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10 Best Earth Sciences Graduate Programs

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by Ariba Usman / published 4.7.2020

This is a ranking of the 10 Best Earth Sciences Graduate Programs in the U.S. If you have already completed an undergraduate degree in Earth Sciences (or in a related field), getting a graduate degree in Earth Sciences can help in elevating your career (and likely your salary).

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Earth Science Career Snapshot:

Earth scientists are also called Geoscientists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for geoscientists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, as fast as the average for all occupations.

An increase in population increases the need for energy, environmental protection, and responsible land and resource management, which in turn is projected to spur demand for geoscientists in the future.

There are many different careers and research areas that you can choose from. Many Earth scientists use their knowledge of the Earth to locate and develop energy and mineral resources. Others study the impact of human activity on the Earth’s environment, and design methods to protect the planet.

There are also fields where earth scientists are required to use their knowledge about Earth processes such as volcanoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes to plan communities that will not expose people to these dangerous events.

The graduate programs offered by the universities below give interested students who have already completed their undergraduate degree a chance to learn professionally from renowned faculty and the most advanced research.

Related Earth Sciences Rankings:

  1. 10 Best Earth Sciences Undergraduate Programs
  2. 20 Best Environmental Science Degree Programs
  3. 22 Best Sustainable and Renewable Energy Colleges

10 Best Graduate Programs in Earth Sciences Ranking Guidelines


10 Best Earth Sciences

Graduate Programs:

School Ranking


1

Harvard University
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Cambridge, Massachusetts

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School Type:
Private

Number of Online Programs:
None

Types of Online Programs:
None

Degree Information:
PhD in Earth Sciences

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) offers a PhD in the field. Master’s level study is not available at this time.

The PhD in Earth Sciences is a research-based program. Students choose their areas of interest and focus their studies accordingly. To expand their knowledge of Earth Sciences, students must take at least two EPS courses outside of their main area of research interest.

The curriculum also requires students to take part in at least one department-sponsored field research trip.

Study and Research areas include:

  • Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate
  • Climate Dynamics
  • Geobiology and Earth History
  • Geology
  • Geophysics
  • Low Temperature and Geochemistry
  • Planetary Sciences

Credit Requirements: 32 credits

Selection of possible courses:

  • Earthquakes and faulting
  • Dynamic Meteorology
  • Petrological Approaches to Understanding the Earth’s System
  • Isotope and Trace Element Geochemistry and Geochronology
  • Theoretical Seismology: Body Waves
  • Giant Planets

Admissions and transfer credit information: Applicants must complete an online application form and submit their official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and statement of purpose. Admissions may also require GRE scores and a Demonstration of English proficiency.

Accreditation:
Harvard University receives accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.


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2

University of California, Berkeley
Department of Earth and Planetary Science
Berkeley, CA

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School Type:
Public

Number of Online Programs:
5+

Types of Online Programs:
Master's

Degree Information:
PhD in Earth and Planetary Science • 5th-Year M.A. for UC Berkeley students only

The Department of Earth and Planetary Science offers a PhD in Earth and Planetary Science. The doctoral program offers a solid background in the general sciences. The course work and training promote creativity and independent research capabilities.

This degree program exposes students to the quantitative application of mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Students gain skills in theoretical and experimental analysis. The program encourages students to explore interdisciplinary research areas with other faculty members outside of the EPS department.

The department also offers a fifth year Master of Arts in Earth and Planetary Science program.  However, admission to this degree program is available only to undergraduates already enrolled in the department.

Selection of Courses:

  • Problems in Hydrogeology
  • Introduction to Aquatic and Marine Geochemistry
  • Elastic Wave Propagation
  • Laboratory in Observational Seismology
  • Matlab Applications in Earth Science
  • Igneous Petrology

Admissions and transfer credit information: Students must submit an online application, GRE scores, and transcripts from all previous academic institutions. The university does not accept transfer credit from other institutions for this program.

Accreditation:
The University of California at Berkeley receives accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.


