4+1 Master's Program

BS or BA + Non-Thesis MS (4+1) Program

Students currently enrolled in the BS or BA program in the Department of Geology can earn a non-thesis MS degree by completing an additional year of study after completing their undergraduate degree program. This program is intended for those seeking a terminal Masters degree with aspirations of obtaining a job in industry or education. The non-thesis MS does not serve as a substitute for a two-year, research-intensive MS degree and is primarily a course-intensive program with a lesser research component.

A student interested in this program should declare their intent to proceed with the additional year of Master's level study and identify a faculty advisor who is willing to supervise the coursework, research endeavors, and final project by no later than early fall semester of their senior year.

It is expected that the student will develop a detailed outline and begin preliminary work on a research topic during the senior year which will be carried into the additional fifth year of study. The program will culminate with a research paper that is potentially publishable. The student will also present research results to students and faculty.

Tuition costs for the fifth year of study are entirely the responsibility of the student and Teaching or Research Assistantships will not be awarded.

Details of the Geology 4+1 program:

Advisor and Advisory Committee

During the junior year or at the beginning of the senior year, the student must select a faculty member who will serve as their program advisor. The advisor works with the student to determine which courses the student will take during the course of study and will oversee the student’s research, final paper, and defense. The student and advisor must express the intent to begin the 4+1 program to the geology faculty.

In addition to the principal advisor, the student must select two additional faculty members to serve as the Advisory Committee. The committee should be selected by the end of fall quarter senior year. The role of the committee is to suggest courses to be taken, provide research support, and oversee the progress of the final project. The student must fill out a Committee Member form and submit the form to the Director of Graduate Studies for approval. The student must meet with the committee once per semester and submit a Committee Meeting Report to the Academic Director.

Credit hour requirements

The student is required to complete 30 credits of graduate-level coursework (6000- to 8000-level courses). Of those 30 credits, 20 must be completed in courses where a letter grade is earned. The student must maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 and may not receive a letter grade lower than a C.

Officially applying to the program

The student must complete the online Graduate School application for the Geology non-thesis MS during their senior year. Once the student has completed the BS or BA degree, they will be formally admitted to the MS program by the Graduate School.


The student may enroll in graduate-level courses after the geology faculty have agreed that the student may begin the 4+1 program. The student can begin taking graduate-level courses during the junior or senior year. Graduate-level courses (courses with the "G" designation) cannot be used to fulfill the BS or BA degree requirements and are taken in addition to courses taken to complete the undergraduate degree (courses with the "U" designation). The student should take two or three graduate-level courses during the senior year in addition to Colloquium (GEOL7025) and MS Thesis Research (GEOL8005).

Once formally admitted to the MS program (i.e. the fifth year), the student will enroll in at least two graduate-level courses per semester in addition to Colloquium (GEOL7025) fall and spring semester, the 4-day field trip fall semester, MS Thesis Research (GEOL8005) fall and spring semester, and Graduate Research (GEOL7005) fall semester.

Final project

The culmination of the 4+1 program will be a research paper consisting of at least 6000 words, not including the abstract, references, and figure and picture captions. The student will also defend research results before the committee and other members of the department. Since this is a non-thesis MS, the research paper will not be submitted to the Graduate School. Submitting the paper for publication is highly encouraged.

Questions regarding the 4+1 MS program may be directed to the Director of Graduate Studies, Craig Dietsch, or the Academic Director, Krista Smilek.