Graduate Program Application Information

Overview of the Program

Thank you for your interest in the Western Washington University's graduate program in geology! Our Master of Science in Geology can take advantage of our diverse geologic setting locally, or some students travel far afield with some of our globe-trotting faculty.

Many of our students feel that choosing a smaller university has paid off well for them, in terms of the increased attention they receive from their faculty supervisor, and the strong institutional support and respect they feel from the University, students, and peers. Because Western is a liberal arts university primarily focused on teaching, we do not have a Ph.D. program, so the Master's students remain the focus of the departmental and university's graduate program.

The Department is proud of the broad-based background we are able to provide students. We have 14 faculty members, many of whom have been honored with prestigious research and teaching awards from the University. Because of the diverse research interests of our faculty we are able to offer a range of research projects in the Pacific Northwest and a broad spectrum of courses and field experiences. We have an extensive array of analytical facilities, especially considering the size of the University.

Contact between the faculty and students is encouraged by an active field trip schedule, seminars and social gatherings. Our department also actively encourages contact with outside geologists through attendance at professional meetings and through our guest lecture series, which brings professionals from industry and other universities for the exchange of ideas on a wide range of topics. Our M.S. program typically sustains about 30 students from all parts of the country. After completion, our Master's students have found employment in industry and government agencies and have entered Ph.D. programs in leading geoscience departments around the country.

All our graduate students are expected to take part in an orientation seminar series (Geology 595) that introduces them to the research being done by Western faculty, gets them familiar with the art of proposal writing, and allows them the opportunity to give research talks. A number of field trips that introduce students to the geology of the Pacific Northwest are also required.


Your completed application must be received by January 15 if you wish to be considered for a Teaching Assistantship. You can apply as late as June 1 if you want to start in the fall quarter without financial assistance.

Faculty Advisor

Master's students at Western are accepted to work with a specific faculty member. Students are supported via research or teaching assistantships. As such, applicants are encouraged to contact prospective advisors to discuss funding and available projects before or during the application process. 

Financial Aid and Expenses

Current and detailed information can be found at the Graduate School.

Other questions regarding graduate applications should be directed to Kate Blizzard.

Additional Tips

For more general tips on applying to graduate school, please see the webinar given by Dr. Jackie Caplan Auerbach, “How to Apply to Graduate School”.


Students with a bachelor's degree and who meet the requirements of the Graduate School are invited to apply for admission to the graduate program in geology. Students with a BS/BA degree in geology, which includes a recognized geology field course, generally will be offered full admittance into the program provided they have the appropriate math, chemistry, and physics background. Prerequisite course work may be necessary, depending on the applicant's chosen field of study.

Applicants without a BS/BA degree in geology will need to take a minimum of 19 quarter credits, including physical geology, historical geology, stratigraphy/sedimentology, mineralogy, petrology, geomorphology, structural geology, geophysics, and a recognized geology field camp, up to a maximum of 42 geology credits, which may include additional prerequisites in chemistry, physics and math, depending on each individual situation.

Students who have not completed these courses before entering the geology MS program must do so and maintain an average of B or better in prerequisite courses before being advanced to candidacy. Courses taken to make up these deficiencies are not counted toward the MS degree.

How to Apply

  1. Examine the individual faculty pages and find one or more who are pursuing research areas that interest you.
  2. Contact those faculty and discuss potential research projects with them. Visit the campus and department if possible.
  3. Examine the Graduate School Admissions requirements.
  4. Visit the Graduate School online application which will require the following:
    • One- to two-page statement of purpose explaining why you wish to pursue graduate studies in geology, including:
      • which specialization you are most interested in
      • how you see this M.S. degree as fitting into your career goals
      • any relevant teaching or research experience
    • Your desired faculty advisor
    • Curriculum vitae (resume)
    • Three letters of recommendation.
    • Transcripts from any college you have attended
    • TOEFL score (foreign applicants only).
  5. If you wish to be considered for a Teaching or Research Assistantship, you need only check the relevant box in the online application.
    • We suggest including in your documentation evidence of your teaching abilities and interest if you seek a Teaching Assistantship.

Note that full admission will require the following:

  • a B.S. or B.A. in Geology or a subdiscipline of Geology
    • (we will admit exceptional applicants not having a geology degree with the understanding that they fulfill departmental course requirements)
  • Passing grades in all the following courses:
    • geology field camp
    • one year of college chemistry
    • one year of calculus-based physics
    • one year of college math including two quarters of calculus.
    • Mineralogy, Petrology (or equivalent such as Earth Materials)
    • Structural geology
    • Historical Geology, Sedimentology, and/or Stratigraphy
    • Geomorphology
  • a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the last 90-quarter or 60-semesters credits taken as an undergraduate

Specific Test Requirements: The Geology Department has explicitly decided to remove the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) from our requirements for application. We recognize the implicit bias in these tests and understand that there are better metrics for predicting success in graduate school that include a holistic look at undergraduate performance, letters of recommendation, and relevant experience.

A limited number (10% of our total admissions) can be admitted "provisionally", meaning that the applicant doesn't meet the minimum admission standards. We usually reserve making offers of provisional admission until April or May. Provisionally admitted students are not eligible for financial support until they have met the conditions of their admission letter and moved to regular status. This generally requires completing any needed courses and obtaining at least a 3.0 GPA in the first 15 credits.