PhD in Earth Sciences

The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GRS) is no longer admitting students to the PhD in Earth Sciences. Continuing students should note the stated degree requirements.

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.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental concepts in earth sciences, including advanced principles of one or more of the following subdisciplines: geology, geochemistry, geophysics, surface processes, and deep time.
  • Use a range of field, laboratory, and research methods to propose, design, and perform independent, quantitative, and original research that advances earth sciences.
  • Communicate research questions and results to the scientific community and communicate understanding of the broader impacts and wider implications of earth sciences research to the general public.

Course Requirements

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

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

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

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.

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.

Students who choose not to continue the pursuit of the PhD may elect to complete the degree requirements to receive an MA in Earth Sciences. The requirements for the MA in Earth Sciences can be found here. To learn more about this option, contact the department’s graduate program coordinator.