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MS Requirements

The Department offers a two-year Masters program with full financial support.

Students holding a BS degree may apply either to our PhD program or to our MS program. Students may also opt to earn an embedded MS while pursuing a PhD.  In this case, courses are double-counted and the student writes a Masters thesis in addition to a PhD dissertation.

For University of Michigan undergraduate students who are currently pursuing an Earth and Environmental Sciences major, we also offer a fifth-year MS program.


Annual Review

MS students are required to review their progress with their academic adviser each year. This requirement is waived for fifth-year MS students. The student should update the Annual Review Form prior to meeting with his/her adviser to discuss his/her academic and professional progress. The Annual Review Form must be completed and submitted to the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies prior to the last day of classes of Winter term. Students should contact the Graduate Program Office for a blank form.


Course Requirements

Specific Course Requirements for the MS degree are a minimum of 24 credits at the graduate level of which at least 22 must be in courses and seminars.  Of the 22, at least 12 credits must be in Earth and Environmental Sciences, no more than 4 credits may be in seminars, and at least 4 credits must be in accepted cognate courses.  Cognate courses are those offered by other academic units that broaden expertise in areas related to the student’s research; Rackham requires a minimum grade of B- for cognate courses. EARTH 599 and other independent study courses are excluded from the 12 credits required in Earth and Environmental Sciences courses, but may be used in partial fulfillment of the remaining non-cognate credit requirements. Masters thesis research credits (EARTH 709) may be used in partial fulfillment of these requirements but are excluded from the 22 credits of coursework.

EARTH 531 and EARTH 495 are required to be taken by all first year graduate students. EARTH 531 is offered in Fall term. EARTH 495 is offered in Winter term; this class satisfies the U-M Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship (RCRS) training requirement. 

MS students admitted into the PhD program will take the PhD Preliminary Examination in the fourth term of their graduate program.


Grade and GPA Requirements

Rackham policy dictates that graduate students may not take courses pass/fail, but can elect to take a course S/U or Visit/Audit. Credit is only given for courses in which a grade of C- or higher has been received. Cognate credit is only given for a course in which a grade of B- or higher has been earned. The minimum required Rackham cumulative grade point average is B (3.00 on a 4.00 point scale). Complete information about grading may be found on the Rackham Academic Policies website, Section 4.5.


Masters Thesis


The Masters thesis is a report on a research project or a publishable scientific paper that is approved by two Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences faculty members and the Chair of the Department.  There is no final examination requirement for the MS degree.

Fifth-Year MS Thesis
Students in the fifth-year MS program complete a capstone experience that synthesizes and causes reflection on their education progress. In many cases, this experience is a publishable scientific paper or a report on a research project. However, in cases where the student is unable to or uninterested in completing independent research, a “report on a scientific literature review” can fulfill this requirement.

Masters Thesis Formatting Guidelines

The thesis should conform to the format guidelines of a scientific journal appropriate for the field. Formatting must be determined in consultation with the student's advisor. Students must follow accepted guidelines for pagination, bibliography, drafting of figures, figure captions, abstract, title, and so forth. An abstract is required.

Masters Thesis Cover Pages and Signatures

Each Masters Thesis must have the appropriate cover page from the list below. Signatures required: two faculty readers (usually including the advisor) and the Chair of the Department. Faculty readers must be appointed in Earth and Environmental Sciences as tenure-track faculty, emeritus faculty, adjunct faculty, or research scientist. Students are required to obtain the two faculty reader signatures before requesting the Chair's signature.

Students should contact the Graduate Program Coordinator if they have trouble with one of the files linked above.

Thesis Submission and Deadline

Students are advised to check faculty travel schedules early in their final term in order for faculty to have enough time to read the thesis. The student is required to obtain the two faculty member signatures before submitting his/her MS thesis to the Chair. The thesis must be emailed as a PDF to the Chair at least one week before the last day of classes in the term of graduation.

If the Chair determines that a thesis is deficient in format, style, grammar, English, or otherwise not measuring up to Department standards, the student and her/his advisor will be notified as soon as possible by email, with a brief summary of the problems. The student then has the choice of deferring the graduation date, or remedying the problems at short notice, with the deadline being two working days before the Rackham deadline. The final Rackham deadlines are approximately January 5, May 13, and August 26 for graduation in the previous term.

Deep Blue Archive

The Department uses the University of Michigan Deep Blue archive for Masters theses. The student should email a PDF file of his/her thesis to the Chair after it has been approved by the two faculty readers. Once the Chair has approved the thesis, the final PDF version must be Christina Zigulis in the Department main office.

A paper Masters Thesis Cover Page is required to be signed by the student, by both faculty readers and then by the Chair. This should be submitted to Christina Zigulis in the main office when the student emails the final version of the thesis to her. She will upload the thesis to the U-M Library's official Deep Blue archive, with the cover sheet scanned as the first page of the document.



Consult Rackham's Masters Students web site for University requirements about MS degrees, such as transfer of credit, time limits, and diploma information.

Still more questions? Contact the Earth and Environmental Sciences Graduate Program Office.