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Program: M.S., Geology


Program Description

The Master of Science program has two options: Geology and Geophysics. These programs are designed to: (1) train individuals with the competence required by the geological profession for employment in industry and government agencies; (2) enable promising students to attain a level of knowledge and research ability necessary for admission to and success in Ph.D. programs; and (3) provide depth and breadth of knowledge, laboratory teaching experience and fundamental research skills essential to students planning to teach geology at the community-college level. Students with strong backgrounds in math and physics and whose research interests and career plans are related to geophysics should choose the Geophysics option. All others should choose the Geology option.

Program Requirements

A. For Admission to the M.S. in Geology, Geophysics Option Program

  1. B.S. in Geology, Geophysics, Physics or its equivalent. Students who do not have the appropriate coursework may be conditionally admitted to the program, but will be required to complete any deficient coursework without graduate credit during the first year of residence.
  2. University requirements for admission, with the exception that the GPA in the last 60 units must be 2.75. Those applicants with a GPA in the last 60 units of between 2.5 and 2.75 may still be admitted if the average of the scores on the General Aptitude portion of the Graduate Record Examination is 50th percentile or greater.
  3. Graduate Record Examination, General Aptitude only. Scoring at or above the 50th percentile on at least one section.

B. For the Degree

Completion, with a “B” average (3.0) or higher, of 30 units of approved graduate study, including a minimum of 21 units of 500- and 600-level courses. Completion and successful oral defense of a thesis is required.

1. Required Courses (7 units)

GEOL 694 Graduate Thesis Research Design (1)
GEOL 696 Directed Graduate Research (3)
GEOL 698 Graduate Thesis (3)

2. Electives (23 units)

Electives should be selected with approval of the student’s primary advisor and graduate coordinator from 400-, 500- and 600-level courses in Geology, Physics, Math, Engineering or other fields relevant to the thesis work. One 400- or 500-level course must include a lab or field component. A maximum of 9 units of 400-level courses may be applied toward the 30 units required for the degree. Service as a teaching assistant in the department may be advised as part of the student’s educational experience. The following courses offered by the Department of Geological Sciences provide elective credit. Courses offered by other departments may provide credit, but must first be approved by the graduate coordinator.

GEOL 430A/B Summer Field Geology (2-2)
GEOL 443/L Principles of Stratigraphy and Lab (3/1)
GEOL 452/L Mathematical Tools in Geology and Lab (2/1)
GEOL 460 Theoretical Geophysics (3)
GEOL 464/L Applied Geophysics and Lab (3/1)
GEOL 471LB Petroleum Geology (2)
GEOL 500 Environmental Geology Seminar (3)
GEOL 501 Teaching and Learning about the Natural World (3)
GEOL 505 The Evolution of Global Systems (3)
GEOL 508/L Invertebrate Paleontology and Lab (3/1)
GEOL 510 Advanced Topics in Paleontology (3)
GEOL 513/L Micropaleontology and Lab (2/2)
GEOL 520/L Advanced Stratigraphic Analysis and Lab (1/1)
GEOL 521 Sedimentary Environments (3)
GEOL 523/L Sedimentation and Tectonics and Lab (2/2)
GEOL 525/L Seismic Stratigraphy Seminar and Lab (1/2)
GEOL 528/L Sedimentary Petrology and Lab (2/2)
GEOL 530 Seminar in Structural Geology and Tectonics (3)
GEOL 532/L Microtectonics and Lab(3/1)
GEOL 533/L Geology of Earthquakes (2/1)
GEOL 535 Advanced Geologic Field Methods (2)
GEOL 536/L Igneous Petrology and Lab (3/1)
GEOL 538/L Metamorphic Petrology and Lab (1/1)
GEOL 545 Plate Tectonics (3)
GEOL 546/L Geodynamics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors and Lab (3/1)
GEOL 548/L Seismology and Lab (3/1)
GEOL 550 Paleomagnetism (3)
GEOL 551 Quaternary Geochronology (3)
GEOL 552 Geochemistry (3)
GEOL 553 Analytical Geochemistry (1)
GEOL 563 Marine Geology (3)
GEOL 567/L Geological Remote Sensing and Lab (1/2)
GEOL 570VLA Volcanology (3)
GEOL 575/L Hydrogeology and Lab (3/1)
GEOL 578 Groundwater Modeling (3)
GEOL 580/L Engineering Geology and Lab (2/1)
GEOL 590 Literature Seminar (1)
GEOL 595A-Z Experimental Topics Courses in Geological Sciences (1-3)
GEOL 599A-C Independent Study (1-3)
GEOL 699A-C Independent Study (1-3)

Total Units Required for the M.S. Degree: 30

More information

For more information about this program, please contact


Department of Geological Sciences
Chair: Kathleen Marsaglia
Live Oak Hall (LO) 1202
(818) 677-3541

Graduate Coordinator: Elena Miranda
(818) 677-4671

Student Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the Master of Science program will be well prepared to assume responsible positions in industry or in government agencies, serve as instructors in secondary-school or community college classrooms, or enter Ph.D. programs at other universities.

At the time of graduation, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate content knowledge appropriate to professional career goals.
  2. Frame novel questions or problems in geology and determine the data required to answer them.
  3. Collect high-quality geologic data using standard techniques and begin to develop state-of-the-art methods.
  4. Apply theoretical, conceptual and observational knowledge to the analysis and interpretation of geologic data.
  5. Compile and critique geologic literature pertinent to original research.
  6. Communicate geologic knowledge, findings and interpretations in reports, both written and oral, that are well-organized, well-illustrated and professionally presented.