Graduate Programs

Faculty member Byron Steinman and one of his graduate students examine a sediment core.

Our Graduate Programs

M.S. in Earth Sciences

Our program is tailored to students’ interests in consultation with their faculty advisor. We strive for an experience that balances field, lab and theoretical studies.

We also ensure our graduates are well prepared for professional geological work in industry, education, government or further schooling.

Ph.D. Program (In collaboration with the U of M Department of Earth Science in the Twin Cities)

It is possible to pursue a Ph.D. degree with an advisor on our campus. Just contact the specific faculty member you are interested in working with as well as our Director of Graduate Studies. Students must formally apply through our sister department in the Twin Cities, where the Ph.D. program is based and indicate their desire to be based on the UMD campus in their application.

Two Year Plan

Our graduate degree program is designed to be completed in two years even if students hold graduate assistantships. Such timing necessitates careful course planning from the onset and assumes you have no major academic deficiencies at the time of admission.

Generally, Master’s degree candidates are expected to have the equivalent of our B.S. major in geology (see UMD Catalog). Minor undergraduate deficiencies in geology may be made up by taking a course for credit or as an auditor, or by studying the material yourself. This is determined by agreement with your advisor, taking your individual program into consideration.

Major undergraduate deficiencies in geology or deficiencies in the basic science requirements (college chemistry, physics and mathematics through calculus) must be made up by course work and must be taken for credit. Students with a substantial number of deficiencies will generally require more than two years to complete the M.S. program.


Research Focus

Our department has active research programs in:

  • Basin analysis
  • Ecohydrology
  • Economic geology
  • Fluvial Geomorphology
  • Glacial geology
  • Hydrology
  • Isotope geochemistry
  • Geophysics
  • Limnology
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Petrology
  • Planetary geology
  • Sedimentology
  • Structural geology
  • Tectonics

UMD is admirably situated for a wide variety of geologic interests. We have active programs around the globe and Duluth has an outstanding natural environment in which to live, with great cultural and recreational opportunities.


Assistantships & Financial Aid

Many of our graduate students earn financial support from teaching assistantship (TA) or research assistantship (RA).

Students with TA or RA support receive a stipend comparable to those at many universities, a full tuition scholarship, and a health insurance program.

Priority for financial support is given to those applications received by January 5 prior to the fall semester they want to be admitted (e.g., January 5, 2022 for Fall 2022 admission). Applications received after January 5 will be considered on a space and funds available basis.

Once in residence, some support for thesis research and travel to meetings to present the results of one’s research is also available.


Choosing an Advisor

Faculty and students have a close working relationship.

Typically students come to UMD with plans to work with a particular faculty member as their advisor.

If you do not have an advisor in mind, the Director of Graduate Studies serves as your advisor until you determine the direction of your graduate research project, and identify an appropriate advisor during your first semester in residence.



By participating in our graduate programs:

  1. Students will demonstrate proficiency in coursework (at the graduate level) in core geological topics.
  2. Students will demonstrate acquisition of new research skills in field methodologies, data collection, and/or data processing.
  3. Students will demonstrate graduate-level proficiency in the design of research, using appropriate methodology to address a geological problem.
  4. Students will demonstrate proficiency in written and oral professional communications to scientific audiences, including research proposals and reporting of research outcomes. 
  5. Students will demonstrate ability to articulate scientific questions and outcomes to a general audience at a public defense final.
  6. Students will demonstrate readiness for the professional workforce through scholarly independence, collaboration with peers, transfer of scientific knowledge to the general public, and/or interaction with experts in their field outside of UMD. 
  7. Students will demonstrate expansive awareness of the broader field as it applies to their scientific problem and will be cognizant of International literature and/or work by scientists from other countries or cultures.