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Structural Geology Graduate Programs

Structural geology is an area of specialization within geology and can be pursued at the master's and doctoral levels. Explore program requirements and admission standards for both the MS and PhD program.

Students interested in studying structural geology generally need to pursue a master's or doctoral degree program in geology, geoscience or geophysics and specialize and/or pursue research in structural geology and tectonics. Institutions often offer both a master's and doctorate degree within the specialization, and therefore, the degree programs really only vary by length. Get more details about each program below.

Master of Science vs. Doctor of Philosophy in Structural Geology

Master of Science in Structural Geology

At the master's level, students can typically pursue a Master of Science (MS) in geology, geoscience or geophysics and focus their research in structural geology and tectonics. These master's degree programs can be completed in 2 years and may require around 30 credit hours. Students typically are required to complete a thesis and may need to pass a master's qualifying exam. Coursework for these programs may include hands-on learning through fieldtrips and/or lecture series, as well as courses in topics like structural geology, tectonics, geological engineering, physics and math. Graduates of these degree programs may pursue advanced education at the doctoral level or work careers in industry, academia or the government.

Doctor of Philosophy in Structural Geology

Students may also choose to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in geology, geoscience or geophysics and work with research groups in structural geology and tectonics. Credit requirements for these degree programs vary, but some programs may require a minimum of 72 credits and some may be completed in about 4 years. Usually, students in these programs must complete qualifying exams and a dissertation and may pursue research or teaching assistantships to help pay for schooling. Doctoral students may be required to participate in lab-meetings, field trips and lecture series and take coursework in areas such as structural geology, field methods, physics, numerical methods, global geophysics and math. Students with a PhD in the field may also work positions in academia, the government or industry, but may be especially prepared for advanced leadership and/or research-based positions.

Common Entrance Requirements

Applicants to graduate degree programs in structural geology must have at least a bachelor's degree, which some programs may require to be from a natural or physical science, math or engineering field, and/or be required to have prior coursework in areas such as calculus, chemistry, geoscience and physics. Most of these degree programs require the GRE and some programs may have specific GPA (usually around a 3.0) and/or GRE score requirements or thresholds to be competitive. Students are usually encouraged to contact potential advisors who share common research interests prior to admission and may need to fill out separate applications for fellowships and teaching or research assistantships. Most applicants to these programs can expect to include their official transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose/interest and a resume or CV with their application to the program.

Structural geology is often offered as a research specialization for MS or PhD degree programs in geology, geoscience or geophysics. The MS programs are shorter in length and require a thesis, while the PhD programs usually take twice as long to complete and include a dissertation.


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