The Master’s degrees in Earth and Planetary Sciences is designed to provide an educational environment to encourage students to become competent and technically adept Earth and planetary scientists who wish to pursue a career in education, industry, government, nongovernmental organizations, or the service sector. The program also serves to lay a solid foundation for those students who desire to continue on with advanced graduate studies toward the Ph.D. degree either at Rutgers or at another institution.

The conventional and “4+1” tracks of M.S. degree require 24 credits of course work and 6 credits of research.  The Environmental Geosciences track requires 27 course and 3 research credits and completion of an internship. In addition to course work, the conventional and “4+1” tracks require a short written thesis proposal entailing the specifics and goals of the intended research thesis. The M.S. degree is granted following completion of the written thesis (conventional) or capstone paper (“4+1” and Environmental Geoscience tracks), approved by the Thesis Advisor and Thesis Committee, and completion of a successful open departmental oral defense.

In most cases, the student who had been admitted with a B.A. or a B.S. with no major deficiencies will complete his/her M.S. within 2 full academic years (24 months) depending upon the area of study. The student must file an application for a diploma (obtained from the Registrar) before April 1 preceding the May Commencement or October 1 for an October dated degree and January 2nd for a January-dated degree. To file this application, the thesis or capstone needs to be presented and signed as complete.

Thesis Advisor and Committee

If the student has not already done so, during the first semester at Rutgers, the graduate student must select a Thesis Advisor and define a thesis research problem. Depending on areas of interest, the student should meet with appropriate faculty members, discuss possible thesis projects, and select a mutually agreed upon Thesis Advisor. In consultation with the Thesis Advisor, two other members of the EPS Graduate Faculty related to the area of research should be chosen to form the students Thesis Committee. The Thesis Committee will serve to advise the student on selection of coursework and thesis research. The Thesis Committee is formed by formally advising the GPD. Full-time students must complete this form by the end of the first semester.

Course work

In consultation with the Thesis Advisor, an outline of course work is to be selected, individually designed toward the student's interest and area of study. The M.S. degree requires 24 credits of course work and 6 credits of research (for a total of 30 credits). The normal course load per semester for full-time students is 15 credits, consisting of 9 to 10 credits of coursework, plus 3 to 6 credits among thesis research, teaching assistantship, or research assistantship, as appropriate. No more than 12 credits can be selected from undergraduate courses at the 300/400 levels and must be approved by the Graduate Advisor. A minimum grade average of 3.0 is required. There is no language requirement beyond showing proficiency in English for those with English as a second language.  Up to 12 credits of course work taken at other institutions can be transferred after review by the Graduate Advisory Committee. Request for credit transfer must be made using the forms obtained from the Graduate School. Approval will be granted only for courses related to the student's proposed direction of study for the MS and only for courses equivalent to 500 or higher-level courses.

Ideally, all course work should be completed in the first 3 semesters with the 4th focused on completing a thesis. A minimum grade average of 3.0 is required.


A short proposal of the potential thesis topic (2-5 pages; 800-2,000 words, not including figures and references) outlining the intended area, methods, and goals of the thesis must be submitted during the second semester, no later than by the end of the second semester. A copy of the approved proposal is part of the student’s permanent record and will be filed by the Graduate Program Director. The thesis topic in consultation with the student's Thesis Advisor should be well focused and accomplishable in the time remaining in the two years (24 months) time frame. The scope and extent of the research depends primarily on consultations between the student, Advisor and Thesis Committee. The thesis topic should be designed to address a specific problem in geological or planetary sciences, methodology as to how the problem was addressed, results and implications of the study. The topic can be a stand-alone project or part of a larger ongoing project in conjunction with a faculty member or outside research group. In consultation with the Thesis Committee and Graduate Director, the thesis may be designed to facilitate incorporation into an expanded study for the Ph.D. dissertation or as a final degree for employment in education, industry, government or the service sector. Under normal circumstances, the thesis is to be completed and orally defended in an open department venue by the end of the student's second year (24 months).

