Montana State University

Department of Earth Sciences

Montana State University
P.O. Box 173480
Bozeman, MT 59717-3480

Tel: (406) 994-3331
Fax: (406) 994-6923
Location: 226 Traphagen Hall

Department Chair

Dr. David Mogk

earth@montana.edu

PhD Program Requirements in Earth Sciences

1. Minimum requirements for the Ph.D. with a Master's degree in a relevant Earth Sciences field (e.g., geology, geography, GIS, paleontology, etc.)

  • Minimum of 30 credits beyond the M.S. of which 18 must be dissertation research credits (ERTH 690)
  • Minimum of 12 credits in content graduate courses relevant to the research focus; minimum of at least 8 credits must be taken within the Department of Earth Sciences

* Note: Minimum requirements for a Master's degree include 20 course credits and 10 thesis credits

2. Minimum requirements for the Ph.D. without a Master's degree, but with a bachelor's degree in a relevant Earth Sciences field:

  • Minimum of 32 credits beyond the bachelor's degree of which 18 (minimum) must be research credits (ERTH 690)

  • Minimum of 18 credits in content graduate courses relevant to the research focus; minimum of at least 12 credits must be taken within the Department of Earth Sciences

3. As per the College of Graduate Studies requirements, all doctoral students will be required to successfully pass the exams listed below. Satisfactory progress in the doctoral program is based on successful completion of these exams in the prescribed timeframe.

  • Written qualifying examination and oral defense of a written research (dissertation) proposal during the first year of residence, typically late in the second semester of residence. The written qualifying examination shall consist of 1) the dissertation proposal including a thorough literature review of the research problem and 2) an in-depth essay (review paper format, 5,000 – 10,000 words) on the trends and future directions of the candidates chosen field of study as defined by the dissertation chairperson and committee. The oral defense will also include questions on the written "trends and future directions" essay. Doctoral students are offered only one opportunity to successfully pass the written qualifying exam and oral qualifying exam. The procedure in administering the written and oral components of the comprehensive exam are as follows:

 

Course

Thesis

Total

Maximum

 

Credits

Credits

 

400 level

MS

20

10

30

9

Ph D. w/ MS

12

18

30

9

Ph D. w/O MS

32

28

60

9

The procedure in administering the written and oral components of the comprehensive exam are as follows:

  • Four Graduate Committee members participate in the written component of the exam; the Graduate School Committee appointee does not participate in the written component.  Although the Graduate School appointee does not submit questions for the written part, they must be present at the oral follow-up exam, as per The Graduate School rules.  In addition, they must be provided with copies of all of the written exam component questions in order to ascertain their degree of breadth, as required by the The Graduate School.

  • The student speaks to each Committee member to ascertain what subject matter that member will hold them responsible for knowing. With this knowledge in hand, the student takes whatever time required for them to master all of the content areas they will be held responsible for as designated by the Committee members.

  • Each Committee member composes their questions and determines an amount
    of time that the student can have to answer their questions.  This typically ranges from 2-4 hours; in cases in which either field or laboratory content is included in the written exam component, this may range up to 8 hours. The student’s dissertation advisor collects the questions from each Committee member and then administers the exam over 4 days to their student (one Committee member exam component per day).  In addition, the dissertation advisor must provide with copies of all of the written exam component questions to the Graduate School appointed Committee member, as required by the Graduate School.  The student gives each completed exam component as completed to their dissertation advisor who then forwards it to the Committee member who wrote the questions.

  • This is followed by an oral exam that is focused on elaboration, elucidation, and (or) clarification of the written components.  It is administered by the entire committee, including the Graduate School representative, over a 2-3 hour period of time.  The Graduate School requires the entire Committee to be present at any oral exam (qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, and defense).  If the entire committee is not present, The Graduate School will require the exam to be re-done. This is especially pertinent with respect to The Graduate School committee appointees and off-campus/out-of-town Committee members.  The oral component should be held within 2 weeks or less of the completion of the written component of the comprehensive exam.

  • Based upon student overall performance on both the written and oral comprehensive exam components, the Committee will vote to either pass or fail the student.

  • Dissertation defense with an in-depth oral presentation that is open to the public and a closed portion in which the committee examines the student.

4. Other requirements and information:

  • The philosophy behind a doctoral degree is focused, intense research in a specific field.

  • The major professor and student's graduate committee will determine additional specific course requirements for completion of the Doctor of Philosophy degree. In some cases, competency in a foreign language may be required by the student’s graduate committee.

  • A minimum of 2/3 of the content course credits must be taken from MSU-Bozeman.

  • Ph.D. committees shall consist of a minimum of four faculty members plus a Graduate Representative. The Graduate Representative is selected by the College of Graduate Studies to monitor and insure compliance with the policies and regulations of the college, as well as insure that committee meetings are conducted in a fair and satisfactory manner.

  • Ph.D. candidates must submit their a) program of study and b) committee to the Graduate College by the end of the first semester of study.

  • Ph.D. candidates are required to present, in addition to their dissertation defense, a minimum of one talk on their research in the Department of Earth Sciences seminar program, approximately halfway through their course of study .

  • Ph.D. candidates are required to be thoroughly familiar with all information and requirements outlined in the Graduate Catalog and The Graduate School website and are responsible for meeting all dates and deadlines .