Geological Sciences, MS

At the School of Earth and Space Exploration, students in the geological sciences master’s degree are working with faculty and researchers in state of the art laboratories and in the field on all seven continents on Earth.    

Arizona State University is a world leader in the geological sciences. Our research interests range from volcanology, to seismology, and from geochemistry to planetary geology. We encourage our students to cross subject boundaries and pursue new understandings of our Earth and the universe beyond. 

Students in this program have access to NSF-funded labs and instruments including a Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (SIMS), an electron Microprobe, a NanoSIMS, an experimental volcanology lab, and the Experimental Petrology and Igneous Processes Center (EPIC).   

Our geological sciences MS is one of the few programs in the U.S. to admit students directly to a standalone master’s degree, not requiring application to the PhD program. This two- to three-year degree prepares students for careers in scientific fields, such as scientific staff positions at government laboratories, teaching at the community college level and technical positions in industry. It also prepares students for further graduate study.

Graduate students in geological sciences become part of our NASA- and NSF-funded projects, studying the great unknowns of the Earth and our solar system. We are seeking to answer the most significant questions in science and setting the stage for a new era of exploration. 

50 Tenure/Tenure Track Faculty
40 Labs and Research Facilities
2-3 Years to Degree

Degree Overview

The MS program provides fundamental graduate training in the geological sciences. The research-based degree requires 30 credit hours, including a wide-range of elective offerings, and a written thesis with an oral defense. The ideal candidate will have an interest in experimental or theoretical geoscience.

How to apply

The majority of SESE’s admissions are for the fall semester. Spring admissions occur under special circumstances. Graduate admission to SESE consists of the following application dates for full consideration of funding and campus recruitment activities. Applications are encouraged before these dates. Applications received after these dates will still be considered, but generally at a lower priority for funding and visitation.

January 15 of the current year for fall admission
October 1 of the previous year for spring admission

To be eligible for admission to SESE’s graduate program applicants must:

  • have a bachelor’s degree
  • have at least a 3.0 GPA
  • demonstrate English proficiency via the TOEFL or IELTS, if necessary. More information regarding English proficiency and required scores can be found at

Most applicants will have a degree in an area related to the graduate degree they are seeking, although this is not a requirement. 

Click here to learn more about how to apply

The School of Earth and Space Exploration is committed to high-impact scientific discovery. Our master’s degree in geological sciences offers graduate students access to state of the art labs and fieldwork with faculty who are dedicated to exploring the great unknowns of the Earth. From the study of earthquakes in the Himalayas to the Yellowstone supervolcano, from measuring soil erosion and sea level change to analyzing meteorites, we invite you to explore all that the School has to offer.

– Arjun Heimsath, Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration


To earn the geological sciences master’s degree, students must complete 30 hours at the graduate level, including a written thesis. Students must take one core course, 22 hours of electives, one credit hour of colloquium, and six credit hours of culminating experience (thesis). 

Requirements and electivesCredit Hours
Core courses1
Electives or research22
Other requirements1
Culminating experience6
Total hours required30

Additional Curriculum Information
Substitutions for other requirements may be made per department approval.

Courses and electives

The geological sciences degree employs a research-based model and requires a written thesis and oral defense. Students are able to customize their elective course and are required to submit a plan of study that details their selections after conferring with the supervisory committee. All students admitted to this program are also required to take one core course and one colloquium credit hour. 

SES 502 Exploring SESE Research (1 credit hour)

Students can take any 500+ level course with GLG or SES prefixes. Students should work with their faculty advisor to select courses that work best for their program of study. A full list of electives is available here. Course offerings may vary by instructor availability. Students are encouraged to work with their advisor or refer to the class search for semester offerings.

SES 501 SESE Colloquium (1 credit hour)

SES 599 Thesis (6 credit hours)

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