Completion of Thesis

  1. Submit drafts of the thesis to Thesis Advisor and Committee
  2. Complete candidacy form except final signatures (signed at time of successful defense)
  3. Make recommended corrections and modifications to thesis
  4. Provide final draft of thesis (including figures, tables, references, etc.) to Thesis Committee
  5. Upon approval of Thesis Committee, submit copy to Department office at least one week prior to scheduled defense
  6. Defend thesis (bring Candidacy Form from Graduate School Office)
  7. Make final changes, editorial corrections if required by Thesis Committee and submit final corrected version to Thesis Committee for final approval
  8. Submission of thesis and abstract copy with the Department office and copies to the Thesis Advisor and Thesis Committee

Summary of M.S. Degree requirements

  1. 24 course credits
  2. 6 or more research credits culminating in a completed research thesis
  3. Satisfactory oral presentation and defense of the thesis/capstone paper
  4. Submission of electronic copy of the completed thesis and signed candidacy form with the Graduate School Office
  5. Submission of thesis and abstract copy with the Department office and copies to the Thesis Advisor and Thesis Committee

All variances from above must be approved in writing by the student's Thesis Advisor and Department's Graduate Director.

Ideal Timeline

First Year

Fall Semester

2 to 3, 3-credit courses, 1-credit Graduate Seminar

Selection of thesis advisor, development of research topic and formation of Thesis Committee

Spring Semester

2 to 3, 3-credit courses

Completion and submittal of 2-3 page thesis proposal

Summer Semester

3 to 6 research credit courses

Data collection for thesis

Second Year

Fall Semester

2, 3-credit courses, 3 to 6 research credit courses

Continued data collection, method and data write-up

Spring Semester

3 to 6 research credit courses

Continued write-up, completion of thesis, file candidacy form, defend and submit thesis

Continuation for a Ph.D. Degree

A graduate student who wishes to continue on at Rutgers for a Ph.D. degree should discuss the Ph.D. studies with their Thesis Advisor and Graduate Committee. In some circumstances, students may be admitted to the Ph.D. program without completing a master’s degree. If the advisor and committee agree, the student should petition the Graduate Faculty in writing stating his or her focus of continued study. Permission to continue is based on the student's performance in the M.S. degree program, competence for conducting doctoral research and the fit between personal research goals and the opportunities in the Department. The Graduate Director will discuss with the student in writing the outcome of the Graduate Faculty decision.

In order to be considered for admittance into the Ph.D. program for the following Fall Semester, as well as for consideration for financial support for the following year, the student MUST have made sufficient progress toward their M.S. by the beginning of their final semester (typically beginning of Spring Semester). The student must meet with the thesis advisor and Graduate Director at this time to discuss progress and plans for continuation into the Ph.D. program. Acceptance of and funding for the continuing student in mid-year for the following semester may be considered depending upon availability.

A Petition for Continuation Form should be filled out by the student, signed by the student’s intended Ph.D. Advisor and submitted to the Graduate Advisory Committee for review.

All variances from above must be approved in writing by the student's Ph.D. Advisor and Department's Graduate Director.

4+1 Major Plus M.S. Requirements

This Master’s of Science track offers a condensed 12- to 15-month program intended for students who are interested in geological sciences- (environmental or energy industry) related employment. Students fulfill all the requirements for a Master’s degree (24 course credits, 6 research or internship credits) including a capstone paper.  This program is largely targeted at students currently in the Earth & Planetary Sciences major at Rutgers with a GPA above 3.2, though outside students will be considered.  The program requires 2 semesters of coursework and research typically done in the summer(s). Students applying to this track can fulfill all the requirements for a Master’s degree (24 course credits, 6 research or internship credits) in 12-15 months if 6 credits of graduate work can be drawn from the student’s undergraduate coursework (note that courses may only be counted once for either undergraduate major requirements or toward graduate credit).  A written capstone paper based on research or internship work is required. The oral presentation of the paper will be at the discretion of the committee. The GRE is not required.

