Master's Degree Requirements

From the Grad Guide 2020:

3.1 Coursework

24 graded classroom credits
(500 or 600 level classes)

Only graded courses apply. Up to 15 credits may be taken in courses offered outside the department (with advisor approval)
9 credits at 600-699 level

May be taken graded or pass/no pass, but only graded courses can apply toward the 24 credits above.

9 thesis creditsGEOL 503. At least 3 thesis credits must be taken in the final term.
remaining creditsCan include research, readings, and seminars. Students are expected to register for and attend the department seminar and graduate student seminar (607) each term.
45 credits totalAt least 30 credit hours in residence, in the major.

A master’s degree candidate must earn a minimum of 45 credits at the graduate level and complete a thesis approved by their thesis committee. Of the 45 credits, 24 credits must be earned in graded classroom courses. Nine credits must be in courses numbered 600-699, which may be graded or pass/no pass. Students are urged to take lecture-based courses when offered if they are appropriate for their sub-discipline, but 600 level credits may also be earned through non-lecture courses such as 601 Research, 605 Reading, 607 Seminar. Masters students may NOT register for 603, which is reserved for doctoral students. Up to 15 credits may, with the approval of the graduate advisor, be taken in related sciences. As part of the total credits for the degree, nine credits of Thesis (GEOL 503) are required. The remaining credits may include independent work, such as reading and research, and/or the departmental seminar. The seminar, in which outside speakers, faculty, or graduate students speak on some topic of general interest, is held once weekly in the afternoon during fall, winter, and spring terms. All students are required to register for one hour of seminar (GEOL 507) credit each term.  Students are also expected to take GEOL 607—New Graduate Seminar series during their first year, and GEOL 607—Graduate Seminar when it is offered. Students may transfer up to 6 hours of graduate work from another non Oregon University System institution. A form must be filed with the Graduate School requesting transfer of these credits.

A minimum of 30 credit hours, over a minimum of two terms, must be taken on the Eugene campus.  Graduate students at the University may, with advisor and departmental approval, take graduate courses at institutions in the Oregon University System participating in the Joint Campus program. A student registers for these courses with the University of Oregon registrar, who records each grade on the academic record under Joint-Campus Course (JC 610). The student must be a matriculated UO graduate student in an advanced degree program and registered for UO courses the same term the JC 610 course is taken. A maximum of 15 JC credits may be applied toward a graduate degree program. Forms are available at the Office of the Registrar.

Graduate students are expected to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better in their course work.  If a student’s GPA falls below 3.0 or they fail to show satisfactory progress toward completion of their degree (see section 5.2.4), they are subject to disqualification.  A grade lower than a C- or a N (no-pass) will not be counted toward fulfilling the 24 graded credit requirement for Master’s degree students.  Students must score at least a B- to earn a P (pass) in a non-graded course.  Graduate School policy requires that students must convert a graduate course grade of Incomplete (“I”) into a passing grade within one calendar year of the term the course was taken. After one year, the student must petition to the Graduate School for the removal of an incomplete. The petition is not necessary for Incompletes in Research or Thesis. Thesis “I” credits only are converted by the Graduate School to passing grades “P” upon awarding of the degree.  Instructors must submit grade changes for Research “I” credits.

The Graduate School requires that students must complete all work for the master’s degree within 7 years, including transferred credit, thesis, and all examinations. However, the department expects all work to be complete within 2-3 years, and therefore limits the total GE funding to this duration, assuming satisfactory progress.  Graduate students must register continuously, except for summers, until all of the program requirements have been completed, unless on-leave status (maximum time of three academic terms) has been approved. All graduate students must register for at least three thesis credits during the term in which the degree is to be received.

3.2 Guidance Committee

Students are expected to meet with either their guidance or thesis committee at least once per year.  A guidance committee of three faculty members will be assigned to each incoming student at the start of their first year to: (1) provide initial academic advising on coursework, requirements, and thesis topics; and (2) document student progress until that student assembles a thesis committee. At least one member of the guidance committee will be someone in the student’s research field, and the committee coordinator shall be someone who is unlikely to serve as thesis advisor for the student. It is mandatory that faculty committee members attend guidance committee meetings or arrange for a substitute faculty member with the same general academic specialty.

