Earth Sciences M.S.


The graduate program in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department is designed to prepare students for research, industry, consulting, teaching, and numerous other career paths, including business and law. The aim is to develop habits of critical analysis and thorough documentation; skills in quantitative field, computational, and/or laboratory research; and proficiency in one or more fields of research. The fundamental requirements for admission to the program are substantial evidence of superior scholarship, dedication and determination to do quality work, and aptitude for original research. Preparation in the basic sciences equivalent to the requirements for the Earth sciences bachelor's degree at UC Santa Cruz is expected and, for non-undergraduate Earth sciences majors, achieving breadth of knowledge across the Earth and planetary sciences is expected. Excellent scholars from other disciplines, including chemistry, physics, engineering, biology, or astronomy are both eligible and encouraged to apply. Gaps in knowledge can be made up through coursework.

UC Santa Cruz awards both the Master of Science (M.S.) and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees. The M.S. degree may be the terminal degree for someone seeking careers in industry, government, or teaching at the secondary level. It may also be an initial step toward the Ph.D. degree, in which the student gains knowledge and confidence in carrying out and completing a more complex scientific project. Details regarding admission to graduate standing, financial aid, examinations, and the requirements for the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees are available from the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department graduate studies webpage. Additional details can be found at the UC Santa Cruz Division of Graduate Studies.


Course Requirements

Plan 1 Thesis M.S. Track.

Prior to the first quarter of study, each first-year thesis track student must meet with their faculty advisor to determine a customized study plan designed to improve breadth and enable research goals. Immediately afterwards, a meeting is scheduled with the faculty graduate representative to finalize and approve this initial discussion with a written course plan. Yearly academic review meetings with the primary advisor will then reassess the student's progress in completing these courses and independent research.

In their first year, all thesis-track graduate students register for:
EART 203Introductory Teaching Seminar


EART 204Earth and Planetary Sciences Foundations


EART 206Great Papers in the Earth Sciences


And, in consultation with the graduate advising committee, choose at least one subject course focusing on specific Earth and planetary sciences content and one analytic course focusing on a quantitative method (from a list of appropriate courses in the EPS Graduate Handbook).

In subsequent years, all students participate in:
EART 293Graduate Research Seminar


Other course requirements are tailored to the individual student’s academic background, professional experience, and plans for research. Master’s degree students must take a minimum of 35 quarter credits of graduate and upper-division undergraduate courses (at least 20 of which are graduate-level and not including EART 297, Independent Study) including the courses mentioned above.

The M.S. thesis is a scholarly contribution consisting of results of an original research project by the student. Students are strongly encouraged to prepare their results for publication in the peer-reviewed literature and to present their work publicly at conferences. The M.S. thesis must be completed by the end of the third year after entering the program, and students are strongly encouraged to complete their thesis earlier.

Plan 2 Coursework M.S. Track.

The coursework M.S. track is a professional program 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 disciplines (e.g., biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, environmental studies) to acquire advanced training in Earth and planetary sciences. Prior to the first quarter of study, students meet with their faculty advisor to develop a study plan of at least nine 5-credit courses, and a statement of objectives. Of these courses, only one can be from the EART 280-EART 290 series, and at least 20 credits must come from graduate courses numbered EART 200-EART 279. One of the nine courses can be an independent study involving a focused research project. It is expected that the course plan will comprise a minimum of 45 quarter credits at the graduate-level and quantitative, upper-division, undergraduate-level elective courses. The course plan must be approved by the graduate representative. Degree completion in one year would be emphasized.

Coursework M.S. students are required to fulfill one of the following capstone options: a substantial review/research manuscript or a comprehensive oral examination based on their coursework. 

Pre-Qualifying Requirements

Admission to the Coursework M.S. Track requires explicit documented sponsorship by an EPS faculty member. 

Foreign Language Requirements

There is no foreign-language requirement other than demonstrated proficiency in English. Applicants from countries where English is not the primary language must take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test.

Teaching Experience

It is recommended that all thesis-track graduate students attain some teaching experience while at UC Santa Cruz.