PhD in Earth Sciences

The PhD in Earth Sciences program is designed to provide students with expertise in geology, geochemistry, geophysics, surface processes, and climate science. 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.

Course Requirements

PhD students must complete a total of 16 graduate-level courses (64 credits). Course requirements are as follows:

  • At least 10 non-research courses (e.g., courses other than GRS ES 699 Teaching College Earth Sciences and ES 9XX)
  • Doctoral candidates are expected to take several research seminars during their program. For more information see Graduate Course Descriptions pages.

Up to eight courses (32 credits) taken as part of a master’s degree can be applied toward the required 16 courses. See also the BU Graduate Bulletin.

Exams and Dissertation

Each PhD candidate must pass a qualifying examination (which includes a written and oral component). Exams are normally scheduled in the fourth semester. The qualifying exam can commence shortly after the candidates present a thesis proposal to committee members.

Within about a year after passing the qualifying exam, candidates submit a thesis prospectus to the college, which essentially represents an updated thesis proposal, modified with input gleaned during the qualifying examination. Following submission of the thesis prospectus, students typically concentrate solely on preparing their PhD dissertations. Ultimately, candidates defend their thesis in an oral examination. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must follow guidelines as outlined in the PhD Graduation and Dissertation Procedures. 


For detailed timelines and further information, students are encouraged to read documents found under the Resources button on our home page.