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Washington State University

Ph.D. Geology

Program Description

The Ph.D. in Geology is designed to explore the evolution and complex dynamics of Earth system processes, including geological processes operating on other planets.

The Ph.D. in Geology often involves extensive fieldwork and prepares students for both academic and other professional careers in a broad variety of geoscience fields including geomorphology, field geology, groundwater and hydrogeology, sedimentology, geochemistry and geophysics, mineralogy and petrology, plate tectonics, volcanology, and the geospatial exploration of Earth and other planetary bodies.

Our geologists and geoscientists leverage NASA and NSF-funded research to explore both terrestrial and planetary geosciences using our in-house, cutting-edge analytical laboratories (see: Radiogenic Isotope & Geochronology Laboratory and the Peter Hooper GeoAnalytical Lab).

Talk With a Geoscientist

If you are interested in pursuing an advanced education in Geology and the Geosciences, we recommend that you begin by directly contacting one or more of our core Geology and Earth Science faculty, including: Catherine Cooper; Johannes Haemmerli; C. Kent Keller; Marc Kramer; Peter Larson; Sean Long; Julie Menard; Jeff Vervoort; Kurtis Wilkie; and John Wolff.

By working and training with these leading geologists and Earth scientists, the Ph.D. in Geology will result in a dissertation that will be a significant contribution to the science of geology and the broad geosciences, and be worthy of publication in referred international journals.

Ph.D. candidates in Geology and the Geosciences are required to choose an area of specialization from among those listed below. Each specialization outlines required courses and provides additional help to design a program.

Areas of Specialization in the Geosciences

The Geology graduate program offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees with specializations in:

  • Sedimentology-Stratigraphy
  • Structural Geology-Tectonics
  • Mineralogy-Petrology-Geochemistry
  • Hydrogeology
  • Geophysics/Geodynamics

The student’s academic program should be one or a combination of no more than two areas of specialization. The choice of course options and electives on the program are based on the student’s research interest and future career goals.

Undergraduate pre-requisites must be satisfied for all courses within the selected program, and if needed, will not count for graduate credit. It is expected that the Ph.D. degree requirements with previous M.S. degree be completed in three years (full-time enrollment, with assistantship); Ph.D. degree requirements without previous M.S. degree be completed in four years.

Geology Ph.D. candidates must take 30 hours of 500-level graded major course work (If you enter the Ph.D. program with a master’s degree you are only required to take 15 credit hours of 500-level graded major course work). The thesis program must consist of not less than 34 hours of graded coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree. It should include the most advanced courses appropriate to the field of study. Of the minimum 34 hours required, up to 9 credits of non-graduate credit (300- or 400-level) may be used. Graded seminars numbered 500 or above may be a part of the core program. Courses graded Pass/Fail may not be used in the core program. Only those master’s degree and transfer courses at a level equivalent to 400- and 500-level courses, and applicable to the doctoral core program should be listed in this category. Any course included in the program in which a grade of “C-” or below is earned must be repeated but not on a Pass/Fail basis.

In addition to the core requirement, the program shall show Research and Additional Studies. This includes Special Projects 600, and Doctoral Research 800 (minimum of 20 hours). This category may also include additional graded or Pass/Fail courses and seminars taken at WSU. The program may not include courses that are audited. Credit in this category, plus that in the core program must total at least 72 hours.

Geology Ph.D. candidates must enroll in SOE 598 (Seminar) a minimum of 2 semesters.

Both preliminary and final exams will be required to test the candidate’s knowledge of geology with emphasis on the work presented in the dissertation and general fields of knowledge pertinent to the degree.



[Photo credits: Banner photo: View of the Earth from orbit on the International Space Station. Source: Wikipedia. Author: Alexander Gerst (Geophysicist – ESA Astronaut)  License: CC BY-SA 2.0]