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3

University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department of Geoscience
Madison, WI

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School Type:
Public University

Number of Online Programs:
16

Types of Online Programs:
Master's, Certificates

Degree Information:
Master of Science in Geoscience • PhD in Geoscience

The University of Wisconsin offers a Master of Science and PhD in Geoscience. Students have many research opportunities in all major fields of Earth Sciences including:

  • Geochemistry
  • Mineralogy
  • Geoscience
  • Hydrogeology
  • Structural Geology
  • Paleontology
  • Sedimentology
  • Paleoclimate
  • Paleoceanography
  • Geophysics
  • Geochronology

Students may also enroll in a joint Master’s degree in Geoscience and Water Resources Management.

All graduate work requires individual research. Professors emphasize creativity and field experience as a necessary part of the training. Doctoral students must contribute new and original ideas and submit a completed dissertation suitable for publication.

Credit Requirements: 30 credits for the Master’s degree and 51 credits for the PhD

Selection of Required Courses: For the Master’s and PhD, students select courses in consultation with a three-member Guidance and Evaluation Committee.

Program length: The Master of Science in Geoscience degree program takes approximately two years. The PhD in Geoscience takes three to five years based on the level of previous graduate study.

Admissions and transfer credit information: Prospective students must complete an online application form and submit it with application fees, statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, copies of all transcripts, and GRE scores.

Admission Requirements for Graduate Students:Applicants should submit official transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Accreditation:
The University of Wisconsin at Madison receives accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.


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4

Princeton University
Department of Geosciences
Princeton, New Jersey

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School Type:
Private

Number of Online Programs:
0

Types of Online Programs:
None

Degree Information:
PhD in Geoscience

The Department of Geoscience at Princeton University is at the forefront of scientific discovery. Experienced faculty and students address critical geological issues through education and research. The Department strives for a comprehensive understanding of areas such as:

  • The history of future of the planet
  • The sustainability of natural resources
  • The effects of climate change

The PhD in Geoscience allows students access to several research programs including:

  • The Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
  • The Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials
  • The Princeton Environmental Institute
  • The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory

Within these programs students may pursue areas of research interest such as:

  • Petrology
  • Mineral Physics
  • Biological Oceanography
  • Paleoclimate
  • Tectonics and Geophysics

Credit Requirements: 12 semester hours

Selection of Courses:

  • Fundamentals of the Geosciences
  • Responsible Conduct of Research in Geosciences (Half-Term)
  • Southern Ocean Seminar
  • Chemistry of Natural Interfaces
  • Topics in Paleoecology, Paleoclimatology, and Paleoceanography: Environmental and Biotic Effects of Volcanism

Program Length: Average time to complete the PhD degree is five years.

Admissions and transfer credit information: Students must submit an application form with an application fee, letters of reference, personal statement, resume, and TOEFL scores.

Accreditation:
Princeton University receives accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


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5

Columbia University In The City Of New York
Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
New York, NY

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School Type:
Private

Number of Online Programs:
54

Types of Online Programs:
Master's, Doctorates

Degree Information:
Master of Science in Earth Resources Engineering • PhD in Earth and Environmental Engineering • Doctor of Engineering Science

The Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University emphasizes stewardship of natural resources. The Department uses education and research to help address the geological challenges of today.

Graduate students may enroll in:

  • the Master of Science in Earth Resources Engineering
  • the PhD in Earth and Environmental Engineering
  • the Doctor of Engineering Science degree (Eng.Sc.D)

Masters students may choose to follow the MS/PhD. They may also choose from three concentrations:

  • Water Resources and Climate Risks
  • Sustainable Energy
  • ​Sustainable Materials and Mining

The PhD is available through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The Eng.Sc.D is available through Columbia Engineering’s Graduate Student Affairs. Doctoral research covers many areas including:

  • Sustainable Energy
  • Sustainable Water
  • Sustainable Materials and Mining

Credit Requirements: Masters students must complete 30 points of graduate work

Selection of Courses for the MS program:

  • Introduction to Surface and Colloid Chemistry
  • Introduction to Aquatic Chemistry
  • Production of Inorganic Materials
  • Catalysis for Emissions Control
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Environmental Data Analysis
  • Management and Development of Water Systems

Admissions and transfer credit information: Interested students must submit official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, GRE test scores, a personal statement, and a resume. Admission may request an interview.

