Earth Sciences Ph.D.


Details regarding admission to graduate standing, financial aid, examinations, and the requirements for the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees are available from the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department graduate studies webpage. Additional details can be found at the UC Santa Cruz Division of Graduate Studies.

Advancement to Candidacy

Course Requirements

Thesis Ph.D. Track

In their first year, all thesis-track graduate students register for:
EART203Introductory Teaching Seminar


EART204Earth and Planetary Sciences Foundations


EART206Great Papers in the Earth Sciences


And, in consultation with the graduate advising committee, choose at least one subject course focusing on specific Earth and planetary sciences content and one course focusing on quantitative analysis (from a list in the EPS Graduate Handbook).

In subsequent years, all students participate in:
EART293Graduate Research Seminar


Other course requirements are tailored to the individual student’s academic background, professional experience, and plans for research. No specific number of course credits is required for the Ph.D., but ordinarily students put more of their effort into coursework during the first year of graduate study.

Foreign Language Requirements

There is no foreign-language requirement other than demonstrated proficiency in English. Applicants from countries where English is not the primary language must take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test.

Teaching Requirement

It is recommended that all thesis-track graduate students attain some teaching experience while at UC Santa Cruz.

Pre-Qualifying Requirements

Prospective students are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test and have the scores sent electronically to the UC Santa Cruz Division of Graduate Studies.

Qualifying Examination

To qualify for candidacy in the Ph.D. program, each student must pass an oral examination in his or her area of specialization by the end of their third year of graduate study (second year if entering with a master's degree), although students are strongly encouraged to take the examination earlier. The examination is based on a research proposal presenting one or more specific questions to be researched by the student in the course of completing their Ph.D. thesis. Students are expected to have in-depth knowledge of fields relevant to the proposal, including familiarity with the professional literature.



The Ph.D. dissertation is a scholarly contribution to knowledge that embodies the results of original and creative effort by the student. Students are urged to prepare their dissertations for publication in peer-reviewed professional journals.

Dissertation Defense

A public oral defense of the thesis is required prior to completion of the Ph.D.

Academic Progress

Before the start of fall quarter, each first-year thesis track student must meet with their faculty adviser to determine a customized course list designed to improve breadth and enable research goals. Immediately afterwards, a meeting is scheduled with the graduate program director to finalize and approve this initial discussion with a written study plan. Yearly academic review meetings will then reassess the student's progress in completing these courses and independent research, initially with the primary adviser but eventually with a reading committee.