PhD in Earth Sciences

The PhD in Earth Sciences program is designed to provide students with expertise in geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and surface processes. Students apply a range of earth sciences field and laboratory methods toward solving quantitative problems in core disciplinary areas. This program prepares students for careers in research or academia, in resource exploration and management, technical consulting, engineering, and environmental sciences, as well as a multitude of careers in the private sector and governmental agencies.

The post-master’s PhD student is expected to have an MA or the equivalent upon admission to the PhD program; the post-bachelor’s student must have a BA or the equivalent and should have a superior record that warrants admission directly into the PhD program.

Course Requirements

Post-Bachelor’s Requirements

A post-bachelor’s student must complete a total of 16 graduate-level courses (64 credits). Course requirements are as follows:

  • At least 10 non-research courses (other than GRS ES 699: Teaching College Earth Sciences)
  • At least one graduate-level course from two of the following disciplines:
    • Geodynamics
    • Geochemistry
    • Earth History

Up to four of the required courses can be graduate courses offered in other departments. Up to eight courses (32 credits) taken as part of a master’s degree can be applied toward the required 16 courses.

Upon the written, signed approval of the advisor and the director of graduate studies, students may substitute prior coursework.

For a complete list of approved courses, please see the department website. A listing and descriptions of available courses offered at Boston College as part of the Cooperative Program with Boston College may be obtained in the departmental office.

Post-Master’s Requirements

A post-master’s student must complete at least eight semester courses (32) credits. Course requirements are the same as the post-bachelor’s program.

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement for this degree.

Qualifying Exams

Each PhD candidate must pass two qualifying examinations (one written and one oral), which are intended to test the candidate’s specific knowledge of the dissertation topic as well as the depth of knowledge of the scientific context of the topic. The student must pass these qualifying examinations in order to proceed with the dissertation research. Exams are normally scheduled in the fourth semester.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation must be completed and approved by the readers, the director of graduate studies, and the department chair/program director within a year after passing the first qualifying exam. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as a valuable contribution to knowledge in their field and demonstrate a mastery of their field of specialization in relation to their dissertation. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.