Graduate School Policies and Requirements

The requirements for graduate degrees in the UM Department of Geosciences are described below.

These requirements are in addition to the basic degree standards and policies for advanced degrees of the University of Montana Graduate School. UM Graduate School standards and rules website are described in detail on their, hereafter referred to as the “Grad School Policies“ website.

All requirements and policies from both the Department of Geosciences and Graduate School must be adhered to and satisfied for fulfillment of the degree program. Only Department specific policies are described here with occasional and references to some Graduate School policies and requirements; all policies of the UM Graduate School are not necessarily replicated or fully described here.

Exceptions to the Department rules may be made with unanimous consent of the faculty of the Department. Exceptions to the University rules are occasionally allowed by petition to the Graduate School. Standards and rules regarding honorable scientific conduct and plagiarism are not negotiable.

Degree Advisors

Interaction between graduate students and advisors is an integral part of graduate education in the Department of Geosciences. The advisor is responsible for ensuring that the student is aware of and satisfies the requirements for the graduate degree outlined below. The advisor is also responsible for supervising the graduate research, mentoring the student in the field of study, and training the student in the techniques and concepts of the area of research. The student should meet with the advisor at the start of their program to develop a curriculum of study and at the beginning of and throughout each academic year to make sure the curriculum is still appropriate. The student and advisor should also meet regularly to discuss research progress.

Part of the graduate admissions process entails the selection of an advisor; graduate students will not be admitted without a sponsoring faculty advisor. This advisor should have expertise in the candidate’s field of study. Departmental faculty are not obligated to advise any particular graduate candidate; rather, the faculty selects candidates for admission based on scientific interest, capabilities, and funding opportunities. A formal process for terminating the student-advisor relationship exists and is initiated by contacting the Department Chair, but a student must secure a new advisor prior to termination of a previous arrangement or leave the program.

The advisor is responsible for ensuring that the student is aware of the degree requirements.


Enrollment polices are dictated by the Graduate School and there are no additional departmental requirements. These are described in more detail on Grad School Policies website.

Graduate students must register for credits each Autumn and Spring semester to maintain continuous enrollment. In other words, summer credits are not necessarily required if a student is enrolled in Spring and will be enrolled again the following Autumn semester. However, some summer funding opportunities may require summer credits. If graduating during the summer (and therefore not intending to enroll during Autumn semester) the student must enroll for at least 1 credit during the summer.

Full-time student status requires at least 9 credits during the regular session and 4 credits during a summer half-session. Full-time Teaching Assistants must carry at least 9 credits per semester, unless a waiver is obtained from the Graduate School. A student must register for at least 6 credits to receive a contract to work as a Research Assistant, unless a waiver is obtained from the Graduate School. These credits may include GEO 599 (Thesis Research) or GEO 699 (Dissertation Research). Undergraduate credits do not apply to graduate degree requirements unless designated UG in the catalog. Specific course requirements for the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are given below.

Students must petition for a leave-of-absence if they are not continuously registered. Continuous registration requires completing at least 3 credits per semester. Students who step out of their graduate programs without an approved leave-of-absence for more than two consecutive semester terms will be dropped from their program’s roster and will need to petition the Geosciences Department and the Graduate School for readmission. The petition for readmission will require an evaluation of the student’s progress and plan for completing the degree. Not all students will be readmitted.

Students can be granted one semester to ‘wrap up’ work after defense and graduation pending approval. See the Grad School Policies website for details.

Transfer Credits

Graduate credits for Geosciences courses may be transferred only from a school that has a graduate program in Geosciences or Geology. Thesis or dissertation credits and credits for courses with grades of C or lower are not transferable. A request for transfer of credits is initiated by petitioning the Chair of the Department.

MS Degree

After satisfactory performance in graduate courses at the University of Montana and upon recommendation of the student’s graduate advisor and department chair, up to 9 course credits (not thesis) may be transferred from another school and applied to a Master’s degree after one semester of residence at the University of Montana.

PhD. Degree

On the recommendation of the Department and approval of the Graduate Dean, credits may be transferred (including an entire Master's Degree and/or credits from a Master's Degree program) from other institutions after a semester in residence.

All transfer credits must also satisfy additional stipulations of the Graduate School described on the Grad School Policies website.


A grade point average of 3.0 or better must be maintained throughout the graduate program. Immediate dismissal will occur for failure to achieve this minimum grade point average. Courses with grades of C+ or lower cannot be applied to the requirements for the degree program but are included in the calculation of grade point average. Grades of N (continuing) and CR/NCR (Credit/No Credit) are given for credits in Thesis Research (GEO 599) and Dissertation Research (GEO 699). Many courses numbered GEO 500 or above are graded on a CR/NCR basis. If an instructor offers such a course for a letter grade then it must be taken for a letter grade to apply toward a degree program.