BA/MA in Earth Sciences

A combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in Earth Sciences provides students with a broad understanding of fundamental concepts in earth sciences, including intermediate and advanced principles of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, surface processes, and deep time. The BA/MA in Earth Sciences prepares students for further graduate study or for careers in resource exploration and management, technical consulting, engineering, environmental sciences, as well as a multitude of jobs in the private sector and governmental agencies.

This program offers exceptionally qualified students an opportunity to earn both the bachelor’s and the master’s degree in less time than required to obtain the degrees separately. For information on application requirements and deadlines, please see the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences’ BA/MA and BA/MS Program Application website.


Requirements for admission are satisfactory completion of at least three earth sciences courses and an overall grade point average of 3.5 or higher. Students combine coursework and directed research leading to a required thesis. For further information, contact Professor Lawford Anderson in the department.

For general information, please refer to the BA/MA and BA/MS Programs section of this Bulletin.

Course Requirements

The BA/MA in Earth Sciences requires the completion of 36 courses (144 credits), of which eight courses must be at the graduate level (500 or above), and a master’s thesis. Four of the required eight courses must be Earth Sciences courses, including at least two non-research Earth Sciences courses (other than GRS ES 699). Three of the eight required courses can be research courses associated with thesis research.

Earth Sciences Courses

  • CAS ES 500 Field Geology (8 cr)
  • CAS ES 503 Structural Petrology (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 505 Plate Tectonics and Kinematics (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 514 Dynamic Landsurface Hydrology (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 533 Quantitative Geomorphology (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 534 Ice-Age Systems (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 540 Air Pollution and Climate Change (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 541 Coastal Processes (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 543 Estuaries and Nearshore Systems (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 545 Tropical Oceanography of the Caribbean Sea (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 546 Tropical Oceanography of the Caribbean Sea: Applications and Research (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 561 Mechanics of Earthquakes (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 565 Landscape Evolution: Tectonics, Surface Processes, and Climate (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 571 Geochemical Modeling (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 573 Analytical Methods in Geochemistry (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 576 Aquatic Geochemistry (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 581 Solid Earth Geophysics (4 cr)
  • CAS ES 587, 588 Seminar in Earth Sciences (var)
  • GRS ES 623 Ecosystem Biogeochemistry (4 cr)
  • GRS ES 640 Marine Geology (4 cr)
  • GRS ES 643 Terrestrial Biogeochemistry (4 cr)
  • GRS ES 660 Geodynamics I (4 cr)
  • GRS ES 671 Geochemistry (4 cr)
  • GRS ES 683 Geodynamics II Fluids and Fluid Transport (4 cr)
  • GRS ES 699 Teaching College Earth Sciences I (2 cr)
  • GRS ES 701 Quantitative Methods for the Earth Sciences 1: Mechanics of Earth Materials (4 cr)
  • GRS ES 702 Quantitative Methods for the Earth Sciences 2: Analysis and Modeling of Geologic Processes (4 cr)
  • GRS ES 742 Coastal Dynamics (4 cr)
  • GRS ES 771 Isotope Earth Science (4 cr)
  • GRS ES 781 Methods of Seismology (4 cr)
Advanced Topics

Hours arranged. 4 cr.

  • GRS ES 830 Advanced Topics in Surface Processes
  • GRS ES 831 Advanced Topics in Tectonics
  • GRS ES 833 Advanced Topics in Seismology and Geophysics
  • GRS ES 834 Advanced Topics in Geochemical Cycles
  • GRS ES 835 Advanced Topics in Marine Geosciences
  • GRS ES 836 Advanced Topics in Igneous and Metamorphic Geology
Directed Study or Research

Hours arranged. Variable cr.

  • GRS ES 911, 912 Geomorphology and Hydrogeology
  • GRS ES 913, 914 Environmental and Urban Geology
  • GRS ES 921, 922 Crystallography and Mineralogy
  • GRS ES 925, 926 Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
  • GRS ES 927, 928 Structural Geology and Tectonics
  • GRS ES 931, 932 Sedimentation and Stratigraphy
  • GRS ES 941, 942 Coastal and Marine Geology
  • GRS ES 951, 952 Paleontology
  • GRS ES 961, 962 Geophysics
  • GRS ES 963, 964 Seismology
  • GRS ES 971, 972 Geochemistry

Related Courses

A number of related courses in mathematics and natural sciences may be selected for graduate credit as part of the MA and PhD programs in Earth Sciences. The following courses are recommended; those marked with an asterisk (*) require a petition for graduate credit.

  • CAS BI 303    Evolutionary Ecology* (4 cr)
  • CAS BI 504    Advanced Evolutionary Analysis (4 cr)
  • GRS BI 666    Marine Ecology (4 cr)
  • CAS CH 351, 352    Physical Chemistry I & II (4 cr each)*
  • CAS CH 354    Physical Chemistry Laboratory* (4 cr)
  • CAS MA 411    Advanced Calculus* (4 cr)
  • CAS MA 561    Methods of Applied Mathematics I (4 cr)
  • CAS MA 562    Methods of Applied Mathematics II (4 cr)
  • CAS MA 575    Linear Models (4 cr)
  • CAS MA 576    Generalized Linear Models (4 cr)
  • CAS PY 371    Electronics for Scientists* (4 cr)
  • CAS PY 405    Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I* (4 cr)
  • CAS PY 406    Electromagnetic Fields and Waves II* (4 cr)
  • CAS PY 408    Intermediate Mechanics* (4 cr)

Thesis/Research Project

A written thesis, approved by at least three members of the department (usually the student’s advisor and two mutually agreed-upon second readers), must be submitted to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. All MA candidates must give an oral presentation and defend their research results in a public forum.

Cooperative Program with Boston College

The Boston Area Consortium permits degree candidates at Boston University to pursue courses in areas of fluid mechanics and geophysics at Boston College. Cross-registration is designated by the symbols XAS (for undergraduate students) and XRG (for graduate students).

Cross-registration information can be found at the Office of the University Registrar’s Boston Area Consortia webpage.