Ph.D. Degree Program in Earth System Science

Are you passionate about understanding Global Environmental Change? Join our world-renowned interdisciplinary graduate program in Earth system science. Our recently revamped curriculum maintains a comprehensive core curriculum while offering diverse elective options tailored to student research interests. We train students to become researchers with global perspectives and broad research skills, as well as a high level of expertise in specialized areas.

Program Highlights

  • Earn fully-funded M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, including tuition and fees, in addition to a competitive yearly stipend of roughly $34,000.

  • Develop a mechanistic understanding of the Earth and gain the conceptual and analytical tools needed for research in this rapidly growing field.

  • Work with distinguished and highly recognized faculty in the classroom, laboratory and field. [link to faculty page]

  • Become a scientific expert on research topics spanning atmospheric chemistry, physical climate, human systems, and biogeochemistry [link to research groups page]

  • Gain access to unique and multidisciplinary programs including Ridge2Reef, Machine Learning and Physical Sciences (MAPS), and CLEAN outreach.

  • Join a diverse community of scientists working to understand and solve the greatest challenges facing our planet


Students with undergraduate degrees in physics, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, computer science, biology, ecology and any field of geophysical or environmental science, including atmospheric science, oceanography, geophysics, and geology are encouraged to apply, as are diverse applicants, including women, LGBTQ+, persons of color, persons with disabilities, and first-generation students. 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.

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.


Melanie Nakashini
Student Affairs Manager
Professor Jin-Yi Yu
Vice Chair, Graduate Studies

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