Sep 21, 2023  
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog [Not Current Academic Year. Consult with Your Academic Advisor for Your Catalog Year]

Geophysics, MS

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College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics  > Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences  > Geophysics, MS

The Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) offers a wide range of courses leading to the Master of Science in Geophysics degree. Required core courses ensure a breadth of knowledge in the discipline including rock physics, seismic wave propagation, geophysical data analysis, and potential field methods. A wide variety of electives allows concentration in areas such as exploration, geotechnical, or environmental geophysics, solid earth geophysics, petroleum exploration, marine geophysics, earthquake seismology, and geodynamics. The typical student pursuing this degree is interested in geophysics and has a good background in the geosciences, mathematics, physics, and computing. Graduates will typically pursue careers with resource companies; geophysical service companies; various federal, state, and local government agencies; in the financial sector; in education; or will continue study to pursue a doctorate.

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Admission Requirements

Admission to our graduate program is based on a competitive selection process. Meeting the minimum requirements published does not guarantee admission to our program. Applicants for the Master’s of Science in Geophysics are required to have

  • Successfully completed a Bachelor’s of Science in Geophysics equivalent to one at the University of Houston.
  • A complete graduate school application (link: must be submitted.
  • Scores from the General GRE examination taken in the last 5 years are optional.
  • Individuals with a lower cumulative GPA may be admitted conditionally.
  • Letters of recommendation are also given considerable weight in the evaluation process.
  • Students who did not earn a prior degree from a U.S. institution or a country where English is the medium of instruction (see list in the General Admission Policy ) must meet minimum test scores to demonstrate English language proficiency.
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 The admissions committee and the department chair will evaluate the credentials of each applicant for the MS program, considering a broad range of criteria, including:

  1. Content of the undergraduate program and, if applicable, graduate programs and grades earned, particularly in the areas of Geosciences, Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry.
  2. A cumulative GPA of 3.00 or better in the last 60 hours of course work.
  3. Letters of recommendation from three (3) individuals (preferably faculty members), who are able to judge the candidate’s academic abilities and potential for scholarly research.
  4. GRE scores, if submitted (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing: advanced GRE is recommended but optional)
  5. English proficiency test scores, if applicable.

In addition to these requirements, graduate admission may also be contingent upon a faculty advisor agreeing to supervise the applicant’s research. Therefore, prospective students are strongly encouraged to contact faculty members in the applicant’s field of interest prior to the application deadline.

Part-time students (6.0 Credit Hours per term or less) will be only admitted into the MS non-thesis track.


Candidates are expected to have the necessary science and mathematics background and should have successfully completed coursework deemed equivalent to courses in the B.S. in Geophysics degree at the University of Houston.

The department will determine what deficiencies - if any - are present, and the acceptable means of removing those deficiencies (e.g. course work within and/or outside the department, directed study, research papers). Waivers of requirements will be considered on an individual basis. Applicants with a few deficiencies can satisfy those requirements while also taking graduate courses at the University of Houston.  It is normally recommended that a student with 6 or more deficiency courses, e.g., those whose Bachelor’s degree is in another discipline, consider working toward a second Bachelor’s degree in Geophysics prior to graduate work.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Science (MS) degree will be awarded after students have successfully completed requirements specified in one of the two following plans:

Plan I: Thesis Option

All students completing the thesis option must complete and defend a thesis acceptable to the department.

This option requires a minimum of 30.0 approved Credit Hours, to include

  • Formal Earth and Atmospheric Science courses (GEOL) at the 6000 level or higher Credit Hours: 15.0
  • Letter-graded thesis courses (GEOL 6399 & GEOL 7399) Credit Hours: 6.0 

  • Elective courses Credit Hours: 9.0
    • Courses can be selected from approved courses outside the area of Earth and Atmospheric Science (GEOL), but relevant to the degree program, with prior permission of the Geophysics Graduate Faculty Advisor.
    • No more than 6.0 Credit Hours of special problems courses can be counted towards the required 30.0 Credit Hours minimum.

Plan II: Non-Thesis Option

Completing a thesis is not required, but students must take additional course work and have the option of completing a capstone research project.

Students may satisfy the MS Plan II degree requirements by satisfactorily completing a minimum of 36.0 approved Credit Hours, to include

  • Formal Earth & Atmospheric Science courses (GEOL) at the 6000 level or higher Credit Hours: 30.0
  • Elective courses Credit Hours: 6.0
    • Selections should be courses at the 6000 level, or above, and can be selected from approved courses outside the area of Earth and Atmospheric Science, but relevant to the degree program, with prior permission from the Geophysics Graduate Faculty Advisor.
    • Students can petition to have a 3-hour elective course substituted for a capstone project (GEOL 7301 - Capstone Project)

Note: Research hours do not count toward this degree.

