Department admissions information

We’re glad to see you’re interested in pursuing an M.S. or Ph.D. in the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno!

Here you will find general information on how to apply to the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering graduate program, as well as a few tips for putting together a successful application. Please read through this information carefully, and don’t hesitate to reach out to our faculty members for more information. The Department welcomes applicants from both U.S. institutions and abroad, and strives to provide a supportive atmosphere where students can grow as scientists (see our Commitment to Diversity, Equality and Inclusion). We’re excited to see you in Reno!

Applying to the program

Applications to the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering are submitted online through the Graduate School. The Graduate School will process the applications and then they will be provided to the department for the faculty to review. All applicants must meet the University-wide Graduate School admissions requirements in addition to the Department's graduate program admissions requirements.

Graduate School admissions information

Department admission requirements

Students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university to be accepted as graduate student. For full graduate standing, at least 30 credits of undergraduate work in geology and/or related fields must have been completed. International students are encouraged to consult with potential advisors to discuss their previous degrees and coursework. Prior research experiences are recommended, and we encourage you to describe these research opportunities in your personal statement (see required submission items below).

Students that are admitted to the M.S. in Geological Engineering program from a non-engineering Bachelor of Science degree program will be expected to make up the following undergraduate course deficiencies as a minimum: CE/MECH 241 (Statics), CE 372 (Strength of Materials), and ENGR 360/GE 414/MINE 350 (Fluid Mechanics). Students interested in applying to the Geological Engineering program are strongly encouraged to contact the faculty member they are interested in working with—current research topics will largely dictate the amount and type of coursework that needs to be taken and recommended prerequisites. 

Students applying to the M.S. or Ph.D. programs in Geophysics are expected to have a strong quantitative background through coursework in Physics and Mathematics, as well as fundamentals of Geology. A one-year course in university-level Physics (w/ Calculus) is expected in addition to 3 semesters of Calculus. Additional math such as Differential Equations and Linear Algebra or programming skills are beneficial.

For admission to the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, prospective students must submit the following items through the application portal within the Graduate School. We also strongly encourage you to communicate with potential faculty advisers before you apply (see information below). 

  • Letters of recommendation: Three letters of recommendation certifying ability to perform graduate-level work at the desired level (M.S. or Ph.D.) These letters should come from people who know you well. In the recommendation letter section of the application through the Graduate School, you will select whether you want to waive your access to the letters. By selecting “waive access,” you are releasing your right to view and inspect these letters. When the Graduate School communicates with your recommender, the Graduate School makes it very clear if you have waived or not waived your right to view the letter. We encourage you to communicate with previous advisors and/or mentors about the choice to waive your right to access these letters. Most faculty will write more honestly if they know only UNR faculty will view their letter. Tip: The best letters often come from the people you have worked closely with in a classroom setting and/or through a teaching and/or research experience. Feel free to ask your potential letter writers if they’re willing to write you a positive recommendation.
  • Personal statement: A one to two-page personal statement of interest stating why the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno is your program of choice, why you wish to pursue the desired degree (M.S. or Ph.D.), what your career goals are for after you obtain your desired degree (if you don’t know this yet, that’s okay), what specialties and/or faculty you are interested in pursuing, and a brief description of any prior research projects in which you played an active role.  Tip: Many people struggle with writing personal statements, we’re specifically looking for the above information, so please focus on that.
  • Transcripts and English language exam scores: Copies of transcripts need to be submitted as part of the application. Unofficial transcripts are accepted during the initial application submission. Official transcripts will need to be provided if an offer is made.  For students, from a non-English speaking country, an English exam score must also be submitted. Please see the Graduate School admission requirements for international students page for more information.
  • Note: We do not require or request GRE scores as part of graduate applications.

Faculty seeking graduate students

We have compiled a list of faculty from the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, and the Nevada Seismological Laboratory that are seeking graduate students. The list includes information on whether the faculty member is seeking master's and/or doctoral student(s) and the types of funded research projects available. For further information, please reach out to the individual faculty member. More information on the faculty can be found on the department faculty page.

Browse faculty seeking graduate students

Identifying and communicating with a potential advisor

Please be aware students are not admitted solely based on scores and letters. The program also requires a faculty member to serve as your advisor. In addition, the items submitted as part of your application will be reviewed by individual faculty members who have available funding and are looking for new graduate students to work on their research projects. To that end, identifying a University of Nevada, Reno faculty member who you would like to work with, and communicating with them before you turn in your application, is the best way to be admitted to our program (please see our ‘Tips for contacting a faculty member’). It is important to contact faculty to see if they are planning to accept students in the next admission round, what projects and funding they have available, and what they look for in a graduate student in terms of background education and skillsets. Reaching out to faculty members before you apply allows you to start a dialogue and figure out if you will be a good fit in that person’s research group and vice-versa. Many faculty members will be happy to chat with you over email, on the phone or over video chat so you can learn more about the program, ongoing research areas, and more. If it seems like a good fit, then your application is likely to be successful.  If it doesn’t seem like a good fit, then you know it’s not wise to apply, and you can save time and money by focusing your search elsewhere.


Students are generally only admitted if funding is available for their research project and to cover their stipend. Funding comes from two sources: either as a department teaching assistant (TA) or as a research assistant (RA) generally for a grant administered by your advisor. TAs are highly competitive and are awarded based on the skills described in your application. RAs are dependent on the individual faculty member so please contact the faculty member you are interested in working with to see if they have RA funding available.

The stipend consists of a minimum salary of $1700 per month for MS students and $2200 per month for Ph.D. students for the ten academic months (Aug 1 to May 30 when you will be taking classes in addition to thesis research), waiver of any non-resident fees, paid student health insurance, and a Grant-in-Aid Tuition credit for between 6 and 9 credits. Some faculty pay their students a higher salary so please check in with individual faculty for further information. You will be responsible for payment of any other student fees such as Health Center, Counseling and other fees. Most of the graduate students find Reno to be an affordable and enjoyable place to live on the stipend provided by the University.

Application deadlines and addresses

Complete applications (i.e., the items listed above) must be submitted online with any supporting documents via the Graduate School application portal by January 1 for Fall and September 15 for Spring admissions. Unofficial transcripts are accepted for the application, but you will only be admitted if official transcripts are on file with the Graduate School. For additional questions regarding graduate admissions please contact us via email at or:

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 information regarding admissions to the programs in hydrologic sciences, visit the Graduate Program in Hydrologic Sciences website.