Accreditation:
Columbia University receives accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


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6

University of California, Los Angeles
Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences
Los Angeles, CA

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School Type:
Public, Research

Number of Online Programs:
3

Types of Online Programs:
Master's

Degree Information:
Master of Science (M.S.) in Geochemistry • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Geochemistry • Master of Science (M.S.) in Geology • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Geology • Master of Science (M.S.) in Geophysics and Space Physics • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Geophysics and Space Physics

The Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences at University of California, Los Angeles offers the following graduate degree programs:

  • Master of Science in Geochemistry
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Geochemistry
  • Master of Science in Geology
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Geology
  • Master of Science in Geophysics and Space Physics
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Geophysics and Space Physics

The Geochemistry degree programs provide students with information related to chemical composition of the earth and its rocks and minerals. The curriculum includes courses like biogeochemistry, experimental petrology, isotopic studies of stable and crystal chemistry etc.

Students enrolled in the Geology degree study the Earth’s physical structure and substance, its history, and the processes that act on it.

Students studying for Geophysics and Space Physics degree program study Earth and other planets using quantitative physical methods. This includes exploring these planets’ atmospheres, surfaces, and environments using a spacecraft.

Credit Requirements: 36 units for all degree programs

  Selection of Required Courses for all degree programs:

  • Geochemical Kinetics: Thermochronometry
  • Physical Geochemistry
  • Earth Process and Evolutionary History
  • Petrologic Phase Equilibria
  • Current Research in Geochemistry
  • Current Research in Current Research in Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

Admissions and transfer credit information: Students must submit an application form with an application fee, academic history, official transcripts from all institutions attended since High School, GRE and TOEFL Test Scores (if applicable), statement of purpose, professional experience, resume, and three letters of recommendations.

Accreditation:
The University of California, Los Angeles receives accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.


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7

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Cambridge, MA

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School Type:
Private Research University

Number of Online Programs:
0

Types of Online Programs:
None

Degree Information:
Master of Science in Earth Sciences • Fifth-Year Master of Science • PhD/ ScD in Earth Sciences

The Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) provides rigorous academic training. Professors also emphasize hands-on experiences and multidisciplinary research. The Department maintains an active joint program with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The department offers the following graduate degree programs:

  • Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Science
  • Master of Science
  • Fifth-Year Master of Science

Students may focus their studies in several areas including:

  • Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate
  • Geology, Geochemistry, and Geobiology
  • Geophysics
  • Planetary Science

Graduate students have access to several top-tier research facilities such as:

  • The Center for Global Change Science
  • The Earth Resources Laboratory
  • The Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research
  • The Lorenz Center

Credit Requirements: Most graduate programs require three to six core courses and four to seven specialization courses

Selection of Possible Courses:

  • Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
  • Atmospheric Radiation and Convection
  • Atmospheric or ocean chemistry
  • Paleoclimate

Program Length: Most students complete the PhD in five years and the Master of Science in two years.

Admissions and transfer credit information: Students must submit an application form, previous transcripts, and GRE test scores. Admissions does not accept transfer credit into these programs.

Accreditation:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology receives accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.


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8

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Ann Arbor, MI

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School Type:
Public

Number of Online Programs:
33

Types of Online Programs:
Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorates

Degree Information:
PhD in Earth Sciences • Master of Science in Earth Science • Fifth-year Master of Science in Earth Science

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences emphasizes critical and analytical skills. The graduate programs also promote technical expertise, independent research, and creative thinking.