The guidance committee meets with the student at least once shortly after the student arrives on campus and before they register for fall courses. At the first meeting, the committee will review the student’s academic record, try to identify (and point out) gaps in the student’s preparation or potential difficulties with University requirements and regulations, and plan jointly with the student for their first term in the program. If the student appears to be well prepared and reasonably knowledgeable about their aims, further meetings of the student with the guidance committee may be scheduled infrequently. In any case, at least one Guidance or Thesis committee meeting must be held each academic year to provide advice to the student and to examine their progress.

After initial advising, the student will typically meet with their guidance or thesis committee at least once during each spring term, and more often if necessary. After each committee meeting, the coordinator will write up the minutes, circulate to the student and the committee, and send a copy to the Graduate Coordinator with a request to have a copy put in the student’s file. Once a year, the coordinator of the guidance committee presents a report to the faculty of the department, outlining the student’s progress.

M.S. students are expected to choose a thesis topic and form their thesis committee by the end of their fourth term in residence. Once this has been accomplished, the thesis committee will take over all advising functions for the student, and the student’s guidance committee ceases to exist. 

3.3 Thesis

The primary product in fulfillment of the Master’s degree is a written thesis that summarizes the scientific research performed by the student.  The thesis should represent a unique and substantial scientific contribution of sufficient quality that portions warrant submission to an academic journal for broad dissemination to the scientific community.  The written document should be organized in the form of a research paper, with an introduction (including motivation and background), description of the data and methods, discussion, conclusions, and bibliography.  Figures and tables should be fully labeled with explanatory captions.  It is critical that the student understands the expectations of their advisor and committee, who must evaluate and approve the thesis.  Therefore, good communication between all parties is imperative.

Outline of Thesis Procedures

(1)   Decide on your thesis project and write a thesis proposal.

(2)    Form your thesis committee (requires Director of Graduate Study’s approval) by end of the 4th term in residence.

(3)    Submit the thesis proposal to your committee for approval by the end of the fourth term (typically fall of second year). Submit one copy of the approved proposal to the Graduate Coordinator for your file.

(4)    Perform your thesis research while taking thesis credits (GEOL 503) and write the complete thesis draft.

(5)    In your final term, apply for M.S. degree with the Graduate School by Friday of the second week.

(6)    Submit the thesis draft to your committee at least two weeks before the thesis presentation.

(7)   Give the public thesis presentation.

(8)    Once the thesis is successfully presented and approved by the thesis committee, turn in an electronic version and submission approval forms to the Graduate School and pay fees.

3.3.1 Committee

Students should choose a thesis committee by the end of their fourth term of residence. A thesis committee consists of three faculty members, at least two of whom are from the Department of Earth Sciences. The makeup of the thesis committee must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). If two of the members are spouses or domestic partners, an additional committee member could be added, with approval of the DGS. Two committee members are assigned special roles:

  • Chair: The faculty member in the department who serves as the student’s primary research advisor.
  • Coordinator: A faculty member in the department who facilitates committee meetings and drafts a report of the student’s progress. The student suggests a coordinator and this role is approved by the DGS.

The responsibility of this committee is to: (1) evaluate and approve the student’s thesis proposal, (2) provide academic advice and monitor student progress toward completion of the degree, (3) provide feedback and advice to the student concerning the student’s research project, (4) read the thesis draft, (5) examine the student at their thesis presentation, and (6) read and approve the final thesis. The thesis committee must meet with the student at least once each year, normally during spring term. In some cases, committee meetings may be necessary more than once per year. It is the responsibility of the student (with reminders from the department Graduate Coordinator) to ensure that these meetings are held. Students should come to the meeting prepared to update the committee on research progress. Typically, this takes the form of a concise (15-30 minute) student-led presentation with adequate time for clarifying questions and suggestions by the assembled committee members. After each meeting, the coordinator will write up the minutes, circulate to the student and the committee, and send a copy to the Graduate Coordinator with a request to have a copy put in the student’s file.

