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The Geology & Geophysics Graduate Program

Deciding on whether or not to go to grad school is already a big decision; and one that you need to make for yourself. Choosing where to study for a Master's or PhD is an equally big decision and the information below will hopefully help convince you that Utah is the place to be.  In addition to have world class research and analytical facilities, the campus is located just minutes away from world class recreation localities that often double as field sites.


Why an advanced degree at the U?

Utah is one of the very few states that can boast of having rocks of every geologic period exposed, extending our state’s history back beyond two billion years into the past.  Every major rock type, fossil group, precious metal, economic metal, fossil fuel, and type of geologic structure and landform can be found in our state.  Our five national parks and seven national monuments attract more than three million visitors per year to enjoy and appreciate the world-class geology in our state.

Check out Utah Geology Survey. 

The University of Utah and the Department of Geology & Geophysics offer outstanding opportunities for an excellent scientific education.

The U is recognized as one of the country’s top research universities. For us, making the world a better place is in our DNA. From groundbreaking research in health care to finding solutions to some of the greatest issues of our time, research is in our DNA.

Watch: Geology & Geophysics building and lab facilities

Salt Lake City and the State of Utah offers an exceptional quality of outdoor life with its abundance of mountains, rivers and lakes.  Skiing is as close as a thirty-minute drive from campus. An afternoon or weekend hike or rock climb is just moments away.  You can be on your way to kayaking in no time.  The geologic and scenic diversity ranges from our beautiful Rocky Mountains to the spectacular red rocks of Utah’s canyon country to the stark desert landscapes of the Great Basin. 

Check out Salt Lake will surprize you! and Visit Salt Lake.

Living in Utah (This list was put together by U of U Health for their recuiting efforts, but it has a lot of good information for anyone interested in moving to Salt Lake City and Utah.)

And explore outdoor adventures and gear rentals availabe through Campus Recreation

In addition to the formal course work required for a degree, there are numerous other opportunities for students to become involved in pre-professional and social activities in the department.  GEO Club is an important departmental committee that is organized to provide student input to the faculty in matters of new faculty appointments and tenure and promotion deliberations.  GEO Club also participates with other student groups in organizing various social events on and off campus throughout the school year. 

Several professional geoscience organizations have very active student chapters in our department, including the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), Association of Engineering Geologists (AEG) and Society of Economic Geologists (SEG).  These student chapters offer some great experiences for undergraduates, such as interesting guest speakers, exciting field trips, and fun social activities of one sort or another.  Undergraduate research opportunities on campus and pre-professional internships off campus are available to interested students, usually in the junior or senior year. 

If you wish to learn more about such opportunities, speak with your faculty mentor/advisor.

We have some the most diverse subject experts around, and the interdisciplinary list of collaborations never stops growing. The research possibilities are truly endless and range from the innermost workings of our planet to the outermost reaches of it's atmosphere.  For a broad look at what our faculty and researchers do, take a look at the research themes and programs section of our website.

Established in 1850, the University of Utah is the Flagship University of the State. A community of students, staff, and scholars, the University of Utah—affectionately called "the U"—is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through innovative research; the education of future citizens, professionals, and leaders; and scholarly and creative pursuits that preserve and broaden our understanding of the human condition. The U prepares students for leadership roles in Utah, the country, and the world.

Financial Assistance

Qualified full-time graduate students are eligible for financial aid in the form of Teaching Assistantships, Research Assistantships and Graduate Fellowships. The stipends for Teaching and Research Assistants are approximately $10,626 per semester for 2022-23. Applicants who have indicated in their application that they require financial support will automatically be considered for support by the Graduate Affairs committee. No separate application is required.

Tuition Benefit

The Tuition Benefit Program (TBP) provides tuition payment for eligible graduate students. A graduate tuition benefit is available only to matriculated graduate students compensated through the University of Utah. The TBP covers general graduate tuition and mandatory fees. More information is available here.

Health Insurance

As of Fall 2023, health insurance is offered at no additional cost. Information is available here.

Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action

The University of Utah is fully committed to policies of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity, and vigorously pursues affirmative action in all programs, activities, and employment with regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, status as a handicapped individual. Religion, sexual orientation, and status as a disabled veteran or veteran of the Vietnam era also are protected under nondiscrimination and equal opportunity employment policies. Evidence of practices not consistent with these policies should be reported to the Office of the President of the University, 581-8365.

