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Graduate Programs

Geology Graduate Program

Master of Science in Geology & Ph.D. in Geology

Students may enter either a major or major-minor program in geology, choosing an appropriate course of study for their academic or career goals. Graduate students conduct research within the department and/or in association with the Center for Neotectonic Studies, the Ralph J. Roberts Center for Research in Economic Geology, the Arthur Brant Laboratory for Exploration Geophysics, the Desert Research Institute, the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, the Seismological Laboratory, and the United States Geological Survey-Reno Field Office. Visit the Geology Degrees pages for more information about MS and Ph.D. degrees.

For Current Students

Stay in touch with the latest news, announcements, and program changes that affect you. These program changes affect all M.S. and Ph.D. students in the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering who are working toward obtaining graduate degrees in Geology, Geophysics, Geological Engineering, and Geo-Engineering. Graduate students in Hydrologic Sciences follow their own guidelines. There are also links to forms and other resources that pertain to your graduate studies in this department.

Please see the newly revised text on the Advisement page that describes both the M.S. Comprehensive Exam (if applicable) and the Ph.D. Qualifier and Comprehensive Exams; there are also some helpful suggestions for M.S. and Ph.D. students to help move through your degree program.


Please direct any inquiries to Dr. Paula Noble [], Graduate Program Director.

You should also become aware of the Changes to Graduate Program Requirements table which is regularly updated whenever important changes that will affect you have occurred. It is your responsibility, not that of your advisor, to be conversant with all the regulations that affect your degree studies here.

Description of Program Change & Who is Affected

  1. The graduate seminar class, GEOL 697/698, was previously taken during the first and second semesters of residency. Now, all graduate students will take GEOL 697 during their first or second semester, and GEOL 698 during their final semester. The public presentation of graduate research results will be done in GEOL 698 (see next entry).
  2. Graduate students will be required to make a public presentation as a part of a minimum one-credit GEOL 697/698 class in their final semester, effectively decoupled from their thesis/dissertation defense. Note: the defense with the student's committee may occur immediately after this presentation or at a later date, and whether the student needs to present again at that time will be determined by his/her committee.
    • Who is Affected: All graduate students matriculating in Fall 2010 semester or later; strongly recommended for all current students
  3. Graduate students pursuing M.S. degrees in the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering must turn in a completed Program of Study, including a brief synopsis of the proposed thesis research topic, to the Graduate Program Director by the end of their second semester. Ph.D. students must submit these materials by the end of their third semester. Transfer of credits for either degree must also have been completed by this date. An additional semester's time to complete this requirement may be requested for unusual circumstances.
    • Who is Affected: All graduate students matriculating in Fall 2010 semester or later; strongly recommended for all current students
  4. The Department recognizes that a doctoral dissertation is broadly equivalent to three published papers in high-quality peer-reviewed archival journals, with variation between disciplines suitably taken into account. Publication by doctoral students in this Department during their graduate studies is strongly encouraged.
    • Who is Affected: All graduate students matriculating in Fall 2010 semester or later; strongly recommended for all current students

Resources and Forms

Here are links to items you will need during your graduate studies.

  • Annual Progress Report (pdf) This form is to be completed by April 15 of each year.
  • Departmental Guidelines for M.S. and Ph.D. Degree Programs (coming soon)

Important Dates and Deadlines

Be sure you are aware of the deadlines you must meet during your graduate career; these are maintained by the Graduate School. In addition, your Annual Progress Report form must be turned in by April 15 to the Department's Graduate Program Director.


Students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university to be accepted as a graduate student. For full graduate standing, at least 30 credits of undergraduate work in geology and/or related fields must have been completed.

To be considered for admission, students must meet the following minimum university requirements:

  • Grade-point average (GPA): Four-year undergraduate GPA of 2.75 for applicants to a M.S. degree program, or 3.0 GPA for a Ph.D. degree program.
  • Minimum TOEFL score (if applicable): 550, with scores sent directly to the university. Note that 600 is recommended because students below a 600 must then pass a bridge test upon entering the university.

For admission to the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, prospective students must also submit the following:

  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE): Score of 50% or higher in the verbal and quantitative sections - sent directly to the UNR Graduate School;
  • Three letters of recommendation certifying ability to perform graduate-level work at the desired level (M.S. or Ph.D.);
  • A two page personal statement of interest stating why UNR is their school of choice, why they wish to pursue the desired degree (M.S. or Ph.D.), and what specialties and/or faculty the applicant is interested in; and
  • Copies of transcripts and TOEFL scores (if applicable).

The Admissions Committee gives comparable weight to each item submitted as part of the application package so an applicant will not be denied admission based solely on his/her GPA or GRE scores. It is advisable for applicants to contact prospective faculty advisors to discuss their interests prior to applying. A physical visit to UNR to see the Department and meet with the prospective faculty advisor can also be critical to a successful application for graduate study.

Application Deadlines and Addresses

For Fall semester admission, complete applications (i.e., the items listed above) must be submitted on line with any supporting documents received by the Graduate School by January 1 for Fall and September 15 for Spring admissions. GRE scores and official transcripts are sent directly to the UNR Graduate School to arrive there well before these stated deadlines; the applicant's personal statement and letters of recommendation, if not uploaded via the on-line application, should be sent to:

University of Nevada, Reno
Graduate School/0326
Reno, NV 89557-0326

For additional questions regarding DGSE Graduate admissions please contact us:

Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering/172
Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557

Attn: Graduate Admissions
Phone: (775) 784-6050
Fax: (775) 784-1833

For the Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences, applications and letters of reference must be received by January 10 or August 10 for the appropriate admission cycle. Please contact the Hydro Program Director if you are interested in applying.

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