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    Cal Poly Pomona
  Jan 17, 2018
2015-2016 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Geology, M.S.: 45 units

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Offered by: College of Science, Geological Sciences

Program Description

Our Master's program in Geology prepares graduates for employment in all fields of Geological Science, and teaching at secondary and community college levels.  Emphasis is placed on applied skills demanded by potential employers.  Fundamental to the program is a thorough understanding of basic geologic principles rooted in field and laboratory experiences.  The geologic framework provided by the M.S. degree will enable graduates to meet the intellectual challenges of their professional or academic careers and assume leadership roles in their profession.  The program is sufficiently flexible to meet student interests in the application of geology to the solution of hydrologic, geophysical, environmental, geoengineering, or resource extraction problems facing our society.  As a polytechnic university we are dedicated to the "Learn by Doing" philosophy and stress practical interactions between students, faculty and industry/government professionals.

The Geological Sciences Department is a member of IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology,, and is involved in the California State University Water Resources and Policy Initiative,  Faculty research endeavors are supported by grants from such agencies as National Science Foundation, USGS National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, Southern California Earthquake Center, Department of Education, and JPL/Caltech.  The department maintains a robust alumni network, including many individuals who work in local geosciences industries and government agencies.

Jonathan A. Nourse, Graduate Coordinator


Our location in a unique geologic and urban environment provides a dramatic natural laboratory in which to conduct geological research.  Frequent occurrences of earthquakes, landslides, storms, floods, wildfires, and human-induced environmental mishaps in the densely populated region surrounding Cal Poly Pomona present significant challenges that require rapid response and evaluation.  All Geological Sciences faculty play an important role in community issues like natural hazards mitigation, site investigation, resource management, and public outreach or education.  Many of our graduates are placed locally as scientists in geotechnical firms and water agencies or as teachers in primary or secondary schools.  Hence, the Geological Sciences Department and its programs have great value and relevance to the University and the community.

Our Target Audience

A Master's degree in Geology greatly enhances the job opportunities and career advancement for Earth scientists with BS degrees. We target both working professionals and traditional graduate students (i.e., those finishing BS degrees and perhaps seeking a stepping stone to a PhD program). Both cohorts would benefit equally from our thesis-based Master's program with an affordable fee structure. Course scheduling will accommodate both groups; e.g., afternoon and evening classes with many laboratories and field trips offered on weekends.

Learning Outcomes

Graduates from the Geology Master's degree program should be able to:

  1. Participate effectively in seminar-style discussions of current Geoscience topics
  2. Synthesize details of published Geoscience literature and present oral synopsis to graduate peers and faculty
  3. Utilize contemporary equipment, laboratory techniques and computer technology to solve geologic problems
  4. Develop and present scientific proposal for Master's thesis
  5. Conduct original research related to Master's thesis
  6. Write Master's thesis document
  7. Defend results of Master's thesis research with a formal oral presentation to graduate peers and thesis committee

Admission to the Program

Unconditional admission into the Master of Science in Geology's program is contingent upon the following:

  • A Bachelor's degree in Geology or a closely related discipline (e.g., Geotechnical Engineering, Hydrology, Geophysics, Environmental Science) from an accredited institution, with a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 in Earth Science courses, and a 2.5 grade-point average in related science and mathematics courses;
  • Satisfactory performance on the Graduate Record Examination Aptitude Test with an expected score in the 50th percentile or better on the verbal and quantitative components;
  • Two letters of recommendation;
  • A one-page personal statement of interest, including research and career aspirations;
  • A minimum of 36 quarter units of undergraduate Earth Science-related coursework is required to receive unconditional acceptance into the Master's program.
  • Availability of faculty and resources in the student's stated area of interest.

Conditional Admission: every applicant will be carefully considered.

A limited number of applicants not meeting the above requirements may be conditionally admitted following review of the student's academic background by the departmental Graduate Program Committee.  Such students must meet deficiency requirements stipulated in the statement of conditional admission within the time limit specified.  Each selected applicant, with an advisory committee, will design a program in the selected area of specialization based upon interests and preparation.  The program will include required courses, elective units and a thesis.

Degree Requirements

  • The Master's degree program must include a minimum of 45 quarter units; at least 31 units must be in 500-600 level courses (see curriculum outlined below).
  • No more than 13 units of graduate credit may be transferred from another institution or petitioned by a Cal Poly Pomona undergraduate student.
  • A grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better must be maintained in all upper division undergraduate and graduate classes.
  • The Graduation Writing Test (GWT) must be passed prior to Advancement to Candidacy.
  • Advancement to Candidacy is required.
  • An acceptable thesis must be completed and submitted in accordance with university regulations.
  • An oral thesis defense must be successfully completed.


To earn a Master's degree in Master of Science in Geology, students must complete 45 quarter units as specified below.

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to Candidacy is contingent upon the recommendation of the Graduate Coordinator and the student's advisory committee.  A student who has not been admitted to candidacy is not eligible to register for the thesis (GSC 696 ).  In order to qualify for advancement to candidacy for the Master of Science in Geological Sciences, a student must: (1) complete at least 24 units of graduate coursework at Cal Poly Pomona with a GPA of 3.0 or better (up to 13 of these units may be transferred from another institution) and (2) pass the Graduation Writing Test.

Master's Thesis

Master's candidates will work closely with faculty advisor to conduct independent research (GSC 694 ) custom-tailored to the objectives outlined in their Thesis Proposal (GSC 600 ).  A wide variety of research endeavors may be appropriate, ranging from classical research to scientific extensions of industry-related work efforts.  An ideal thesis plan will fit the student's professional interests and work or family constraints.

The Master's Thesis (GSC 696 ) is a written document describing systematic study of a significant problem.  It identifies the problem, states the major assumptions, explains the significance of the undertaking, sets forth the sources for and methods of gathering information, analyzes the data, and offers a conclusion or recommendation.  The finished product evidences originality, critical and independent thinking, appropriate organization and format, and thorough documentation.  An oral defense of the thesis is required.

Career Opportunities

Employment in geoscience-related occupations is expected to grow about 23 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is much faster than the average growth of all U.S. occupations (10%). Environmental engineers are expected to see the largest growth in number of new jobs with a 31 percent growth rate, while geoscience engineering managers are expected to see the smallest growth at 10 percent. Employment growth for aggregated geoscience-related occupations will be most robust in the professional, scienti­fic, and technical services sector (50%) and the waste management sector (32%).

The job market is excellent for geoscientists with advanced degrees. Academia continues to employ the majority of Ph.D. grads. Those with Master's degrees are overwhelmingly employed within the private sector. Recent studies show that private sector employment is largely subdivided into the petroleum industry, groundwater and geotechnical firms and to a lesser extent, the mining industry.

Additional information about geoscience careers (jobs data, employment articles, etc.) may be viewed at

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