3.3.2 Proposal

The student must submit a thesis proposal to their thesis committee for approval as soon as possible after the committee is formed and before the end of the 4th term. The content, format, and length of the proposal are determined by the committee.  No formal credit or recognition for thesis work will be given until the thesis proposal has been circulated to each member of the thesis committee for review. After the thesis proposal has been distributed, the committee will meet to: (1) approve or request revision of the research proposal, (2) ensure that the student has obtained, or is in the process of obtaining, the academic back-ground needed to complete the work, and (3) help the student make plans for completing the project. The student must submit a copy of the approved proposal to the Graduate Coordinator for inclusion in their file.

3.3.3 Thesis Credits

Registration for a minimum of 9 credit hours of Thesis (GEOL 503) is required by the Graduate School. A student may earn as many as l5 hours of thesis credit, but only 9 will apply towards the 45 hours required for the degree. The Graduate School requires that students register for at least 3 credits during their final term: details can be found on the Graduate School website: The grade given for GEOL 503 will be an incomplete (I*) until the thesis is completed and approved by the Graduate School.

3.3.4 Degree Application

By the 2nd Friday in the term in which the student plans to graduate, they must apply for the degree online at:

Check the deadline schedule online at:

3.3.5 Final Timetable and Presentation

A complete draft of the thesis (approved by the advisor) must be circulated to thesis committee members at least 2 weeks before the thesis presentation. During the thesis presentation, the M.S. student will present the major ideas, findings, and results of their research, and be subject to questioning by members of their committee and the general public.

3.3.6 Final Product

When the student has successfully presented their thesis and incorporated feedback from their thesis advisor and committee, they are required to upload a PDF copy of their thesis via the Graduate School’s submission process. Submission instructions and forms can be found at the Graduate School web site under Thesis and Dissertation (see: uploaded thesis will not be accepted unless it meets Graduate School standards of form and style. The student should refer to the Graduate School’s Style and Policy Manual (See link on the above page) that defines these standards.  The Graduate School allows published papers to be submitted in lieu of the standard thesis (and this format is preferred by many faculty advisors); however, these papers may need to be reformatted into the standard Graduate School style. To avoid potential problems, students are cautioned to check with the Graduate School on such formatting requirements.

All University of Oregon dissertations are submitted to ProQuest and then delivered to the University of Oregon Libraries.  ProQuest is a dissertation/thesis service responsible for keeping a scholarly record of doctoral and master’s recipients worldwide.

ProQuest is recognized as the publisher, cataloger, and marketer of theses and dissertations. ProQuest also offers copyrighting services. For more information, visit

In addition to the ProQuest copy, copies of your thesis and related files are forwarded to the UO Libraries. The UO Libraries archives the thesis with any related files and makes them available through the university’s institutional repository, Scholars’ Bank. For more information, visit

3.4 Oral Presentations

In order to give graduate students more experience speaking in front of large, formal audiences, every graduate student is required to give a scientific presentation at least once every two years during their residency in the department. Oral or poster presentations at scientific meetings (e.g., AGU, GSA, AAPG, etc.) are encouraged as a means of meeting this requirement. If such a talk or poster is given, documentation (e.g., the published abstract) must be provided to the department Graduate Coordinator. Alternatively, student seminars may be presented during a departmental seminar time slot if space is available in the schedule. Otherwise, students may petition to present their seminar at an informal time. Such a presentation must be scheduled and advertised a minimum of one week in advance and will meet the requirement only if at least three faculty are able to attend. Lunchtime slots, when informal seminar series are often already scheduled, may be appropriate. Students who are judged by the faculty to have presented an unsatisfactory seminar will be advised how the seminar can be improved and will be required to give another (satisfactory) seminar soon after.