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Ph.D. in Earth Sciences

General Information

Graduate study in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences offers students opportunities for field, laboratory, and computational geological and geophysical research spanning the Earth’s deep interior, lithosphere and surface on a host of timescales. Several of our faculty lead collaborative domestic and international research programs that afford our graduate students opportunities to work in diverse parts of the world with teams of internationally recognized scholars. State-of-the-art analytical and computational facilities provide opportunities for cutting-edge research in the fields of Earth Sciences. Diverse, interdisciplinary research opportunities leading to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees include:

  • Tectonics
  • Geomorphology
  • Hydrogeology & Hydrology
  • Sedimentology
  • Thermochronology
  • Environmental Geology
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Isotope Geochemistry
  • Computational Geophysics
  • Paleobiology
  • Paleolimnology
  • Global Environmental Change

PhD and MS students are supported by full-tuition scholarships and stipends through teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and/or fellowships. Typically, MS students receive a minimum of four semesters of support, and Ph.D. students receive a minimum of eight.

The overall goal of the Graduate Program is to provide a pathway to advanced degrees in the Earth Sciences through research, education and other relevant experiences. All students receiving advanced degrees from the department acquire experience with the following:

  • Skill in the collection and analysis of data
  • Preparing research results with the ultimate goal of publications and reports
  • Experience writing proposals to fund research or teaching objectives
  • Building a broad network of relevant professional contacts outside the department
  • Teaching experience in labs, lectures and seminars

In order to help students meet these objectives, each student has a faculty advisor and an advisory committee that meets periodically to evaluate student progress and provide feedback.

Ph.D. in Earth Sciences

The PhD degree is ideal for students interested in careers in academia, research, and other sectors where the terminal degree is required. The PhD requires significant independent research, and all doctoral students write and defend a dissertation.

Most students can satisfy the requirements within four years, particularly if they have already completed the MS degree.

Application Information

Applications for fall admission are strongly encouraged by January 15th; later applications may be considered but with diminished chances of financial support.

Admission Requirements

Incoming students are expected to have two semesters of the following courses: calculus, chemistry, and physics or biology. Potential graduate students should have at least three core Earth Science courses on their transcripts, such as: Paleobiology, Sedimentology, Mineralogy, Structural Geology, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Climatology, Geomorphology and/or Hydrogeology. Those who have fewer than three core courses at the time of admission will complete the outstanding core course requirements during their first two years in residence. Students are strongly encouraged to have participated in an approved summer field course or comparable field experience. Substitutions may be granted upon petition of the department. The department only admits students that have identified faculty advisors, so it is recommended you contact potential advisors in your field of interest either before or after application. GRE scores are now optional for graduate admission and departmental support (teaching and research assistantships). We evaluate applications based on fit with your advisor, grades and GPA, coursework, personal statement, research experience, and letters of recommendation. Some advisors may require GRE scores, and these may still be required for University and College awards. International/non-native English speakers must take the TOEFL exam.

Financial Support

Students are typically supported financially for four semesters for students in the MS program and eight semesters for students in the PhD program. This support typically comes in the form of a teaching or research assistantship with a tuition scholarship during the academic year, with the student free to conduct their research full-time during the summer. All students that will be candidates for teaching assistantships must have the background to provide instructional support for introductory Earth Sciences courses. Students may also be supported by their faculty research advisor's external grants or by Syracuse University Fellowships. Applying to local and national programs for graduate fellowships is strongly encouraged.

Syracuse has a low cost of living, which means our assistantship stipend provides a comfortable income. In addition, tuition is paid in full, and Syracuse University provides excellent health insurance options. University funded students are eligible to participate in the University's Group Health Care Plan. Coverage details and premium rates can be found at the Office of Human Resources, Employee Benefits.

Application Procedure

Applications are submitted through an online system - Online application. The Enrollment Management Center (EMC) directs the processing of admissions and applications for all programs of graduate study. For inquires, please go to: Graduate Admissions.

Required Application Materials

  • a complete Graduate Application Form (submitted online)
  • a personal statement that describes research and/or teaching experience, research interests, career goals, and identifies faculty members in our program you are interested in working with as an advisee
  • three letters of recommendation
  • official transcripts
  • official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (CODE: 2823). Note: GRE scores are now optional for graduate admission and departmental support.

The TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo exam is required of all international applicants whose native language is not English. Official scores must be reported.

Applications are reviewed by the department's Graduate Admissions Committee. Decisions regarding suitability for admission and nominations for fellowships are made as soon as possible.