IV. Departmental requirements for an M.S. degree

Thesis option

This section summarizes the standards for the M.S. degree with thesis option. The Department of Geological Sciences does not normally offer the M.S. non-thesis option (see next section). It is important to understand that earning a graduate degree involves much more than just completing a fixed number of graduate classes. The student's Advisory/Examining Committee may require the student to take additional courses if, in its opinion, training or background is needed to reach the degree of proficiency typical of others holding this degree in the student's chosen field of specialization. The number of classes required by the Graduate School is really a minimum, because the amount of preparation a student needs for thesis research varies considerably across departments and specialties.

Course Work -31 cr of graduate courses, including:

  • GEOL 795 Comprehensive exam (1 credit, taken second semester for all M.S. programs)
  • 24 credits of coursework (at least 12 credits at the 700 level); 3 of these 24 credits must be GEOL 790 (1 credit)
  • 6 cr of thesis (GEOL 797)

Course selection will be determined in conjunction with your advisor, committee, and the program graduate director. Examples of possible courses include:

  • GE 684 – Groundwater Hydrology (3 credits)
  • GPH 655 – Geophysics and Geodynamics (4 credits)
  • GEOL 671 – Ore Deposits (3 credits)
  • GEOL 720 – Modern Analaytical Techniques in Earth Sciences (3 credits)
  • GEOL 723 – Chemistry and Physics of Magmas (3 credits)
  • GEOL 733 – Petrotectonics (3 credits)
  • GEOL 737 – Neotectonics and Quaternary Mapping (3 credits)
  • GEOL 738 – Quaternary Field Exercises (3 credits)
  • GEOL 755 – Basin Analysis (3 credits)
  • GEOL 767 – Advanced Optical and Infrared Remote Sensing (3 credits)
  • GEOL 780 – Isotope Hydrology (3 credits)
  • GEOL 784 – Vadose Zone Hydrology (3 credits)

Many students will, therefore, take three semesters of GEOL 790 (3 credits), three or four 700-level courses (12 cr), three or four 600-level courses (9-12 Credits), one credit of GEOL 795 and 6 cr of thesis to satisfy these requirements.

A minimum of 31 credits of acceptable graduate courses (grade of B or better and listed on the Program of Study) must be completed. A maximum of 9 credits completed elsewhere (Grade B or better) can be transferred and applied to the M.S. degree at UNR.  Eighteen of the 24 credits must be in the major field of study.  The overall grade point average for graduate classwork must be maintained above 3.0.  If you fall below 3.0, you will be placed on academic probation, you will lose your assistantship, and you will be allowed one semester to bring your grades up to 3.0 or above.  Failure to meet this standard will result in your being dismissed from the program. See Program of Study Requirements (PDF on graduate school web site) for additional details about requirements.

The Graduate Seminar (GEOL 790) is required of all students entering MS. and Ph.D. programs in Geology, Geophysics, and the M.S. in Geologic Engineering.  Master’s students must enroll a minimum of 3 semesters. Graduate seminar is a forum for faculty and students from UNR and other organizations to present information on cutting edge topics in the geological sciences. The seminar schedule varies each semester. 

M.S. examinations

Two examinations are required for the M.S. degree.

  1. Comprehensive examination. In their second semester, MS students will be required to sign up for one credit of MS Comps (GEOL 795), under the direction of the Graduate Director. The MS Comp Exam consists of two requirements: 1) a formal thesis proposal including a presentation of the proposed research; and 2) approval of your Program of Study. Students are required to submit a formal thesis proposal to their committee and have a committee meeting to discuss both the proposal and their proposed Program of Study prior to the end of their second semester in residence (does not include summer semester). Both must be approved by their committee and the Program of Study form needs to be dropped off with the Graduate Director to enable the Director to sign the form and to provide a grade (S/U) for the student. Failure to complete this requirement in the allotted time will result in the student being dropped from the program.  Under extenuating circumstances, the student may petition for an extension, but any petition must be approved by their thesis committee before it will be considered by the Graduate Director.
  2. Final oral examination. A final Oral Examination (Thesis defense, announced two weeks in advance and open to the public including a public presentation) is held with the Advisory-Examining Committee to evaluate the quality and professional standards of the student's research. After successfully completing this examination and approval of the final draft of the thesis, the student is advanced to Master's candidacy and may apply for graduation. The thesis defense is usually about 2 hours long and consists of a public talk (~30–45 min) followed by a closed session with the committee where questions are asked and specific recommendations/revisions are suggested for the thesis. The thesis should be scheduled in a venue that can sufficiently accommodate the audience (> 30 people).

Time limits

All requirements for this degree must be completed within six calendar years preceding conferral of the degree.

Non-thesis option

A non-thesis M.S. option is available as an appropriate alternative upon special petition. The non-thesis option is considered a terminal degree and is not recommended for students considering a future Doctoral degree. To pursue a non-thesis M.S., the student must first discuss this option with their advisor and committee. If the advisor and committee deem the non-thesis M.S. to be an appropriate option, the advisor will then submit a memo petitioning the Graduate Committee within the first semester.

For the non-thesis M.S., a minimum of 30 course credits is required with at least 15 credits at the 700-level. In addition to the course work, a Professional Paper (2 credits of GE 796 or equivalent Professional Paper credits) is required. The Professional Paper will demonstrate the student's ability to integrate technical state-of the-art knowledge into a document suitable for professional review and publication. Topics may be of an applied nature and must be approved by the student's Graduate Committee. Format and content of the Professional Paper should be commensurate with those found in professional society proceedings, regional/national symposia and conferences, applied science and resource management journals, and other journals serving as a forum for scientific discussion. The student must also meet with their committee by the end of their 2nd semester. During this meeting, the student will provide a draft summary of what will be included within the Professional Paper. This summary should be circulated to the committee a few weeks in advance of the committee meeting.