What will I learn?

The department offers graduate programs leading to the Master of Science (M.S.) degree and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in both geological sciences and geophysics. The programs emphasize a rigorous quantitative approach in conjunction with detailed in-situ and/or laboratory observations to address significant problems that lead to a better understanding of the Earth and its environment.

Major areas of interest are the internal and surface structures and materials of the Earth and planets; dynamic processes within the earth, oceans, atmosphere, and space environments; and their history and the interaction of life with these environments. The required curriculum is flexible to facilitate interdisciplinary research approaches. Earth and Space Sciences is also one of the core departments (with the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and the School of Oceanography) in the interdisciplinary graduate program on climate change and a participant in the astrobiology program.

The Masters in Earth and Space Sciences, Applied Geosciences (MESSAGe) is designed for students who are seeking to go into the private sector or public agencies and wish to have a lead role in geology, geomorphology, environmental geology or engineering geology. The program offers a unique blend of classroom and field experiences to build fundamental knowledge and practical skills that employers are seeking.

Career Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of geoscientists is expected to grow faster than the average over this decade. It is expected that demand will increase in several areas including energy, environmental protection, and resource management.

Degree Requirements

36-45 credits

The department encourages interdisciplinary courses of study tailored to each student.

Courses determined in consultation with the student's advisory committee

ESS 594, each quarter offered in the first year

ESS 599, every quarter (except summer)

Two ESS introductory breadth courses (any 50X course)

Experiential learning

Data analysis course or research project with a significant data analysis component

Preliminary examination (see below)

Draft thesis or research paper

Final examination

With Thesis: 36 credits, of which 18 must be in courses at the 400 level or above and up to 9 may be for thesis (ESS 700). Final examination

Without Thesis: 45 credits, of which 18 must be in courses at the 400 level or above, to include a 5-credit research paper (ESS 600). Final examination

Preliminary Examination: Required for every graduate student. Provides one component the department uses to evaluate admission to the PhD program. Encourages students to develop and present a research project, and get an early, structured start on graduate research. Students must show knowledge of disciplines that underlie their general area of interest (e.g., geology, geophysics, mathematics, chemistry, biology).

Which department am I in?

College of the Environment

Study options

Full Time (36 credit hours)

Tuition fees
US$30,832.00 per year
Start date

Expected September 2022


University of Washington

Schmitz Hall, 1410 NE Campus Parkway,



98195, United States

Entry requirements

For students from United States

Prospective graduate students must meet the following minimum requirements: Hold a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university in the U.S.1or its equivalent from a foreign institution; Have earned at least a 3.0 grade-point-average (on a 4 point scale) for the last 90 graded quarter credits or 60 graded semester credits. Other English Language Requirements: 580 paper-based TOEFL.

For international students

The graduate school also requires students to have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university in the U.S. or its equivalent from a foreign institution. Students must also have at least a 3.0 (or B) GPA in the most recent 2 years of study, and prove English equivalency if necessary.

English Proficiency:

The Graduate School is temporarily accepting official test scores for both the Duolingo English Test and the TOEFL ITP Plus For China to assist international students with remote testing options. This policy is currently in effect through the autumn 2021 admission cycle (i.e., students enrolling in autumn 2021).

International graduate students who achieve a score of 580 (TOEFL) or 237 (TOEFL C) or 92 (TOEFL iBT) or greater on the International TOEFL (or 90 or greater on the Michigan Language Test) and a score of 55 or greater on the International Test of Spoken English (TSE) or 230 or better on the Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit (SPEAK) administered by the University of Washington (UW) may be appointed as TAs without additional language proficiency testing. The International TSE is not required for admission; however, international graduate students admitted to the Department of Earth and Space Sciences who have not taken the TSE must take the SPEAK test after their arrival to the UW.

IELTS: Minimum Required Score 6.5

*There may be different IELTS requirements depending on your chosen course.


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