Suggested courses:

  • 16 460 506 Structure and Formation of the Planets (3)
  • 16 460 505 Sedimentary Geology (3)
  • 16 460 507 Geodynamics (3)
  • 16 460 541 Marine Geology (3)
  • 16 460 515 Advanced Tectonics (3)
  • 16 460 528 Groundwater Modeling (3)
  • 01 460 408 Geomorphology (3)
  • 01 460 414 Hydrologic Processes (3)
  • 01 460 417 Environmental Geochemistry
  • 01 460 428 Hydrogeology
  • 01 460 476 16 712 576 History of the Earth System (3)

Applications and letters will be required.
Suggested application target date of January 15, though later applicants will be considered.

Financial Support

Because this option does not involve academic research and is on a fast track, no financial support is available from the department.


Environmental Geosciences (M.S. Option)

The Environmental Geosciences Option (EGS) for the M.S. Degree in Earth & Planetary Sciences prepares students seeking employment with private environmental consulting firms, NGOs, and government agencies. These employers have expressed a preference for hiring graduates with a solid training in geological sciences, but a bend toward and additional training in applying geologic knowledge to solving environmental problems (e.g., fate and transport of contaminants in the subsurface). It is a shorter, non-thesis program, normally completed within 1.5 years with full-time enrollment, or 2-3 years as a part-time student.


The M.S. degree requires 27 credits of course work and 3 credits of a capstone paper on an internship project. Students without a B.S. degree in the Earth & planetary sciences are expected to take up to 12 credits of undergraduate core courses.

Core Courses: 

  • Introduction to Geophysics 01:460:306 (4 credit), or Applied Geophysics 26:380:406 (3) (Newark)
  • Environmental Geochemistry 01:460:417 (3), or Applications of Aquatic Chemistry 16:375:517 (3)
  • Hydrogeology 01:460:428 (3), or Groundwater Modeling 16:460:528 (3)
  • Professional Science Writing and Presentation 16:712:561 (3)

Elective Courses:

  • Depending on the background, interests and needs of individual students, a wide range of related subjects can be selected from the Departments of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Marine & Coastal Sciences, and others.


Students are required to conduct an internship with a firm, organization or government agency. The program will help students make contacts with potential hosts and participate in a real-world project, involving students in data collection, analysis and technical reporting. A capstone paper of the internship project must be submitted to the graduate program, publicly defended, and approved by a three-member committee of the graduate faculty.

Financial Support

Because this option does not involve academic research and is on a fast track, no financial support is available from the department.

Contact Information

Please send direct inquiries to Professor Ying Fan Reinfelder (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Professor Nathan Yee (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).


Registration Tips

Students supported by fellowships and teaching assistants should wait until mid-August to register to avoid late fees (i.e., term bills are generated if you register in spring).  New students register during orientation, usually the last week in August.

Full-time status for the School of Graduate Studies for students not yet admitted to candidacy is 9 credits.  The maximum is 16 credits (including 6 credits for TA/GA) (i.e., three 3 credit courses, 1 one credit course, plus TA/GA credits).

Full time status for the School of Graduate Studied for students admitted to candidacy (“ABD”) is 3 credits/semester until 72 credits, then it is 1 research credit per semester.

TAs and GAs are allowed 24 credits remission per year; if you take 9 credits Fall and 9 credits Spring, you can register for 6 credits in Summer.

Once a student is ABD, and has all coursework completed, they should register for research, usually 1 credit.  SGS considers you full-time but on paper you are part-time.  If you are deferring prior loans, there is a form that has to be completed and submitted to the Registrar, “Enrollment Certification for Doctoral Students,” which can be found on the SGS website.

International students who register less than full-time (9 credits) are required to complete a “Reduced Course Load Form” and submitted to Global Services.  This includes student who are ABD.

All international students must maintain full-time status per the guidelines above.

Transfer credits from master’s/undergraduate studies (those in excess of what was needed for undergraduate degree) after completing 9 credits at Rutgers. 

Try to target the right number of research credits to reach 72 credits total in 5 years.

Years three to five (assuming student has been admitted to candidacy) should ideally be 6-9 research credits per semester until 72 credits is achieved.