After completion of 18 hours, students with a cumulative GPA of 3.40 or above and demonstrated abilities to conduct research may petition to switch to a thesis-based degree. In order to do this, the student must have an advisor and committee members willing to supervise them. The thesis research advisor, Geophysics Graduate Faculty Advisor, and Department Chair must sign a petition indicating approval of the change to a thesis-based MS degree and it must be filed with the department academic advisor. The student must successfully defend their thesis proposal (as outlined below) after they have completed their core course requirements and prior to completion of 27.0 Credit Hours of course credit. This change will not extend the 5-year limit to complete the MS degree.

Core Course Requirements

Upon completion of their program, students are expected to have breadth and a fundamental background in the essential elements Geophysics. To provide a fundamental background in the essential elements of geophysics, all MS students are required to take the courses listed below. Students are encouraged to consult with the Geophysics Graduate Faculty Advisor to make their selections of the remaining graduate courses.

Academic Policies

Scholastic Requirements

Graduate students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.00 in all course work to be considered in good standing. Students not in good standing cannot receive a graduate degree and can be declared ineligible for support with a graduate assistantship (IA, TA or RA).

Research (Thesis) Advisor/Committee

  • Advisor
    • A formal thesis topic and thesis advisor must be chosen prior to the completion of 15.0 Credit Hours.
    • The student and the advisor will together plan the remainder of the student’s course work.
      • The 30 required hours are a minimum and, for a specific area of interest, it may be necessary for the student to complete additional course work.
    • The initial selection of an advisor is not binding on the student or the faculty member.
      • The student may change his/her thesis advisor pending approval by the Geophysics Graduate Faculty Advisor, but it is the responsibility of the student to review his/her degree plan and prepare for potential changes in the department and/or faculty support with the new advisor.
      • In addition, if the student has already formally proposed their project, they may have to present another thesis proposal of their new project(s).
  • Committee
    • Students must specify a thesis committee and have the names on file in the NSM Office of Academic Affairs at least one term prior to their graduation.
    • The committee must consist of
      • a minimum of two faculty members who have their primary appointment within EAS and
      • one approved external member, outside of EAS, from industry, or other academia, who is acceptable to the department and approved by the College.
    • A faculty member with a joint appointment in the major department is considered as an outside member unless he/she chairs the committee. In this case, an additional external member outside the major department is required.
    • After these minimum requirements for committee members are satisfied, additional committee members may be approved from industry or academia, but at least 50% of the committee must be tenured/tenure‐track faculty at the University of Houston.
    • Research faculty or instructional faculty may serve on thesis committees, but not chair the committees. However, a research professor may serve as a co‐advisor with a tenured/tenured‐track faculty.

Thesis Proposal

Students must present a thesis proposal.

  • Timeline and Scheduling
    • All full-time students and students financially supported by the University must propose prior to the end of their second term in the program.
    • Scheduling of the thesis proposal is done by each applicant through the department academic advisor.
    • Proposals (and re-proposals) can be scheduled Monday‐Friday, with starting times between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., during the Fall and Spring terms.The proposal must be presented by the last day of the semester. Teaching Assistants must present by the first Monday in November in the Fall term, or the first Monday in July in the Summer term.
    • Proposals cannot be presented during, vacations, weekends, or over spring break or inter‐semester breaks.
    • Sumner p proposals can be scheduled pending approval of the entire committee.
    • Two hours should be allocated for the thesis proposal presentation and questions.
  • Presentation
    • Proposals are preceded by the distribution of a 5 to 10 page (10 page suggested maximum for text) written description of the thesis project to the thesis committee.
    • A one page abstract must be posted and distributed to all EAS faculty members at least seven calendar days prior to presentation, and a digital copy of the full proposal in the final form filed with the department academic advisor and committee members at that time.
    • The proposal abstract must contain the title, time, place of the proposal, link for a video conference and the names of the committee members.
    • The thesis advisor and at least one other member of the committee must initial the abstract prior to posting, indicating that they approve of the presentation of the proposal.
    • Upon successful presentation of the proposal, a copy of the complete proposal with the thesis advisor’s signature indicating approval must be placed in the student’s permanent academic file.

Thesis Defense

Upon completion of the research and the writing of a thesis deemed acceptable by the thesis committee, a defense of the thesis is scheduled by the student.

  • A public defense of the complete thesis research will be presented to the faculty-at-large and may be attended by any other interested parties.
  • Preparation
    • An abstract, which lists the time and place of the defense, must be distributed to the department faculty and posted publicly at least seven calendar days prior to the scheduled date.
    • The thesis advisor and a least one other departmental committee member must initial the notice of defense, thus indicating that they approve of the defense.
    • A digital copy or hard copy of the thesis in final form be submitted at least seven calendar days prior to presentation to the committee members and advising staff that can be provided to EAS faculty upon request.
  • Scheduling
    • MS defenses can be scheduled Monday‐Friday during the Spring, Summer, and Fall terms with starting times between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
    • Defenses cannot be given during vacations, weekends, or over spring break or inter‐semester breaks.
    • Scheduling of defenses is done through the department academic advisor.
  • Decisions
    • A vote to pass by a majority of the thesis committee is required for successful defense of the thesis.

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