The available graduate programs in Earth and Environmental Sciences include:

  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • Master of Science
  • Fifth-Year Master of Science

There are several Earth Science disciplines available for these degree programs including:

  • Geology
  • Hydrology
  • Oceanography

By graduation, students have a comprehensive knowledge in various Earth systems. Students can apply this knowledge to different careers  including environmental consulting, energy industries, and mining.

Credit Requirements: 24 credits for both the MS and PhD degree

Selection of Courses:

  • Earth System Model
  • Geomicrobiology
  • Weather Systems
  • Paleontology
  • Mineral Physics
  • Volcanology

Admissions information: Interested applicants must submit previous transcripts, a statement of purpose, a personal statement, a resume or CV, and recommender names and email addresses.

Accreditation:
The University of Michigan - Ann Harbor receives accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission


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9

Yale University
Department of Earth and Planetary Science
New Haven, Connecticut

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School Type:
Private

Number of Online Programs:
0

Types of Online Programs:
None

Degree Information:
Ph.D. in Earth Sciences

In February, 2020, the Department of Geology and Geophysics changed its name to the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. The Department did this to better represent the breadth of research and teaching available.

At the graduate level, the Department offers a PhD in Earth Science. There is no terminal Master’s degree available at this time. Doctoral students come from a variety of scientific backgrounds. Student can pursue study in research areas such as:

  • Atmosphere, Oceans, Climate Dynamics
  • Geochemistry
  • Lithosphere and Surface Processes
  • Biogeochemistry, Paleoceanography, Paleoclimate
  • Solid Earth Geophysics
  • Paleontology, Evolution
  • Program in Solar and Terrestrial Physics (STP)

Credit Requirements: Students must complete two to three graded courses for the first three terms of study. This does not include research courses.

 Selection of Courses:

  • History of Life
  • Introduction to Earth and Planetary Physics
  • Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
  • Physics of Weather and Climate
  • Introduction to Earth and Planetary Physics
  • Computational Methods in Astrophysics and Geophysics
  • Introduction to Geodynamics

Program Length: Five to six years

Start Dates: Fall and Spring

Admission Info: Prospective students must provide the following information: a statement of purpose, a list of all the prior colleges or universities attended with unofficial transcripts from each school, three letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores. Some programs have additional requirements, such as a writing sample or resume.

Accreditation:
Yale University receives accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.


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10

Johns Hopkins University
Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Baltimore, MD

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School Type:
Private, Research University

Number of Online Programs:
303

Types of Online Programs:
Master's, Doctorates, Certificates

Degree Information:
PhD in Earth Sciences

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the areas of:

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry
  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Atmospheric sciences
  • Ecology and Paleoecology

The PhD in Earth and Planetary Sciences emphasizes independent research. This means that the curriculum is flexible with students customizing their program of study. Professors encourage students to take classes through other departments as well.

The Department treats graduate students as full members of the academy. Graduate students have access to research and teaching assistantships, all laboratories and research facilities, and a variety of financial support and scholarships.

Students gain hands-on experiences through field trips. All graduate students participate in Journal Club. This group allows students to present their most recent research to professors and peers.

Credit Requirements: Students must complete a minimum of two consecutive terms registered as a full-time.

Selection of Courses:

  • EPS Colloquium
  • Topics in Mineral Physics
  • Mathematical Methods in Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Special Topics in Dynamo Theory

Admission Info: Students must submit a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, transcripts from all previous colleges/universities, and official GRE scores from taken within the last five years.

Accreditation:
Johns Hopkins University receives accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


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10 Best Earth Sciences

Graduate Programs

End of Schools


10 Best Earth Sciences Graduate Programs Ranking Guidelines:

Successful Student ranks schools for the benefit of students. With this ranking, we looked at AcademicInfluence.com, which ranks schools by the academic influence of the alumni and faculty in publications and citations in Earth Science. We then looked at the graduate programs in particular, and ranked the schools by the degrees offered, quality of the programs, and academic reputation.

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