Curriculum Requirements

The MGS Ph.D. degree requires 60 total credits. 1
Course Credits30
Recommended Courses 2
It is strongly recommended that all 1st year students enroll in at least 2 of the following courses:
Earth Surface Processes
Introductory Geochemistry
Dissertation Research30
Doctoral Dissertation
Required Examinations
Comprehensive Examination 3
Qualifying Examination
Additional Requirements
Research Ethics
MGS Seminar (MGS 701) 4
Educational Training Program (TA) 5
Educational Training 1
Educational Training 2
Educational Training 3
Total Credit Hours60

Minimum of 30 course credits and 12 dissertation credits.


The intent of the recommended course requirements is to ensure preparation across the range of subfields within MGS. 

  • The MGS comprehensive examination is normally administered once per year, in May or early June after the conclusion of the spring semester. 
    • Students who enter the program for the fall semester are expected to take the comprehensive exam after the conclusion of the spring semester.
    • Students who enter the program in the spring semester will generally take the comprehensive exam after the following spring semester.
  • The comprehensive exam traditionally consists of two parts, administered on separate days: (1) a day of written questions assembled from all MGS faculty, and (2) a follow-­up oral exam approximately an hour-­long administered by a panel of 3‐4 MGS faculty with a range of expertise.  
  • The written questions span the full range of subfields within the MGS program, and that part of the exam is generally structured to allow some choice among questions within a subfield. The oral exam committee will generally conclude with a judgment as to whether the student has passed the comprehensive exam. 
  • If a student does not follow the above course recommendations and performs poorly on the comprehensive exam, it may trigger a requirement to enroll in the respective course as a condition for further advancement in the MGS program.

All MSG M.S. and Ph.D. students are required to participate regularly in seminars throughout their residency and must register for it one time to graduate

  • Ph.D. students are expected to be a Teaching Assistant (TA) for two courses while pursuing their degree.
  • The mandatory TA program will include training of new TAs, evaluation of their performance, and recognition of excellence. The goal is to make the experience as valuable as possible for the TA, the faculty, and the students taking our courses.
  • A training session and two teaching opportunities are offered as courses in educational training (RSM 771, RSM 772, RSM 773). Students will be registered accordingly.
  • Specific requirements for TAs are outlined in the RSMAS Student Handbook.