Doctor of Philosophy in Geosciences Program Description


Admission Requirements   •  Application Information    •   Financial Support
Administration of the Program   • Degree Requirements   •
Approved Courses


The Department of Geosciences at Florida Atlantic University offers advanced graduate training leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Geosciences.  This professionally oriented program combines department specialties in geography and geology with other cognate areas in the College and the University through an innovative curriculum that includes ecology and conservation biology, chemistry, anthropology, civil engineering, geomatics engineering, ocean engineering and urban and regional planning.  The program will provide advanced research and technical training to allow its graduates to find solutions to problems. While the main focus of the degree is on traditional, full-time students, the degree program also welcomes part-time students who wish to maintain their professional employment while earning their doctoral degree.
The Department expects doctoral students in the program to specialize in one of the following three areas:

--Hydrology and Water Resources.  Research in the areas of hydrology and water resources aimed at developing a more complete understanding of both surface and sub-surface processes and their practical applications, especially dealing with flow issues, supply issues and water quality, as well as the effects of global warming.  Studies also include coastal and wetland environments.  This research area combines coursework and faculty expertise in spatial information technology including GIS, hydrologic modeling, digital image analysis and geovisualization as well as geology, geography, biology, civil and ocean engineering and chemistry.

--Urban Development and Sustainability.  Research on urban land use change, urban environmental systems and urban economic development utilizing geographic information science and other spatial analysis tools to incorporate sustainable urban development in the subtropical environment of the everglades ecosystem, including the local impact of globalization and global environmental change on South Florida communities.  This research area combines coursework and faculty expertise in GIS, remote sensing, geovisualization and cartography as well as faculty expertise in geography, geology, biology and urban and regional planning.

--Cultural and Spatial Ecology.  Research focused on the biogeography of natural ecosystems as well as ethnobotanical studies focused on the cultural variations in human uses and sustainability of plants.  Emphasis on reconstructing past environments and analyzing present environments utilizing field work, satellite imagery, aerial photographs and archival research as well as extracting environmental information from advanced and specialized remote sensing imagery for mapping and modeling of vegetation,  ecosystems and natural resources. This research area combines coursework and faculty expertise in field methods and spatial information technology such as GPS, GIS, satellite image analysis, and geovisualization as well as geography, geology, anthropology and biology.

Admission Requirements:* (back to top)

Individuals may be admitted to the doctoral program in Geosciences based on the following requirements.

  1. Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in a field of geosciences or related area.  Students who have already earned a Master’s Degree or equivalent in geography, geology or related field may be admitted to the doctoral program and may be awarded up to 30 credits toward the Ph.D. in Geosciences.  Geosciences-related areas include anthropology, biology, chemistry, civil engineering, geomatics engineering, ocean engineering, environmental science, public administration, and urban and regional planning.
  2. International students whose native language is not English must score at least 550 on the paper-based TOEFL or at least 213 on the computer-based test.
  3. A minimum score of 150 verbal and 150 quantitative on the New GRE or a combined score of 1000 or above in the Quantitative-Verbal sections (minimum of 500 on each section) on the old GRE.  GRE scores older than 5 years will not be accepted.
  4. A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in the last degree program of the applicant. 
  5. Three satisfactory professional and/or academic letters of reference, one of which must show an indication of support from a Geosciences faculty member with doctoral faculty status at FAU, or an approved cognate faculty member with doctoral faculty status at FAU ( see faculty list for the doctoral program), of a willingness to supervise doctoral research of the applicant, if admitted.  It is strongly recommended that you start a dialogue with potential advisors as soon as possible.

*Please note that these are the minimum requirements for admission to the program. All applicants are reviewed on a competitive basis with respect to number of other applicants, department resources and availability of faculty. Students applying directly from a bachelor’s program must demonstrate they are outstanding candidates based on both a high undergraduate GPA and GRE scores, evidence of significant undergraduate research experience and letters of support from faculty members that clearly state confidence in the ability of the applicant to successfully complete doctoral work. One of the letters must be from an FAU faculty member that clearly states a willingness to supervise the applicant’s doctoral work if admitted.

Application Information: (back to top)

Prospective students are invited to apply for fall semester admission cycle (i.e. only one admission cycle per year exists for the doctoral program).  Full-time and part-time applications will be considered on a competitive basis.  The admission requirements listed above are minimum requirements.

Application Deadlines: Student applications are accepted for the Fall semester cycle only.  Completed applications should be received by February 15.   The Graduate Admissions Committee for the doctoral program shall meet within one week of the deadline and select candidates for recommendation to the Graduate College.

What must I do to properly apply? In order to speed the application process, please send the following official documents to the university.  Please note carefully which items should be sent to the Graduate College and which items should be send directly to the Department of Geosciences.

