Geological Sciences, PhD

At the School of Earth and Space Exploration, students in the geological sciences doctoral degree program 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 Ph.D. program is designed to develop creative scholarship and prepare students for professional and academic careers in geological science fields such as geochemistry, geology, geophysics, planetary geology, hydrology, and related areas.

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
4-5 Years to Degree

Degree Overview

The Ph.D. program provides training in experimental and theoretical geoscience research. The degree requires 84 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus, and a dissertation. 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 PhD program in geological sciences offers unique research opportunities, collaboration across disciplines, and access to the brightest minds in Earth sciences. We invite you to explore all that the School has to offer.

 – Enrique Vivoni, Associate Director of Graduate Programs


To earn the geological sciences Ph.D., students must complete 84 hours at the graduate level, including a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus, and a dissertation. Students must take one core course, 70 hours of electives, one credit hour of colloquium, and 12 credit hours of culminating experience (dissertation). 

Requirements and electivesCredit Hours
Electives or research70
Other requirements1
Culminating experience12
Total hours required84

Additional Curriculum Information
When approved by the students supervisory committee and the Graduate College, this program allows 30 credit hours from a previously awarded master's degree in a related field to be used for this degree. 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 dissertation, with a comprehensive written exam 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 799 Dissertation (12 credit hours)