Masters in Earth Sciences

Interested in the MS Earth Sciences?

Start by reading the UNC Charlotte Course Catalog description where you can learn about the Research Option, Course-Only Option, and if you are an undergraduate at UNC Charlotte, the Early-Entry Program. Below, you will find descriptions of everything from Deadlines to Funding to what you can do with a Master of Science in Earth Sciences.

→ UPDATE: The GRE is optional for applicants for Spring 2023 and beyond!

If you are already in the MS degree program here, you should study the Graduate Student Resources page for important links, such as the Graduate School Forms.


February 15 – Fall semester priority deadline*
October 1 – Spring semester priority deadline*

*The priority deadlines are most relevant for Research Option applicants who wish to be considered for Teaching Assistantship (TA) funding as described below. See below for more about these deadlines, and about application windows for the Course-Only Option and Early-Entry Program.


Applications must be submitted through the UNC Charlotte Graduate School and required materials for our MS applications are: CV/resume, Statement of Purpose, unofficial transcripts, and 3 letters of recommendation. The GRE is optional.

Our faculty review your application holistically, considering how all the elements would lend themselves to success in our Masters program. For example, if you choose not to take the GRE, then we review the other materials more closely. If you choose to take the GRE, then your scores will be weighed against the other parts of your application.

Your Statement of Purpose will describe your interest in Earth Sciences, your background and preparation, and why you think UNC Charlotte is a good fit for you, and most fundamentally, it serves as an introduction and an example of your writing. A strong Statement of Purpose will also directly state who you would like to work with in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, so before submitting your application, we strongly recommend you review faculty research and contact faculty with research that resonates with your interests. Ask those faculty about upcoming openings in their research group, and what kind of research projects they are working on. Set up a meeting! Why is this so important? Because, while our faculty review all application materials, admission to the MS program via the Research Option is contingent on a faculty advisor agreeing to supervise your research, so once again, reaching out to faculty before applying is important.

If you would like to apply for the Research Option for Fall/Spring semester and it’s after February 15/October 1, we strongly encourage you to start by emailing the MS Graduate Program Director Dr. Brian Magi to assess how competitive a late application would be. Technically, your application will be considered since the final application deadline set by the UNC Charlotte Graduate School for consideration for Fall/Spring semester entry is August 1/December 1, but there are other factors. First, each faculty member has a limited capacity for taking on new students (we’re humans). Second, our department simply may have already exhausted our limited funding opportunities. Applications to the Course-Only Option or Early-Entry Program are not as time-sensitive, but we still recommend submitting your application by May/November to receive full consideration.


If you are admitted to the program, you may or may not be offered funding in the form of a Teaching Assistantship (TA), Research Assistantship (RA), or sometimes a UNC Charlotte fellowship. TA funding is from our university, and the stipend requires 20 hours per week of work in which you teach lab sections of our large introductory courses in geology, meteorology, or physical geography, or sometimes teach with faculty in upper division courses. The TA funding is a $14,000 stipend and the university pays the in-state part of the tuition. RA funding is typically from a faculty grant supporting directed research, and the funding available varies but is at least as much as TA funding. Faculty with grants often have money set aside for summer research as well. Programs such as NSF GRFP and NASA FINESST (among many others – check with faculty who you’re interested in working with) are other ways to fund your graduate research, but funding is always competitive. UNC Charlotte also awards fellowships to admitted students that have funding similar to TA funding. Finally, we have many MS students who have opted to work outside of the university (or may have had a job already) and they self-fund their pursuit of an MS degree.

Regardless of funding, you should carefully review UNC Charlotte tuition and fees. If you are an International Applicant, you also need to super carefully review the many financial and administrative requirements of obtaining a visa and successfully joining our MS program.

Just like when you are preparing your application, the best way to understand funding is to communicate with faculty in our department. Faculty can answer questions about whether they have research grant funding available, or whether TA funding will be available to support your graduate studies. If you aren’t sure where to begin, we recommend emailing the MS Graduate Program Director Dr. Brian Magi.

Joining the MS Program

If you choose to accept our offer of admissions, then you have 3 ways to pursue an MS Earth Sciences. See the Catalog link at the top of this web page for official verbiage, but here’s the summary:

  1. Research Option: This is the most traditional and common way to pursue your MS Earth Sciences. You will work on coursework and, with the guidance of a faculty mentor and subject-expert, on a research project focused on a topic in geology, hydrology, atmospheric science, remote sensing, spatial analysis, or environmental science. Your capstone will be a Masters Thesis or Project. Visit the faculty webpages for more on research in our department.
  2. Course-Only Option: You will work on your MS Earth Sciences degree through about 4 semesters of graduate-level coursework, and the capstone will be a Comprehensive Exam.
  3. Early-Entry Program: If you are approaching (or in) your final year as an undergraduate at UNC Charlotte, you may apply to the MS program via the Early-Entry program. Your final semester could include up to 9 credits of coursework that would be counted toward both your undergraduate and graduate degrees. This program is aimed to give you a leg-up when you start your Masters Research. Talk to faculty in the department about this program!

​The Research and Course-Only Options are fully described in the UNC Charlotte Course Catalog description for the MS Earth Sciences degree (again, link at the top of the page) and you should carefully read through this to understand milestones and timelines to finishing. Most MS students finish in 4 semesters. The general description of the Early-Entry Program is here. A description of the Degree Requirements and Academic Policies of being a graduate student and completing a graduate degree at UNC Charlotte are here, noting that you can click on Registration to expand that tab and see more about the Early-Entry Program.

Beyond an MS Degree

Graduates of the program will be prepared for a wide variety of careers! Here are some of the ideas, noting that the “ideas” are often because one of our graduates is working in that career:

  • Environmental consulting (restoration, hydrology, air quality, water quality, or renewable energy, for example)
  • Meteorologist (National Weather Service, military, or private industry, for example)
  • Climatologist (city, state, regional, and federal agencies)
  • Geologist in the energy and mining industries
  • Environmental regulator (NC DEQ, EPA, local agencies such as Storm Water Services, for example)
  • Environmental educator (NC EE, for example)
  • Earth Science teacher in college or K-12 schools
  • Advisor on environmental policy at all levels of government
  • Staff on environmental-themed non-profit groups (CleanAIRE NC, Riverkeepers, for example)​

Furthermore, the MS in Earth Sciences prepares students for PhD programs in Atmospheric Science, Geology, Geography, Earth Science, or Environmental Science. Our department is home to a PhD in Geography, and we work closely with the Infrastructure and Environmental Systems and the Public Policy PhD programs at UNC Charlotte. There are also PhD programs around the country and even the world, if you are willing to expand your search. That being said, we are always excited to meet well-prepared prospective PhD students.


If you are still reading, congratulations! You made it to the bottom of this glorious webpage and the secret word is alletun. If you get into our MS program and tell the MS GPD this secret word, he will buy you a fresh container of “alletun” spelled backwards because it’s very healthy. Okay, if you have any questions, contact the MS Earth Sciences Graduate Program Director, Dr. Brian Magi, but know that anyone on our faculty is happy to help.