Graduate Programs

M.S. Program

The following guidelines describe policies and procedures in the M.S. Program in the NIU Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences. This description is not intended to be a comprehensive explanation of all the program requirements. The NIU Graduate School has established university-wide graduate student policies, procedures and regulations in addition to those described here. It is the responsibility of the student to be familiar with Departmental and University information pertaining to graduate students and programs, all of which can be found in the NIU Graduate Catalog.


Students seeking admission to the M.S. Program should complete the online admission application on the Graduate School web site. Students who wish to be considered for a graduate assistantship should download and complete the assistantship application form, and then submit that form to the Department Graduate Program Director via e-mail or standard postal delivery. Students who are considering applying are encouraged to first contact the faculty member(s) with whom they intend to work, so that they can discuss research opportunities and ensure that the faculty member is accepting new students into their research group.

Admission decisions are made continuously, but the Department Graduate Committee will not review applications until all portions of the application have been submitted. Students should check with the Graduate School to ensure that all of their application materials have been received.

The Department places equal weight on each of the three main components of the application: GRE scores, GPA, and letters of recommendation. High GRE scores can potentially offset a lower than normal GPA, and excellent letters of recommendation can compensate for lower GRE scores. Admitted students typically have verbal and quantitative GRE scores above 152, GPAs above 3.0, and very good letters of recommendation.

Program Options and Credit Hour Requirements

Before the end of their first semester, students must decide whether they will pursue one of two program options. As noted below, there are different requirements for each of these options. Regardless of which option a student chooses, they must complete 34 credit hours of graduate coursework with a minimum GPA of 3.0. A student must take 25 of the 34 credit hours in the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences. With approval of the Dean of the Graduate School and the Department Graduate Committee, a student may use to meet the 34 credit hour requirement, a combined total of up to 15 credit hours earned as a student-at-large at NIU, as a student at another institution, or credit earned in NIU courses taught outside the U.S.

Thesis Option

Students in this program option will design and conduct an original research project that will be summarized in a written thesis.

  • Students may use up to 6 credit hours of thesis research to meet the 34 credit hour requirement.
  • Students must meet annually with their thesis committee and present a report of their progress through the program.
  • Students will prepare and deliver a public colloquium explaining the design and results of their original research. This colloquium is in addition to the student’s thesis defense.

Nonthesis Option

Students who wish to pursue the non-thesis option must submit a written request to the Department Graduate Committee before the end of their first semester of study to obtain formal written approval to pursue this option.

  • Students in this program option must pass a comprehensive examination in their final semester.