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University of Pittsburgh    
2020-2021 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Mar 03, 2024
2020-2021 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Geology and Environmental Sciences, PhD

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Students in MS and PhD programs have opportunities to participate in research programs encompassing many fields of current interest in geology, geochemistry, volcanology, geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, planetary geology, paleoclimatology, hydrology, and environmental science. In general, the research is interdisciplinary, collaborative, and employs techniques such as traditional field-based studies, advanced geochemical analytical work, sophisticated remote sensing and GIS analysis, and advanced computer modeling of natural systems. Most students enter the program with an undergraduate degree in the geosciences; however, students with degrees in other natural sciences or in engineering may be admitted in some cases. The department also offers a professional Master’s degree in GIS/Remote Sensing. This non-thesis MS is patterned after the MBA degree and is designed to focus on the advanced concepts of GIS and remote sensing in order to give the student a competitive edge in the job market.

Requirements for the PhD

The minimum course requirement for the PhD degree is seventy-two (72) credits. A minimum of thirty-six (36) credits must be from formal courses and at least eighteen (18) of the credits must be taken within the Department of Geology and Environmental Science. Up to thirty (30) credits may be accepted from a Master of Science degree or graduate study toward the PhD from another institution. An initial evaluation, designed to explore the student’s basic knowledge of the geological sciences and related fields, is required of all PhD degree candidates during their first term of residence.

A graduate student seeking the PhD degree must complete a Comprehensive Overview Examination. The written and oral comprehensive overview exams must be taken before the 7th semester of residence in the Ph.D. program, typically during third year. The written exam (i.e., the proposal or manuscript) must be passed before the oral exam. After passing both written and oral examinations (as well as the requirements of the preliminary exam), the student is admitted to “Ph.D. candidacy.” Therefore, it is to the student’s advantage to complete all requirements as  soon as possible. However, the student does not need to complete all degree plan classes before the comprehensive overview exams. In particular, examining committees can require additional course work be taken as an outcome of the oral comprehensive overview exam. 

Complete descriptions of the most recent degree requirements are available at

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