requirements of your program and the WMU Graduate College. In addition, Ph.D. students have a dissertation advisor who supervises your research and can direct you to the courses you need. Please consult your advisor regularly to ensure that academic requirements are met.

  • Academic advising: Confused about which classes to take, how to meet program requirements, or what your progress is towards graduation? Confused about Graduate College forms or deadlines? Have questions about the preparation of your dissertation? All of these questions can be discussed with your graduate faculty advisor, Dr. Peter Voice.


What's next?

Apply   Schedule a visit   Meet with advisor   Contact us