Master's Requirements

A master's degree candidate must earn a minimum of 45 credits at the graduate level and complete a thesis approved by their thesis committee. Of the 45 credits, 24 credits must be earned in graded classroom courses. Nine credits must be in courses numbered 600-699, which may be graded or pass/no pass. At least 30 credit hours must be completed in residence, in the major.

  • 24 graded classroom credits (500 or 600 level classes): Only graded courses apply. Up to 15 credits may be taken in courses offered outside the department (with advisor approval)
  • 9 credits at 600-699 level: May be taken graded or pass/no pass, but only graded courses can apply toward the 24 credits above.
  • 9 thesis credits: GEOL 503. At least 3 thesis credits must be taken in the final term.
  • Remaining credits: Can include research, readings, and seminars. Students are expected to register for and attend the department seminar and graduate student seminar (607) each term.

Earth Sciences Graduate Guide


Students are urged to take lecture-based courses when offered if they are appropriate for their sub-discipline, but 600 level credits may also be earned through non-lecture courses such as 601 Research, 605 Reading, 607 Seminar. Master’s students may NOT register for 603, which is reserved for doctoral students. Up to 15 credits may, with the approval of the graduate advisor, be taken in related sciences. As part of the total credits for the degree, nine credits of Thesis (ERTH 503) are required.

The remaining credits may include independent work, such as reading and research, and/or the departmental seminar. The seminar, in which outside speakers, faculty, or graduate students speak on some topic of general interest, is held once weekly in the afternoon during fall, winter, and spring terms. All students are required to register for one hour of seminar (ERTH 507) credit each term. Students are also expected to take ERTH 607 — New Graduate Seminar series during their first year, and ERTH 607 — Graduate Seminar when it is offered.

A minimum of 30 credit hours, over a minimum of two terms, must be taken on the Eugene campus. Graduate students at the university may, with advisor and departmental approval, take graduate courses at institutions in the Oregon University System participating in the Joint Campus program. A student registers for these courses with the University of Oregon registrar, who records each grade on the academic record under Joint-Campus Course (JC 610). The student must be a matriculated UO graduate student in an advanced degree program and registered for UO courses the same term the JC 610 course is taken. A maximum of 15 JC credits may be applied toward a graduate degree program. Forms are available at the Office of the Registrar.

Grade Requirements

Graduate students are expected to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better in their course work. If a student's GPA falls below 3.0 or they fail to show satisfactory progress toward completion of their degree (see section 5.2.4), they are subject to disqualification. A grade lower than a C- or a N (no-pass) will not be counted toward fulfilling the 24 graded credit requirement for master's degree students. Students must score at least a B- to earn a P (pass) in a non-graded course. Graduate School policy requires that students must convert a graduate course grade of Incomplete ("I") into a passing grade within one calendar year of the term the course was taken. After one year, the student must petition to the Graduate School for the removal of an incomplete. Instructors must submit grade changes for “I” credits.

Time Requirements

The Graduate School requires that students complete all work for the master's degree within seven years, including transferred credit, thesis, and all examinations. However, the department expects all work to be complete within two to three years, and therefore limits the total GE funding to this duration, assuming satisfactory progress. Graduate students must register continuously, except for summers, until all of the program requirements have been completed, unless on-leave status (maximum time of three academic terms) has been approved. All masters students must register for at least three thesis credits during the term in which the degree is to be received.

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Guidance Committee

Students are expected to meet with either their guidance or thesis committee at least once per year. A guidance committee of three faculty members will be assigned to each incoming student at the start of their first year to:

  • Provide initial academic advising on coursework, requirements, and thesis topics.
  • Document student progress until that student assembles a thesis committee.

The guidance committee meets with the student at least once shortly after the student arrives on campus and before they register for fall courses. At the first meeting, the committee will review the student's academic record, try to identify (and point out) gaps in the student's preparation or potential difficulties with university requirements and regulations, and plan jointly with the student for their first term in the program. If the student appears to be well prepared and reasonably knowledgeable about their aims, further meetings of the student with the guidance committee may be scheduled infrequently, though students are encouraged to keep individual committee members informed of their progress and challenges and seek advice and input on an informal basis between meetings. In any case, at least one Guidance or Thesis committee meeting must be held each academic year to provide advice to the student and to examine their progress.

After initial advising, the student will typically meet with their guidance or thesis committee at least once during each spring term, and more often if necessary. After each committee meeting, the coordinator will write up the minutes, circulate to the student and the committee, and send a copy to the graduate coordinator with a request to have a copy put in the student’s file. Once a year, the coordinator of the guidance committee presents a report to the faculty of the department, outlining the student's progress.

MS students are expected to choose a thesis topic and form their thesis committee by the end of their fourth term in residence. Once this has been accomplished, the thesis committee will take over all advising functions for the student, and the student's guidance committee ceases to exist.

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The primary product in fulfillment of the master’s degree is a written thesis that summarizes the scientific research performed by the student. The thesis should represent a unique and substantial scientific contribution of sufficient quality that portions warrant submission to an academic journal for broad dissemination to the scientific community. The written document should be organized in the form of a research paper, with an introduction (including motivation and background), description of the data and methods, discussion, conclusions, and bibliography. Figures and tables should be fully labeled with explanatory captions. It is critical that the student understands the expectations of their advisor and committee, who must evaluate and approve the thesis. Therefore, good communication between all parties is imperative.

Outline of Thesis Procedures

  • Decide on your thesis project and write a thesis proposal.
  • Form your thesis committee (requires Director of Graduate Study's approval) by end of the fourth term in residence.
  • Submit the thesis proposal to your committee for approval by the end of the fourth term (typically fall of second year). Submit one copy of the approved proposal to the Graduate Coordinator for your file.
  • Perform your thesis research while taking thesis credits (ERTH 503) and write the complete thesis draft.
  • In your final term, apply for MS degree with the Graduate School by Friday of the second week.
  • Submit the thesis draft to your committee at least two weeks before the thesis presentation.
  • Give the public thesis presentation.
  • Once the thesis is successfully presented and approved by the thesis committee, turn in an electronic version and submission approval forms to the Graduate School and pay fees.

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Oral Presentations

To give graduate students more experience speaking in front of large, formal audiences, every graduate student is required to give a scientific presentation at least once every two years during their residency in the department. Oral or poster presentations at scientific meetings (e.g., AGU, GSA, AAPG, etc.) are encouraged as a means of meeting this requirement. If such a talk or poster is given, documentation (e.g., the published abstract) must be provided to the department Graduate Coordinator.

Alternatively, student seminars may be presented during a departmental seminar time slot if space is available in the schedule. Otherwise, students may petition to present their seminar at an informal time. Such a presentation must be scheduled and advertised a minimum of one week in advance and will meet the requirement only if at least three faculty are able to attend. Lunchtime slots, when informal seminar series are often already scheduled, may be appropriate. Students who are judged by the faculty to have presented an unsatisfactory seminar will be advised how the seminar can be improved and will be required to give another (satisfactory) seminar soon after.

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