Graduate Programs

Prospective Students

Graduate Degrees Offered

We offer MS and PhD degrees in Geology, Geophysics, and Geological Engineering.
Graduate Degrees in Hydrologic Sciences and Hydrogeology are a separate interdisciplinary program with their own admission process and standards. Please see the GPHS web pages for additional details on those programs.

Research Areas

Our graduate programs are thesis and research-oriented. Faculty in the Department of Geological Sciences, the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology and the Nevada Seismological Lab supervise graduate student research. Faculty at the Desert Research Institute and United States Geological Survey-Reno Field Office will also supervise students and serve on committees. We have strengths in the areas of geodynamics, volcanology, geochemistry and petrology, Earth and planetary surface processes, earthquakes and seismology, mineral and energy resources and geological engineering. Additional details are provided on our Research Specialties web page which also lists faculty working in these areas.


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.

Students that are admitted to the MS-GE program from Bachelor of Science degrees that are non-engineering related are expected to make up the following undergraduate course deficiencies as a minimum: CE/MECH 241 (statics), CE 372 (strength of materials), and MINE 350 (fluid mechanics).

Students applying to the MS-GPH program are expected to have strong quantitative background through coursework in Physics and Mathematics, as well as fundamentals of geology. A one-year course in University Physics (w/ Calculus) is expected, as is at least 3 semesters of Calculus. Additional math such as Differential Equations and Linear Algebra or programming skills are beneficial.

A master's degree from an accredited college or university is recommended for students applying to the PhD; however student with an exceptional undergraduate record will still be considered.

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): 600 in the written exam (100 in the iBT or 7 in the IELTS). English proficiency exam is required unless your country of origin is Antigua, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, British Guyana, Canada (except for Quebec), Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, St. Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, and United Kingdom.
  • For admission to the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, prospective students must also submit the items below. All materials should be sent directly to the UNR Graduate School and we strongly recommend letters of recommendation be delivered on-line.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE): Score of 50% or higher in the verbal and quantitative sections;
  • Three letters of recommendation certifying ability to perform graduate-level work at the desired level (M.S. or Ph.D.);
  • A one to two page personal statement of interest stating why UNR is your school of choice, why you 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. Please be aware we do not admit students solely based on scores and letters, we also require a faculty member to be willing to act as your advisor. To that end, identifying a faculty member here who you would like to work with, and communicating with him or her in advance, is the best way to win admission.

The process of winning financial support for your studies is extremely competitive, and awardees usually have records well above the stated minima. Our current graduate acceptance rate is <20% of applicants.

Application Deadlines and Addresses

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. Assure 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.