I. The following documents should be sent to the Graduate College:

Mailing Address:
Florida Atlantic University
Graduate College
777 Glades Road
SU 80, Room 101
Boca Raton , Florida 33431
  1. University Application, Official Transcripts, Official GRE scores,  application fee
  2. International students also need a professional transcript evaluation by a member of the  National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) and Official TOEFL or IELTS scores

NOTE:  Graduate Application forms and detailed requirements on the admission process are available at its web site . Check with Graduate Admissions for any additional requirements ( ).




The materials listed below are processed within the Department of Geosciences in conjunction with the items sent to the Graduate College.

II. Send the following documents to the Department of Geosciences:

Mailing Address:
Florida Atlantic University
Department of Geosciences
Attn: Graduate Admissions Committee*
777 Glades Road
Boca Raton , Florida 33431
Three letters of recommendation sent directly from the referee, Dept. of Geosciences application, statement of purpose

FAQs on Admission to the program:

When may I enter the program?  Currently the doctoral program in Geosciences only accepts students for Fall semester admission.

Is the Department of Geosciences application separate from the official university application?  Yes, you must fill out an official university application for the Graduate College and a separate Department of Geosciences application to be sent to the Graduate Committee for the doctoral program.

What should be included in the statement of purpose for admission?  The statement of purpose should be 2-3 double spaced pages that discuss the applicant’s background and reasons for applying to the program.

Is there a form for the letter of recommendation?  There is no particular format, but the letter of recommendation should be on letterhead from the referee.  The letter is sent directly to the Department from the referee.

Do international transcripts have to be evaluated prior to the admission process? All applicants who have completed all or part of their education abroad are required to have their foreign credentials evaluated by an independent evaluation service that is a NACES member.  Applicants still must send certified translated transcripts to the Graduate College. 

( ). 

Financial Support: (back to top)

Many full-time graduate students receive financial support in the form of teaching and/or research assistantships. This funding is guaranteed for 4 years to doctoral students that remain in good standing.

Teaching assistantships at the doctoral level will be approximately $20,000 for 12 months.  In addition, students receive a waiver for 100% of their tuition, based upon a 9-hour full-time course load per semester.  Student fees are not covered by assistantships, and payment of fees are the full responsibility of the student.  A breakdown of student fees per credit hour can be found at

Additional Financial Support may be available through other FAU initiatives:
Go to FAU's Financial Aid web page for more information

Administration of the Program: (back to top)

The Ph.D. program is administered by the Geosciences Department Chair in conjunction with the doctoral faculty of the Geosciences Department and appointed doctoral faculty of cognate departments, as well as an advisory board appointed from the local professional community by the Dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.  This group is collectively known as the Geosciences Graduate Program Committee, and will be responsible for establishing and reviewing academic policy pertaining to the program, curriculum development and oversight, and overall program administration.  The committee also reviews faculty, both in Geosciences and other appropriate cognate FAU units, to determine status as doctoral faculty or graduate faculty, and therefore the role of the faculty member in the program.  This includes approving all dissertation committees of individual students in the program. Dissertation committees will include a minimum of four faculty members of which a majority must have doctoral faculty status at FAU.  

Graduate faculty status is determined using the general criteria, policies and procedures outlined for the university-wide graduate faculty at FAU.  Those with graduate faculty status may teach courses in the program and may serve on dissertation committees, however, the faculty member may not be the direct supervisor of a dissertation until he/she has reached doctoral faculty status. As is the policy of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, specific graduate faculties for each doctoral program housed in the College are appointed by the Dean of the College based on criteria approved by the Department and the College Graduate Program Committee.

 The criteria for doctoral faculty status for the proposed degree program is

1) the faculty member shall hold a regular tenured, tenure-track or term appointed faculty position at FAU;

2) the candidate must present a record of a minimum of three refereed journal publications or one major book during the last five year period; and

3) the faculty member must have evidence of submitting at least one grant application for external funding during the same five year period. 
Both doctoral and graduate faculty are reviewed every five years by the Geosciences Graduate Program Committee to verify maintained graduate or doctoral faculty status.  A faculty member may ask to be reviewed for change from graduate faculty status to doctoral faculty status at any time.  Faculty members who meet the criteria for doctoral faculty status are referred to the Chair of Geosciences for recommendation of appointment by the Dean of the College.  Research professors and outside professionals, such as employees of USGS, etc, with appropriate graduate credentials may serve on a dissertation committee at the discretion of the Geosciences Graduate Program Committee, and may serve as the Chair of a doctoral committee in Geosciences provided a regular faculty member serves as Co-Chair of the committee.

The Geosciences Graduate Program Committee is also responsible for recommending admission of students into the program.  The Department Chair appoints a four member subcommittee from its membership to serve as the Graduate Admissions Committee for the doctoral program.  The Chair of this subcommittee must be a regular faculty member in the Department of Geosciences, and is normally the Graduate Program Director of the Department.

