Masters in 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 MS Program. Below, you will find descriptions of everything from Deadlines to Funding to what you can do with an MS Earth Sciences degree. 

If you are already in the MS degree program here, you should study information on our Graduate Student Resources page, and be talking with faculty, other graduate students, and the MS Graduate Program Director.


February 15 – Fall semester priority deadline*

October 1 – Spring semester priority deadline*

*The priority deadlines are most relevant for Research or Course-Only MS applicants who wish to be considered for Teaching Assistantship (TA) funding. See below for more on these topics.


Applications must be submitted through the UNC Charlotte Graduate School and the required materials are: a Statement of Purpose (described below), unofficial transcripts, and 3 letters of recommendation. The Course Catalog description states that the GRE is required, but it has actually been optional since Spring 2023. Below, you will find a description of what we expect to see in your Statement of Purpose, as well as the best way to time your application. 

Your Statement of Purpose serves a number of purposes. First, it is often the first introduction of who you are to faculty in our department. Second, it is an example of your writing and your voice. As you are writing it, read a draft aloud to someone who will provide you with substantive feedback. Read it aloud to yourself as well. In your Statement of Purpose, you should describe what aspects of Earth Sciences are interesting to you, your background and preparation, and why you think UNC Charlotte and the MS program are good matches for your interests. Providing a CV/resume is not required, but it is recommended; you can include it at the end of your Statement of Purpose. 

For applicants to the Research MS, a strong Statement of Purpose will directly identify who you would like to work with in the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Geographical Sciences, and why you would like to work with them. So, before submitting your application, we strongly recommend you review faculty research and contact faculty whose research 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 Research MS is contingent on a faculty advisor agreeing to supervise your research, so once again, reach out to faculty before applying

For applicants to the Course-Only MS, we recommend that you directly state your interest in the Course-Only option as a part of your Statement of Purpose because there is no “checkbox” in the application that lets our faculty know.

If you would like to apply for the Research MS 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. 

For applications to the Course-Only MS or Early-Entry MS Program, we recommend submitting your application by May/November to receive full consideration for admission to the Fall/Spring semester.
Once you submit your application, our faculty review all of your materials holistically, and consider how they collectively provide evidence that you would be successful in our Masters program.


If you are admitted to the MS 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 $17,250 stipend and the university pays the in-state part of the tuition. RA funding is typically from a faculty grant supporting directed research, and is an $18,000 stipend for the academic year. 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 who may have had a job already, and they fund their own pursuit of an MS degree. 

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

The best way to understand TA and RA funding availability is to communicate with faculty in our department. Faculty can answer questions about whether they have (or will have) research grant funding available, or whether TA funding will be available to support your graduate studies. 
If you have general questions about funding, email 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 that itself is based on the coursework you completed.
  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. Talk to faculty in the department about this program!

The Research and Course-Only MS are fully described in the UNC Charlotte Course Catalog description for the MS Earth Sciences degree (link at the top of this webpage) and you should carefully read everything 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 our MS program are prepared for a wide variety of careers! Below are some career paths that the MS degree can help you be better positioned for.

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.

Masters in Earth Sciences Logo Credit: Patrick Jones