Planetary Science Graduate Programs

If you're interested in studying the planet and its soil, oceans, and climate, then a graduate degree in planetary studies may be for you. Both master's and doctoral degree programs are available in this field, and some programs may allow you to combine your studies with astrophysics, earth science, or environmental science.

Common Coursework in Planetary Science Graduate Programs

A graduate program in planetary sciences typically includes coursework that examines the Earth's soil and oceans. Master's degrees in this field typically take two years to complete while a doctoral degree can take up to six. During your program, you can anticipate finding courses such as the following:


Students taking courses in oceanography become better acquainted with the environment of the ocean. These courses involve the origins and development of the ocean basin. As such, students often learn about how to interpret the ocean basin and understand how it frames the historical record. Other topics that students might learn about include ocean currents, waves, tides, and changing sea levels.


Courses in climate and climatology ask students to become acquainted with current methods of climate modeling. This course requires students to become familiar with how computer programs are used to create these models. Students also learn about the fundamental principles behind how climate is governed and how current models predict future climate change.

Earth and Planetary Science Foundations

Core classes in planetary science serve to introduce students to the core of the program and the principles behind the field. Students are expected to review and learn about the current understanding of planetary science and become well acquainted with the existing research literature. Topics that might be covered include discussions of terrestrial planets, planetary collisions, and the origins of planetary systems.


Cosmochemistry discusses the chemical processes that happened at the foundation of the solar system. This course guides students in an understanding of how those processes continued to act after the solar system was formed as well. During the course, topics will include nuclear processes. Students may also learn about how elements are synthesized and about isotopic abundance.


A course in tectonics looks at the terrestrial planets and their global tectonics. This course involves applying the physics of solid-state deformation to this study of tectonics as well as to the moons surrounding the planets under study. Topics include modes of topographic support, isostasy, and discussions of gravity to topography rations. The course could also review elastic plates and the lithosphere in addition to the application of seismic data.

Admission Requirements

When applying to universities, it's important to remember that some schools have their own requirements; however, the most common requirements is a bachelor's degree. You may also need to submit your transcripts, GRE scores, and three letters of recommendation as a part of your application.

Students seeking a graduate program in planetary studies can find options that result in either a master's degree or a Ph.D. These programs include research into elements of the planetary environment through courses focusing on topics such as climate, the ocean, and atmosphere functions.

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