As part of a long-term focus on providing opportunities for an increasingly diverse graduate student pool, the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah is removing GRE scores as a requirement for new applicants.  Submission of GRE scores will no longer be accepted.

There is widespread evidence that GRE scores are strongly correlated with various demographic and socioeconomic factors, and that the test represents an unequal barrier to graduate recruitment for students of different backgrounds.  As a department, we value diversity and inclusion and are taking this step to show support for potential applicants from all backgrounds and of all identities.


The Dirt...Details about Our Graduate Degrees

The GG Department offers M.S. degrees in Geology, Geophysics and Geological Engineering, all of which require an M.S. thesis that represents an original contribution to science or engineering. 

For details, review section 4.1 in our Graduate Student Handbook

The GG Department offers a M.E. degree in Geological Engineering. The M.E. degree is a non-thesis graduate program, which requires the student to accomplish a one semester research project of a more limited scope than a standard master’s thesis.

For details, review section 4.2 in our Graduate Student Handbook

The GG Department offers Ph.D. degrees in Geology, Geophysics and Geological Engineering, all of which require a Ph.D. dissertation that represents a major, original contribution to science or engineering, which is significantly broader in scope than what is normally expected of a master’s thesis.  

For details, review section 4.3 in our Graduate Student Handbook


Ready to apply?

NOTE:  Our next application deadline, which is for Summer 2024, is 02/15.

Graduate Application Deadline:

  • January 15 - Fall Semester Admission
  • September 15 - Spring Semester Admission
  • February 15 - We only accept Summer Admissions in special circumstances and you must first have secured permission from one of our faculty advisors prior to applying.

Apply here


We are excited to review your application! 

Problems with the Online Application System or questions about University Application Requirements?

Please reach out to Graduate Admissions (, 801-581-8761).

Questions specific to our Department's requirements?

Email our Graduate Advisor.

Give yourself at least 3 business days before the deadline to submit your application, in case of issues.

Please identify a potential advising faculty in our department prior to submitting an application. To do this, review our faculty directory to find out which of our academic, research, or instructor faculty aligns with your research interests. (Note: Adjunct faculty cannot serve as faculty advisors.) Then, email the faculty member directly to see if they are accepting students on their current research project.

Suggested reading:

We offer application fee waivers to students who have financial limitation. In order to qualify for a waiver code, you must first have identified a faculty advisor who has agreed to review your application. Please review the information above regarding identifying a facuty advisor.
Once you have established a relationship with a faculty advisor and they have agreed to review your application, you may email the Graduate Advisor to request the waiver code; please cc the Graduate Studies Director and the Faculty member on your email. 
Please note that there is no way to do a refund for the application fee if you have a waiver code and it is not used.

All applicants are required to submit their application using the Future U online system; do not send your documents directly to the department for review. For details, visit the University's Graduate Student Admissions information website. 

Needed Materials: Below is a list of materials you will need to complete the process.

  • Academic Transcripts. A copy of your transcript from each college or university you have attended should be uploaded in the online application system. You can upload unofficial copies for your application; however, if you are selected for admission to the graduate program, official, sealed copies of transcripts from all colleges and universities attended should be sent at that time to the university admissions office. More information can be found here.
  • English Proficiency Test Score (For international students only). Please review these instructions about who is required to demonstrate English language proficiency, test guidelines and minimum scores, and how to submit your official report. 
    • Your official report does not have to be recieved by the Admissions Office by the application deadline. However, your application cannot advance until the Admissions Office recieves your official report. 
  • Letters of Reference. Names and contact information for three (3) references will be requested in Apply Yourself. At least three letters of personal reference are required, preferably from current or former professors and research supervisors who are directly familiar with your abilities and performance. The recommenders will be contacted by email and may upload their recommendations using the U of U's online system. It is your responsibility to make sure all three letters are submitted before the deadline. We highly recommend that you check in the system at least a week before the due date to see which ones are missing and then email that person directly to remind them of the deadline. Once the deadline has passed, no letters can be submitted. 
  • CV or Resume
  • Statement of Purpose. A two-page personal statement outlining your background, research interests (including possible faculty research advisors), goals, and reasons for applying to our graduate program.
  • Faculty Advisor.
    • As noted above, the most successful applicants reach out directly to faculty directly prior to listing them in your application. Regardless, of whether or not you make contact prior to submitting your application,  you are welcome to list in your application any professors you are interested in working with.
    • If you are interested in working with a professor who does not show up as an option in the system but who you are in conversation with, please email and cc the professor and ask that they be added. If for some reason we are not able to add them in at that time, in your application select the content area of that professor as one they are interested in. Then, let that professor know when you application has been submitted, so they will know to look for it. 
  • Payment. Credit card for application fee
    • Just because you paid, does not mean your application has been submitted. After you pay, there is an additional step you need to do in order to complete the process to submit your application. 
    • Application Wavier Code: In order to qualify for a waiver code, you must first have identified a faculty advisor who has agreed to review your application. Once you have done that, you may email the Graduate Advisor (see contact information above) to request one; please cc the Graduate Studies Director and the Faculty member on your email. Within your application, you will enter this code at the end of the application. 

