Photo of graduate students in the mountains

Ph.D. Degree Program

The graduate program is aimed at training new research scientists in the field of Earth system science. Our goal in graduate education is to develop a comprehensive curriculum and conduct outstanding research involving graduate students. Our doctoral-level students become researchers with global perspectives and broad research skills as well as a high level of expertise in specific areas.

Program Highlights


Students with undergraduate degrees in physics, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, computer science and any field of geophysical or environmental science, including atmospheric science, oceanography, geophysics, and geology are encouraged to apply. The general background expected of incoming graduate students includes:

  • Undergraduate courses in calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations.

  • One-year sequences of undergraduate physics (calculus based) and chemistry.

Students with undergraduate degrees in other fields are invited to apply, provided they meet the general background standards listed above. Undergraduate courses in atmospheric science, oceanography, and biology are useful but not required as part of the undergraduate background. Students who are unsure if their academic background or training matches the profile described above are encouraged to contact potential advisors. 

Degree Requirements

To obtain a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Earth System Science, students must fulfill the Ph.D. requirements. For a look at a year-by-year breakdown of degree requirements, please see our Sample Timetable


Graduate coursework includes a multidisciplinary curriculum covering physical, chemical and biological aspects of Earth system science.


ESS graduate students travel around the world to conduct research in the mountains, forests, oceans, caves, glaciers, laboratories and climate simulation centers.

Awards & Recognition

Our highly decorated graduate students and faculty earn some of the industry’s most prestigious awards and fellowships each year.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have any additional questions about the ESS Graduate Program, please visit our FAQs for the Earth System Science (ESS) Graduate Program.


Morgan Sibley
Student Affairs Manager
Professor Francois Primeau
Vice Chair, Graduate Studies

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