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M.A. Earth Sciences


The M.A. Program in Earth Sciences is designed for students who are interested in furthering their Earth Science academic training (to prepare to pursue a job in research or a Ph.D. degree at another institution, for example) or who are interested in teaching Earth Science at a community college.  Students who do not have an undergraduate degree in Earth Sciences, but who wish to get into the field, are welcome to apply to the program.  Depending on your background and courses you've already taken, enrollment in undergraduate prerequisite courses may be necessary. This is traditional master's program, where you will complete a research project in close consultation with a faculty advisor. 

Depending on your chosen research project, you may receive training in:

  • Lab analysis of rock and paleontological specimens (X-Ray diffraction, mineral separation, preparing rock thin-sections or using petrographic microscopes)
  • Field techniques
  • Computer programming (GIS analysis or Linux-based programming)
  • Scientific writing, manuscript preparation, and professional presentation skills

Program Features

Overall, this program prepares you with the technical and professional skills you need to work as a scientist. You’ll learn to formulate and address scientific questions, develop geospatial skills and reasoning, communicate scientific findings in various ways, and develop proficiency and experience in computing, field and/or laboratory work, depending on your chosen research project. Most of your classes will have fewer than 20 students, ensuring close attention from faculty. 

To meet University requirements for a Master’s degree, you must earn at least 30 hours of credit, with an overall GPA of at least 3.0 and no grade below a C.  

Required graduate courses include:

  • Seminars in earth sciences with professional scientists
  • Introduction to Earth Sciences Research
  • Special Topics in Earth Sciences (or equivalent)
  • 14 elective credit hours in geology, meterology, earth science, and oceanography content courses (chosen in consultation with advisor and/or graduate advisory committee).

Additional Requirements:

  • Research project (thesis or graduate research) on some aspect of earth science, typically six credit hours
  • Satisfactory completion of Comprehensive Examinations, written and oral.
  • Oral presentation on the research topic to faculty and students during the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Seminar.

Examples of Recent Thesis Projects

Examining the Urban Heat Island Effect of Denver, Colorado and Impacts of Urban Expansion Using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model, Benjamin Abel, 2016.

Designing Multimedia Videos to Teach Climate Concepts, Lindsay Johnson, 2016.

Testing the Sensitivity of Late Cambrian Climate to Topography and Soil Water Holding Capacity Using the Planet Simulator, Ross Kononen, 2013.

Analysis of Earth Science Teacher-Made Classroom Assessment Items Compared to State Earth Science Content Standards, Eileen Duncan, 2012.

Glacial and periglacial deposits of the Lake of the Clouds cirque, Never Summer Mountains, Colorado, Byron Straw, 2010.

Archaeoastronomical survey of Inca sites in Peru, Mike Zawaski, 2007.

The Learning Experience in Colorado

UNC is situated in Greeley, 25 miles from the Front Range and an hour from Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Cheyenne, Wyo., where there are many opportunities for field research and recreation. Weld County has been one of the fastest-growing economies in the nation over the last decade and is the center of Colorado’s energy production resources. Both fossil fuel extraction and alternative energy production have increased in Colorado, resulting in more industry, regulatory, and consulting jobs. Regional resources important to Colorado include water, which is vital to the agricultural and livestock industries. Federal laboratories in Denver include the U. S. Geological Survey, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Renewable Energy Lab.


Nine full-time and two adjunct faculty in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences bring strong geoscience specialties to their teaching responsibilities for this program. Each of the faculty are significantly involved in scholarly work and they undertake rigorous research projects in their field of expertise. The faculty are committed to the teacher-scholar model and several faculty have been recognized for excellence in teaching and research.

Admission to the Program

Contact the faculty to discuss your interests in the M.A. degree.