Once your application has been submitted and if one of our faculty advisors is interested in your application, it will take us a few weeks to contact you. The faculty advisor will reach out to you directly and may discuss you coming to campus to meet in person (expenses paid by the department). 

Application materials will be reviewed by the Department’s Graduate Affairs Committee, who makes recommendations for admission to the University. The final decision on admission is made by the University Admissions Office. All applicants will be notified of their acceptance or non-acceptance into the program after the review process is complete. Often, offer letters are sent out from our department in mid/late March. Non-acceptance notifications are sent out via the electronic system in mid/late April. 

Congratulations and welcome to the Department of Geology and Geophysics Graduate Program at the University of Utah! Now what?

U of U Admitted Grads Next Steps  (university level)

Dept Onboarding (department level) 

International Students must meet U of U application deadlines and I-20 document deadlines.


International Students & Scholar Services: The International Student & Scholar Services office serves as the primary campus contact for international students, scholars, and alumni. Our office fosters and supports a global campus community as part of the University of Utah's vision of a welcoming and internationally connected campus.

F-I Visa (Academic Student)The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows you to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. You must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and your school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.

I-20 CertificationThe I-20 is a multi-purpose document issued by a U.S. government-approved educational institution certifying that a student has been admitted to a full-time study program and has demonstrated sufficient financial resources to stay in the United States

International Student Fee: Departmennt Policy

Prospective doctoral students, if you have been invited to work with a faculty advisor (even if you have not yet signed the offer letter), we encourage you to apply for the EDGES Felllowship. It's a very easy application. Winners will be notified early April (before the April 15 deadline for returning offer letters).


EDGES (Enhancing Diversity & Graduate Excellence in Science) Fellows program in the College of Science seeks to increase success for graduate students in STEM fields, to enrich the academic environment for the campus community, and to broaden the STEM workforce. This program aims to recruit, retain, and promote the success of outstanding doctoral students who have the potential to enhance the diversity of their academic fields and departments. This award is open to incoming graduate students and is active for five years or until the student graduates. EDGES Fellows receive a monetary award (up to $10,000 per fellow) and participate in supported cohort-based activities. Activities include professional development events, panel discussions, peer mentoring, and social activities.


Already decided to join us?

A. Mark your calendar with these important dates: 

You should meet research advisor to discuss your course preparation and requirements (See details in Section IV below). It is very important to do this early so that you can enroll in the appropriate fall semester courses.

Department Graduate Student Orientation (mandatory for all new students)  

The Geology and Geophysics Department Graduate Student Orientation in mid August is an opportunity to meet faculty, staff, and new students, learn about program requirements and resources, and ask questions of faculty and staff to ease your transition to the U. Our orientation this year will be held outside where we can maintain social distance as we review information provided to you beforehand. Please review these videos and pdf files before orientation.

To see when classes begin, check out the U's academic calendar.

Your faculty advisor may have plans for you in addition to the above dates. Some students will begin research over the summer. PLEASE BE SURE TO CONTACT YOUR ADVISOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO CONFIRM YOUR ARRIVAL DATES.


B. Housing

You should have received information from the Graduate Division describing on-campus housing options for both single students and those with families. Most students opt to live off-campus in a shared house or condo. More information on graduate housing options can be found at the U’s Housing & Residential Program.   Or you can check Craigslist or for rentals. You may also email other grads in our department at, if you are looking for a housemate. You can also drop the department a note if you would like your contact information circulated to the other new graduate students as a potential housemate.

When you are looking at housing, be sure to think through the transportation options to and from campus. The U’s commuter services website has all your transportation information if you are living on or near campus. For off campus housing transportation information Utah’s UTA website will give you an idea of the alternative transportation options Salt Lake City has to offer.  Salt Lake City is a very bike friendly community and it's a common commute method among our graduate students.  To get information on your portfolio of commuting options you can also check out this short video produced by students in our department.

