University Policies | Geology Dept. Policies and Degree Requirements

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Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The Ph.D. degree is for students who wish to pursue a career in academic or industrial research in geoscience. To receive a Ph.D., you must be able to demonstrate an ability to conceive and carry out high quality, original research. General completion time: 3-4 years for students entering with an M.S., 4-5 years for others. See A Handbook for Graduate Students and Advisors for information about time limits set by the Graduate College.


The following table applies to students entering without an M.S. degree. Students entering with an M.S. degree should progress more quickly in the first two years of the program.


 Normal Progress


 Select research advisor  End of 2nd semester  End of 4th semester
Complete background coursework  End of 3rd semester  End of 4th semester
Qualifying Exam  4th semester  4th semester
 Preliminary Exam  6th semester  7th semester
 Dissertation Colloquium  9th semester  12th semester
 Dissertation Complete  9th semester  12th semester
 Final Examination  9th semester  12th semester

Ph.D. Program Requirements


A Ph.D. degree requires at least 24 units of credit, in accordance with the following stipulations:



All Ph.D. students must take three exams. Together, these exams demonstrate a student's ability to conduct independent scientific research, including:

The exams, in order of the sequence that you take them, are:

Qualifying exam A Departmental requirement to test your depth and breadth of knowledge in geoscience, and your potential to do research. This exam must be taken during the first two years the student is in the department without an M.S. in geoscience, and must be taken during the first year if the student already has an M.S. in geoscience.

Preliminary exam A Graduate College requirement to test your ability to do dissertation research; this exam focuses on the viability of the dissertation project and on your ability to complete it. Generally, this exam is taken about one year after the Qualifying Exam, but it must be taken within two years of the Qualifying Exam.

Final exam A Graduate College requirement to determine whether your dissertation is adequate and that you fully understand all aspects of the dissertation. There are two parts to this exam -- first, you present a dissertation colloquium to the Department, then you defend your dissertation in front of your committee.

Click on the exam name to get further information about each exam.

Advisor and Dissertation Committee

All Ph.D. students should obtain a research advisor soon after joining the department. Upon completion of the Preliminary Exam, all Ph.D. students must have a research advisor and a dissertation committee. If the student cannot find a faculty member willing to serve as the advisor or cannot assemble a committee (i.e., if faculty refuse to advise or sit on the committee), the student must leave the department without the Ph.D. degree. Typically, the Preliminary Exam Committee members continue to serve as the Dissertation Committee, but a new committee can be established if the student so desires. The Preliminary exam Committee and the Dissertation Committee must include four voting members, three of which must be graduate faculty, and two of which must be tenured. Committee should include faculty from more than one area of specialization. The chair must be a member of the graduate faculty.

Annual Meeting: It is recommended that each student who has passed the Preliminary exam meet once a year with the dissertation committee to discuss research progress including accomplishments, remaining tasks, and schedule for completion. This meeting will keep the committee up to date on the student's progress and provide the committee with an opportunity to advise the student and ensure that satisfactory progress is made toward completion of the degree.


All students must complete a dissertation. The dissertation may be in a "traditional format" (a multi-chapter document that is generally about 100 to 200 pages long), or in a "publication format" (2 or more manuscripts ready for submission to quality peer-review journals. Typically, progress on the dissertation follows the following steps:

You should work closely with your advisor throughout this process.

Dissertation Colloquium , Defense, and Completion

Colloquium: A dissertation colloquium is presented before the dissertation is deposited. This is designed to improve your presentation skills, inform the entire department of your work, and give you suggestions to improve your conclusions. You should present your research results in 40-50 minutes and answer questions from members of the university community who attend. The research need not be fully complete, though you should have your conclusions established before the colloquium is prepared. Colloquia should be presented while classes are in session (summer colloquia may be allowed by petition).

Defense: After the colloquium, the student must arrange for and take the dissertation defense exam. Please see the section on the defense (called Final exam ) for further details.

Signing: Once you pass the defense, have made any corrections required by the committee, and have prepared the final copies, you must obtain the signatures of all members of your committee and the department head. These signatures must be affixed to the red border form that you obtain from the department office. You must also arrange with Barb Elmore to have a format check by the Graduate College. See Barb to arrange for the format check. Upon approval by the Graduate College, you must deposit your dissertation with the Graduate College. When you have deposited your dissertation, you have officially completed all requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Congratulations ! ! !

University Policies | Geology Dept. Policies and Degree Requirements

Faculty | Courses | Dept. Home