Another important task of the Geosciences Graduate Program Committee is to maintain the proper balance of full-time versus part-time students in the doctoral program.  Both part-time and full-time students must maintain continuous enrollment, and each individual member of the Geosciences doctoral faculty, in conjunction with the Geosciences Graduate Program Committee, should carefully monitor the number of part-time versus full-time students he/she accepts.  The Geosciences Graduate Program Committee will carefully monitor the matriculation progress of each part-time and full-time student annually, and has the right to dismiss students from the program who are not making satisfactory progress towards earning the Ph.D. in Geosciences.

Degree Requirements: (back to top)

A total of 90 credits beyond the Bachelor’s degree or 60 credits beyond an earned Master’s Degree in a related field (as defined in the admissions section of this proposal), admission to candidacy, and successful defense of a research dissertation in an approved area within the Geosciences will earn students the Ph.D in Geosciences. A minimum of 54 credits out of the 90 credits presented for the degree must be earned from the Geosciences Department (courses with EVR, ESC, GEA, GEO, GIS, and GLY prefixes).  No more than 36 credits of the 90 total credits submitted for the degree may come from outside the Geosciences Department.  This allows students the flexibility of an interdisciplinary type of degree, but still maintains the integrity of a degree program that builds upon the foundations of the Geosciences. Thus, students who are admitted to the program with a master’s degree in an approved related or cognate area as opposed to a master’s degree in geography or geology, may apply the 30 credits from that related area to the doctoral in Geosciences and may take up to 6 more credits in approved cognate areas outside of geosciences 

Students must earn a grade of ‘B’ or higher in any course that is applied to the credit hours presented for the degree.  The degree program should normally be completed within 4-5 years for full-time and most part-time students.  As per university policy, the degree should be completed within 7 years of maintained continuous enrollment.  Part-time students may need to petition to go beyond the 7 year rule.  Petitions of part-time students in good standing with respect to a cumulative GPA in the program of 3.0 or higher, and regular matriculation will be supported by the Department.  The specific degree requirements are discussed in detail below.

1.  A minimum of 66 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree or 36 credits of coursework beyond the Master’s degree with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher and a minimum of grade ‘B’ in any course applied to the degree program with the following requirements:

(a) 9 credits will be in coursework designated as the geosciences core
            GEO 6118       Research in the Geosciences             3
            GLY 6931       Thesis/Dissertation Seminar               3
            GEO 6920      Geosciences Colloquium Series          3* 

[*This is a one-credit course.  The content of the course varies from semester to semester as it is based on guest speakers discussing their research in the geosciences and related areas.  Students will be asked to take the course for credit 3 semesters during their residency in the program to expose them to a wide variety of research in the geosciences and related areas.] 

(b)  The remaining 57 credits for students entering directly from their bachelor’s degree program or remaining 27 credits for students entering with a master’s degree in geography, geology or a related field will be made up of coursework in geography, geology and interdisciplinary cognates from the approved list as appropriate to the student’s research plan. No more than 3 credit hours of GEO 6908 or GLY 6908 may be used to meet this requirement without doctoral committee and Department Chair approval.  All courses will be at the 5000 level or above, however, no more than 9 credits of 5000 level work may be applied to the degree. The student’s major advisor and committee must approve all coursework in the student’s program, and any exceptions to the approved cognate list must be made by the Geosciences Graduate Program Committee.  

(c) Courses designated as undergraduate proficiency courses, generally for students coming into the program with a non-related undergraduate degree, may not be used to satisfy course requirements for the degree.  Undergraduate proficiency courses will be outlined in the admissions notification.

2.  Admission to Candidacy as outlined below:

(a)    Formation of a dissertation committee.  This committee includes a minimum of the advisor plus three other members.  A majority of the members must have doctoral faculty status in the doctoral program.  Two of the members may be from another department or program at FAU or may be a doctoral-holding professional in the local community with expertise pertinent to the research program designed. 

(b)    Satisfactory completion of an examination covering graduate-level material in the field of geosciences. The material for the exam will be determined by the student’s committee as appropriate to the research plan of the student. The exam must be taken during the academic term immediately following the completion of the coursework outlined in section 1 of the degree requirements.  Two attempts at the examination are permitted.  A second failure on the qualifying exam will result in dismissal from the program.

(c)    Submission and presentation of an original research proposal. The proposal will be presented in a public forum open to Department of Geosciences and College of Science faculty and students.  The student must receive written notification from the doctoral supervisor of satisfactory performance to meet this requirement.

3.  Dissertation research under the direction of a faculty member in the Department or other Department-affiliated units and any other graduate level coursework desired by the dissertation committee (24 credit hours).  Within the 24 credits, a minimum of 12 credits of GEO 7978 Advanced Research and 6 credits of GEO 7980 Dissertation must be included. 

4.  Written submission, public presentation and defense of a satisfactory research dissertation.  The defense will include an oral examination of the research presented.