Sacramento State University M.S. in Geology

The Department of Geology offers the M.S. degree to students who are either seeking to improve their professional qualifications or seeking preparation for advancement to a PhD program.  Students can pursue either a thesis option (GEOL 500) or non-thesis option (GEOL 596).  Students wishing to pursue the GEOL 500 option must obtain Advisor approval to apply for the thesis option and have that application accepted by the Graduate Committee.  Students who pursue the GEOL 500 options are encouraged to present their findings at regional, national, or international conferences, and to prepare results for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals.  Students not applying for thesis option will automatically pursue the GEOL 596 Comprehensive Examination option.

Students doing research in the river

Requirements for Admission

  • A degree in Geology, or 24 units of equivalent upper division course work in geology which must have been passed with a grade of “C-” or better and includes: Physical Geology, Physical Geology Laboratory, Mineralogy, Sedimentology/Stratigraphy, Igneous/Metamorphic Petrology, Field Geology, Structural Geology. These core undergraduate courses cannot be used as graduate electives by students who do not hold a degree in Geology or equivalent.
  • A minimum cumulative 2.7 GPA in all geology, chemistry, math and physics courses, and a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA in upper division geology courses
  • Three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with your academic record and professional capabilities, sent directly to the department
  • A brief statement of interest, faculty sponsorship, area of specialty and long-term goals
  • Two semesters of inorganic chemistry with a lab (CHEM 001A and CHEM 001B);
  • Two semesters of physics with a lab (PHYS 011A and PHYS 011B or PHYS 005A and PHYS 005B)
  • Two semesters of math (MATH 030 and MATH 031)

            Students who have deficiencies in Admission Requirements that can be removed by specified additional preparation may be admitted with conditionally classified graduate status. Any deficiencies will be noted in a written response to the admission application. You must be admitted to the degree program before graduate level courses will count toward the degree

M.S. in Geology Pathways

Thesis option – 30 units of study

  • 9 credits graduate core coursework
  • 15 units graduate electives
  • at least 6 units of thesis research (G-500)

Non-thesis option – 30 units of study

  • 9 credits graduate core coursework
  • 21 units graduate electives
  • culminating comprehensive exam (G-596)

            Course credits remain active for 7 years, after which they will no longer count toward the degree. Elective courses normally consist of 200 level geology courses, although up to 6 units of approved upper division undergraduate course work may be counted toward the degree with advisor permission. Undergraduate courses used to make up a deficiency will not be counted as electives toward the graduate degree. Undergraduate courses used to meet a core undergraduate requirement for students without a geology degree will not be counted as electives toward the graduate degree. Students pursuing a course of study beyond that covered by regular course offerings should inquire with their faculty advisor on the availability of individual study opportunities (Geol 299).

Required Core Courses (9 units)

   (Courses in parentheses are prerequisites)                                                                             

            Required of all students:

  • (3) GEOL 200 Graduate Research Methods Seminar
    Developing a research proposal, library and internet searches, seeking external funding, presentation graphics, and publication formats. Students will develop a research project in preparation for thesis requirement.
  • (3) GEOL 275 Quantitative and Numerical Research Methods
    Introduction to quantitative and numerical methods of solving geologic problems using high level programming.
  • (3) GEOL 290 Regional Geology of the Western United States (GEOL 110 or equivalent)
    Application of advanced geological concepts in tectonics, stratigraphy, sedimentology, petrology, and volcanism to the geologic evolution of the Western United States from Precambrian to present.

Graduate electives (15-21 units)

   (Courses in parentheses are prerequisites)

  • (3) GEOL 202 Aqueous Geochemistry (CHEM 1B)
    Low temperature geochemical reactions in aqueous environments. Chemical kinetics, thermodynamics, mixing and dilution, mineral stability, chemical composition of surface water, stable isotopes.
  • (3) GEOL 208 Groundwater Modeling (GEOL 127, MATH 45)
    Computer modeling of groundwater systems using 2 and 3 dimensional numerical solutions and common software packages. Topics will include data acquisition, constructing a numerical model, model calibration, flow paths, particle tracking and model output.
  • (4) GEOL 212 Geologic Remote Imaging (PHYS 5B or PHYS 11B or equivalent; GEOL 102, GEOL 110A or equivalent; and proficiency using a personal computer)
    Use of remote imaging in geologic applications. Types of imagery, acquisition, production, processing, and interpretation are covered.
  • (3) GEOL 213 Advanced Structural Geology (GEOL 110A, MATH 30)
    An advanced treatment of deformation of the lithosphere of the earth over short and long timescales. Construction of 2-d and 3-d models of the crust. Use of software packages to solve problems in tectonics and related disciplines.
  • (3) GEOL 218 Applied Geophysics (PHYS 5B or PHYS 11C and GEOL 112)
    Advanced field techniques used for geophysical exploration. Data collection and problem solving using resistivity, conductivity, seismic reflection, seismic refraction, gravity, magnetics and borehole geophysical techniques.
  • (3) GEOL 220 Surficial Processes (GEOL 120 or equivalent)
    Dynamics of geological processes and the landscapes they carve. System thresholds, linked processes, data generation and evaluation that characterize landscape development.
  • (3) GEOL 227 Advanced Hydrogeology (GEOL 127, graduate standing in Geology)
    Water budgets, theories of groundwater flow to wells, hydrogeologic regimes, fracture flow, dewatering, salt water intrusion, dating and chemical identification of water.
  • GEOL 230. Seminar In Geology (graduate standing in Geology)
    Reading, analysis and discussion of the geologic literature on selected topics in geology. Student presentations and reports are required. Note: May be taken twice for credit.
  • (3) GEOL 240C Advanced Volcanology
    Analyzes volcanic eruption processes. Interpretation of volcanic deposits in the evaluation of volcanic hazards, risk, eruption processes, and geologic history. 
  • (3) GEOL 293 Engineering Geology (GEOL 193C or equivalent)
    Takes a geological approach to evaluating engineering issues associated with building with or on natural earthen materials. Rock and soil mechanics, slope stability, geophysical investigation of rock and soil properties.
  • (1-4) GEOL 299 Special Problems in Geology (Graduate-level status in geology, approval of project by a faculty sponsor and Department Chair; instructor permission)


Culminating Requirements (0-6 units)

Choose one of the following culminating requirements:

  • Plan A: (6) GEOL 500 Master’s Thesis.  Students wishing to pursue the GEOL 500 option must obtain Advisor approval to apply for the thesis option and have that application accepted by the Graduate Committee (see MS thesis guidelines under Important Forms).  Students not applying for thesis option will automatically pursue the GEOL 596 Comprehensive Examination option.
  • Plan B: (0) GEOL 596 Comprehensive Examination.