II. General University and Departmental Requirements for an Advanced Degree at the University of Nevada, Reno

Graduate students enrolled in either the M.S. or Ph.D. programs in the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering are obliged to comply with the requirements of both the Graduate School and the Department.

Our degree programs


  • Masters of Science
  • Non-Thesis Masters of Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy

Geological Engineering

  • Masters of Science
  • Non-Thesis Masters of Science


  • Masters of Science
  • Non-Thesis Masters of Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy

As in most other universities, it is the sole responsibility of the student to become aware of all policies, procedures, and deadlines appropriate to their degree program. All graduate students need both to consult their advisors and to check the latest updates on policies. A visit to the Graduate School’s webpage is strongly recommended to review information on requirements and all forms that will eventually be needed by the student. It is best to plan ahead and meet often with your advisor to ensure that all are aware of timing and procedures.

Annual registration

The University Graduate School requires that students must register for at least three credit hours each semester or obtain a written leave of absence approved by the student's advisor and the Department chair. Please note that unless these approved leaves are in the Graduate School's records (that is, recorded on the Program of Study), extensions of the 6- and 8-year requirements for M.S. and Ph.D. degrees will not be approved by the Graduate Dean. To receive benefits and the tuition waiver of an assistantship, a student needs to be enrolled in a minimum of 6 credits per semester.

Major advisor and committee

An approved application for graduate standing lists the name of the student's temporary Advisor. Usually the temporary Advisor becomes the student’s permanent Advisor through the completion of Program of Study paperwork (Graduate School form) during the first committee meeting or through the Declaration of Advisor/Major Advisor/Committee Chair form (Note that the PDF versions of the forms can be used as a template, but all final versions should be launched in the DocuSign forms available on the Graduate School website). You are free to change Advisors or committee members at any time during your graduate work; however, this may affect your research and stipend funding.  However, if you decide to change Advisors, some discussion with your present Advisor is essential. You may have an obligation to provide your present Advisor with data, reports, or other information related to research for which you received funding. 

The student also selects members of the Advisory-Examining Committee, who are recorded on and sign the Program of Study. The Program of Study is then formally approved by the Graduate Director and then the Graduate Dean. All committee members are involved in the determination of appropriate coursework and approval of the thesis or dissertation proposal.  They also help design and administer the relevant examinations and eventually approve the final thesis or dissertation.

For the M.S. degree, this committee is composed of 3 or more faculty members:

  • The principal advisor (a.k.a. committee chair, thesis advisor, or major advisor)
  • An additional member from the the DGSE graduate faculty list
  • A faculty member from outside of the DGSE graduate faculty list that serves as the Graduate School representative

Doctoral committees require at least five members:

  • The principal advisor
  • Two additional members from the DGSE graduate faculty list
  • One faculty member from outside of the DGSE graduate faculty list that serves as the Graduate School representative
  • One additional committee member which may be from inside or outside of DGSE graduate faculty list

The committee members provide additional counseling and expertise beyond that of the thesis advisor, maintain standards, and can help with problems that may arise. A list of all UNR graduate faculty may be found on the Graduate School website, and a search bar allows you to call up those in a specific degree program, if needed.

Both M.S. and Ph.D. committee meetings should be arranged by the student, and should take place a minimum of once each year. Students should be in contact with committee members on a semester basis to keep them apprised of their progress. The role of the Graduate School representative is to provide an objective external perspective and to assure that Graduate School policies are being followed. Any changes to the committee must be made using the Change of Advisory Committee form.

Program of study

Advanced degrees are conferred by the university following approval of the graduate faculty, the graduate dean, and completion of an approved Program of Study. The Program of Study form serves a variety of purposes:  (1) it defines the classes and the Advisory-Examining Committee; (2) it is produced sufficiently early in the student's stay in our Department to guide the student and remind faculty of student needs; and (3) it enables students to take charge of their graduate program.

The Program of Study should be approved by the Department of Geological Sciences and then turned into the Graduate School by the end of the 2nd semester for M.S. students and by the end of the 2nd year for Ph.D. students. Typically, the Program of Study form is presented and signed at the committee meeting during the comprehensive exam meetings (end of the 2nd semester for M.S. students and the end of the 4th or 5th semester for Ph.D. students). See the degree specific requirements below for information on the comprehensive exam.

After the Program of Study is filed with the Graduate school, any changes must be made by filing a Change in Program of Study form.

Foreign language

The Department of Geological Sciences has no foreign language requirement for the Ph.D. degree.