The Salt Lake City valley is very unique in that if you take a stroll around any city block in downtown Salt Lake, expect that the trip will take much longer than it would to circle a block in any other state. This is due to the fact that Salt Lake City has the largest city blocks in the United States. The early pioneer settlers in the valley were planning ahead to accommodate for their agricultural and lifestyle needs and due to this wonderful forethought the valley is very easy to navigate because it is laid out in a grid system. Most major streets run very nearly north-south and east-west. The grid's origin is the southeast corner of Temple Square, the north-south axis is Main Street; and the east-west axis is South Temple Street.  Addresses are coordinates with the system (very similar to latitude & longitude). For example, in the neighborhood layout picture below you will see a neighborhood named 9th and 9th, this means the intersection of 9th and 9th is located 9 blocks east of Main St. and 9 blocks south of South Temple St.

Most graduate students opt to live in the neighborhoods from Sugarhouse, north toward the Avenues, while most students don’t live west past the Gateway neighborhood.


      Figure 1: Salt Lake City neighborhoods surrounding the University of Utah

C. Enrollment for classes

Open enrollment for new graduate students is available as of mid/late July and is done online via your student portal.  Take a look at the instructions on the Graduate Division web site and the Schedule of Classes. Discuss your course load with your primary advisor and don’t be afraid to consider several courses during the first week of class before finalizing your schedule. If you are doing research, you will also want to enroll in an independent study (research course). Please contact the department for the class number specific to your advisor, which changes every semester.

You should be aware of who your research advisor is from the recruitment process. If you are at all unclear, please drop a note to the department. Please check in with your research advisor as soon as you get to campus so that you can start doing science. As mentioned above, please keep your advisor apprised of your summer plans and contact information and be sure that he/she knows when you plan to arrive.

When you arrive in Salt Lake City please check in the departmental office, FASB 383, to get a key for your office and building access. Thea can also help you with numerous general questions or problems. If you cannot find Thea, any of the departmental office staff will be able to assist you.

Many departmental communications and reminders are sent via email, so you will want to establish your University of Utah email account soon, if you have not already.  You should have a pre-assigned UMail account, the default address for which is your university ID (e.g.,  Information on accessing and using campus IT resources is available from the Campus Help Desk.

If you need computer assistance such as networking your Macintosh or Windows machine, having virus software installed, setting up a Linux account on research Linux machines, etc., please contact Computer Services.

You will also have a mailbox in the department office, FASB 383. Please check your box for other information when you arrive. You may also call, email or stop by the office of our Graduate Studies Director (contact information above) with questions or concerns before or after your arrival on campus.

After you have sorted out your keys, office and paperwork, you should arrange to meet with your faculty advisor(s) to discuss appropriate fall quarter classes. 

If you will be employed as a TA or Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) during Fall Semester you will need to visit with Thea Hatfield, in the departmental offices, by August 25 to set up your payroll account. You will receive your first paycheck September 7.  Fellowship funds are generally available in a lump sum by the start of the semester.   If you have any questions or concerns about payroll issues please contact our Department Payroll Coorinator


You will find much more detailed information concerning course enrollment in various university and departmental documents, but here is a brief overview. Many first-year graduate students enroll during each semester in one or more traditional courses, seminars, or independent study (research) courses.  As soon as you arrive on campus, you will arrange a meeting with your advisor to develop an individualized course plan that meets your educational goals and background. You will then be expected to meet the requirements of this plan during your tenure at the U.

Note that TAs and GSRs are expected to complete their work in addition to regular classes. TA and GSR work is a form of student employment for which students do not receive academic credit. 

All first year Masters students and PhD students who have not received a Master’s degree in the Earth or Geosciences are required to take GEO 6950, Reviews in Earth Sciences, during their first semester in the department. This course is highly encouraged for other graduate students, as well, and will provide an opportunity to get to know the faculty and survey the range of research fields represented within the department.

 Much of the information provided here can be found throughout the departmental website. Follow the links on the top navigation bar for a preliminary listing of courses being offered next year, faculty web pages, seminar schedules, and more. I encourage you to review the Geology and Geophysics Grad Handbook. You should have been contacted already by the University of Utah Division of Graduate Studies with referrals to their website, which contains other resources such as financial and registration/enrollment information.


Questions? Contact:

Dr. Lauren Birgenheier
Geology & Geophysics Graduate Studies  Director
Last Updated: 12/19/23