The M.S. Degree

The M.S. degree in Geological Sciences is designed to provide an educational environment to encourage students to become competent and technically adept geologists who wish to pursue a career in education, industry, government or the service sector. The program also serves to lay a solid foundation for those students who desire to continue on with advanced graduate studies toward the Ph.D. degree either at Rutgers or at another institution.

The M.S. degree requires 24 credits of course work and 6 credits of research. In addition to course work, the student must submit a short Written Thesis Proposal entailing the specifics and goals of the intended research thesis. The M.S. degree is granted following completion of the written thesis, approved by the Thesis Advisor and Thesis Committee, and completion of a successful open departmental oral defense.

In most cases, the student who had been admitted with a B.A. or a B.S. with no major deficiencies will complete his/her M.S. within 2 full academic years (24 months) depending upon the area of study, and upon any course deficiencies. The student must file an application for a diploma (obtained from the Registrar) before April 1 preceding the May Commencement or October 1 for November graduation.

Thesis Advisor and Committee

If the student has not already done so, during the first semester at Rutgers, the graduate student must select a Thesis Advisor and define a thesis research problem. Depending on areas of interest, the student should meet with appropriate faculty members, discuss possible thesis projects, and select a mutually agreed upon Thesis Advisor. In consultation with the Thesis Advisor, two other faculty members related to the area of research should be chosen to form the students Thesis Committee. The Thesis Committee will serve to advise the student on selection of coursework and thesis research. The Thesis Committee is formed by completing the Thesis Committee Form and submitting it to the Department's Graduate Director. Full-time students must complete this form by the end of the first semester.

Course work

In consultation with the Thesis Advisor, an outline of course work is to be selected, individually designed toward the student's interest and area of study. The M.S. degree requires 24 credits of course work and 6 credits of research (for a total of 30 credits). At least 3 course credits must be taken from the three major categories of study (Mineralogy/Petrology, Sedimentology/Stratigraphy, and Structure/Geophysics). The normal course load per semester for full-time students is 15 credits, consisting of 9 to 10 credits of coursework, plus 3 to 6 credits among thesis research, teaching assistantship, or research assistantship, as appropriate. No more than 12 credits can be selected from undergraduate courses at the 300/400 levels and must be approved by the Graduate Advisor. A minimum grade average of 3.0 is required, and there is no foreign language requirement.

Up to 24 credits of course work taken at other institutions can be transferred after review by the Graduate Committee and approval of the Graduate Director. Request for credit transfer must be made using the forms obtained from the Graduate School. Approval will be granted only for courses related to the student's proposed direction of study for the MS and only for courses equivalent to 500 or higher-level courses.

Ideally, all course work should be completed in the first 3 semesters and the 4th focused on completing a thesis. A minimum grade average of 3.0 is required.


A short (two to three page) Written Thesis Proposal outlining the intended area, methods, and goals of the thesis must be submitted during the second semester, no later than by the end of the second semester A copy of the approved proposal are part of the students permanent record and will be filed by the Graduate Program Director. The thesis topic in consultation with the student's Thesis Advisor should be well focused and accomplishable in two years (24 months). The scope and extent of the research depends primarily on consultations between the student, Advisor and Thesis Committee. The thesis topic should be designed to address a specific problem in geological or geophysical sciences, methodology as to how the problem was addressed, results and implications of the study. The topic can be a stand-alone project or part of a larger ongoing project in conjunction with a faculty member or outside research group. In consultation with the Thesis Committee and Graduate Director, the thesis may be designed to facilitate incorporation into an expanded study for the Ph.D. dissertation or as a final degree for employment in education, industry, government or the service sector. Under normal circumstances, the thesis is to be completed and orally defended in an open department venue by the end of the student's second year (24 months).

Completion of Thesis

  1. Submit drafts of the thesis to Thesis Advisor and Committee
  2. File candidacy form with the Graduate School
  3. Make recommended corrections and modifications to thesis
  4. Provide final draft of thesis (including figures, tables, references, etc.) to Thesis Committee
  5. Upon approval of Thesis Committee, submit copy to Department office at least one week prior to scheduled defense
  6. Defend thesis (bring Candidacy Form from Graduate School Office)
  7. Make final changes, editorial corrections if required by Thesis Committee and submit final corrected version to Thesis Committee for final approval
  8. Submission of thesis and abstract copy with the Department office and copies to the Thesis Advisor and Thesis Committee

Summary of M.S. Degree requirements

  1. 24 course credits, at least 3 credits taken in each of the three major areas, including the required 1 credit graduate research seminar
  2. 6 or more research credits culminating in a completed research thesis
  3. Satisfactory oral presentation and defense of the thesis
  4. Submission of 2 copies of the completed theses and signed candidacy form with the Graduate School Office
  5. Submission of thesis and abstract copy with the Department office and copies to the Thesis Advisor and Thesis Committee

All variances above must be approved in writing by the student's Thesis Advisor and Department's Graduate Director.

Ideal Timeline

First Year

Fall SemesterSpring SemesterSummer Semester

2 to 3, 3-credit courses, 1-credit Graduate Seminar

Selection of thesis advisor, development of research topic and formation of Thesis Committee

2 to 3, 3-credit courses

Completion and submittal of 2-3 page thesis proposal

3 to 6 research credit courses

Data collection for thesis

Second Year

Fall SemesterSpring Semester

2, 3-credit courses, 3 to 6 research credit courses

Continued data collection, method and data write-up

3 to 6 research credit courses

Continued write-up, completion of thesis, file candidacy form, defend and submit thesis

Continuation for a Ph.D. Degree

A graduate student who wishes to continue on at Rutgers for a Ph.D. degree should discuss the Ph.D. studies with their Thesis Advisor and Graduate Committee. If the advisor and committee agree, the student should petition the Graduate Faculty in writing stating his or her focus of continued study. Permission to continue is based on the student's performance in the M.S. degree program, competence for conducting doctoral research and the fit between personal research goals and the opportunities in the Department. The Graduate Director will discuss with the student in writing the outcome of the Graduate Faculty decision.

In order to be considered for admittance into the Ph.D. program for the following Fall Semester, as well as for consideration for financial support for the following year, the student MUST have made sufficient progress toward their M.S. by the beginning of their final semester (typically beginning of Spring Semester). The student must meet with their thesis advisor and Graduate Director at this time to discuss their progress and plans for continuation into the Ph.D. program. Acceptance of and funding for the continuing student in mid-year for the following semester may be considered depending upon availability.

A Petition for Continuation Form should be filled out by the student, signed by the student intended Ph.D Advisor and submitted to the DGS Graduate Admissions Committee for review.

All variances from above must be approved in writing by the student's Ph.D. Advisor and Department's Graduate Director.