Geological Sciences Ph.D.

Requirements for the Ph.D. in Geology

Course requirements: 90 hours of graduate credit with a 3.0 GPA or higher, including:

  • A minimum of 20 credit hours in geological sciences, including formal courses, problems, seminars, techniques and research.
  • A minimum of 35 credit hours of coursework at or above the 500 level, which is expected to include all core courses within the principal discipline.
  • A maximum of 30 credit hours of graduate courses transferred from other institutions.
  • Completion of course requirements for a minor subject as specified by the minor advisor.
  • Fulfillment of any course requirements stipulated by the research advisor or by CGS.
  • Enrollment and residence at IUB for at least two consecutive semesters during the program.

Completion of M.S. degree

Students admitted to the Ph.D. program are expected to complete an M.S. degree in geological sciences or in an allied science in a timely fashion.

An M.S. must be awarded within one calendar year of matriculation into the Ph.D. program.

The M.S. degree requirement may be waived by the CGS when convincing justification from the student and strong support from his or her Advisory Committee is given.

Major and minor subjects

  1. All candidates select a major field within Earth and atmospheric sciences and an external or internal minor.
  2. The minor advisor determines the course requirements for the minor in consultation with other members of the Advisory Committee.
  3. External minors are typically chosen in the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, or Physics, or in SPEA.
  4. Internal minors must be chosen in a field distinct from the major subject area and may include non-geology courses (e.g., courses in biology, chemistry and physics) as part of a minor in geobiology, geochemistry, geophysics, or independent minor.


Each candidate for the Ph.D. degree must pass three distinct examinations:

  1. Preliminary examination
  2. Qualifying examination
  3. Defense of dissertation
Preliminary exam

The preliminary exam is taken in the January after matriculation. It consists of a written exam set by the Ph.D. Admissions Committee (typically the CGS), and a brief interview with the Ph.D. Admissions Committee. Questions on the written exam require reasoning, integration of geological concepts, demonstration of quantitative skills and elucidation of research ideas. A broad understanding of geological systems, including surficial and deep-earth processes, is expected rather than specialized knowledge in sub-disciplines.

Qualifying exam

The qualifying exam is taken when all coursework, including minor and foreign language or research skill requirements have been completed. It consists of three parts:

  1. Preparation of a research proposal reviewed by the student’s Research Committee
  2. A written exam set and evaluated by the student’s Research Committee
  3. An oral examination which includes a formal presentation of the proposed research and discussion of the written exam, proposal, and research plans.

Success in the qualifying exam formally admits a student to Ph.D. candidacy.

Dissertation defense

The dissertation defense consists of three parts:

  1. Public presentation of the dissertation research
  2. An open session of questions and discussion
  3. A rigorous closed oral examination held by the student’s Research Committee