Graduate Program Application Information

Overview of the Program

Thank you for your interest in the Western Washington University's graduate program in geology! We offer two graduate degree programs: a Master of Science in Geology can take advantage of our diverse geologic setting locally, or some students travel far afield with some of our globe-trotting faculty.

Many of our students feel that choosing a smaller university has paid off well for them, in terms of the increased attention they receive from their faculty supervisor, and the strong institutional support and respect they feel from the University, students, and peers. Because Western is a liberal arts university primarily focused on teaching, we do not have a Ph.D. program, so the Master's students remain the focus of the departmental and university's graduate program.

The Department is proud of the broad-based background we are able to provide students. We have 14 faculty members, many of whom have been honored with prestigious research and teaching awards from the University. Because of the diverse research interests of our faculty we are able to offer a range of research projects in the Pacific Northwest and a broad spectrum of courses and field experiences. We have an extensive array of analytical facilities, especially considering the size of the University.

Contact between the faculty and students is encouraged by an active field trip schedule, seminars and social gatherings. Our department also actively encourages contact with outside geologists through attendance at professional meetings and through our guest lecture series, which brings professionals from industry and other universities for the exchange of ideas on a wide range of topics. Our M.S. program typically sustains about 30 students from all parts of the country. After completion, our Master's students have found employment in industry and government agencies and have entered Ph.D. programs in leading geoscience departments around the country.

All our graduate students are expected to take part in a one-year orientation seminar series (Geology 595) that introduces them to the research being done by Western faculty, gets them familiar with the art of proposal writing, and allows them the opportunity to give research talks. A number of field trips that introduce students to the geology of the Pacific Northwest are also required.


Your completed application must be received by January 15 if you wish to be considered for a Teaching Assistantship. You can apply as late as June 1 if you want to start in the fall quarter without financial assistance.

Faculty Advisor

Note that a student is admitted only if a faculty member agrees to work with him or her (although one can switch advisors after admission with the consent of the department chair and the advisor). This means that it is strongly recommended to contact faculty members with whom you might be interested in working before or during the application process. You need to select a faculty advisor in your application.

Financial Aid and Expenses

Current and detailed information can be found at the Graduate School.

Other questions regarding graduate applications should be directed to Kate Blizzard.

How to Apply

  1. Examine the individual faculty pages and find one or more who are pursuing research areas that interest you.
  2. Contact those faculty and discuss potential research projects with them. Visit the campus and department if possible.
  3. Examine the Graduate School Admissions requirements.
  4. Visit the Graduate School online application which will require the following:
    • GRE scores for your verbal, quantitative, and analytical tests
    • One- to two-page statement of purpose explaining why you wish to pursue graduate studies in geology, including:
      • which specialization you are most interested in
      • how you see this M.S. degree as fitting into your career goals
      • any relevant teaching or research experience
    • Your desired faculty advisor
    • Three letters of recommendation.
    • Transcripts from any college you have attended
    • TOEFL score (foreign applicants only).
  5. If you wish to be considered for a Teaching or Research Assistantship, you need only check the relevant box in the online application.
    • We suggest including in your documentation evidence of your teaching abilities and interest if you seek a Teaching Assistantship.

Note that full admission will require the following:

  • a B.S. or B.A. in Geology or a subdiscipline of Geology
    • (we will admit exceptional applicants not having a geology degree with the understanding that they fulfill departmental course requirements)
  • Passing grades in all the following courses:
    • geology field camp
    • one year of college chemistry
    • one year of calculus-based physics
    • one year of college math including two quarters of calculus.
    • Mineralogy, Petrology (or equivalent such as Earth Materials)
    • Structural geology
    • Historical Geology, Sedimentology, and/or Stratigraphy
    • Geomorphology
  • a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the last 90-quarter or 60-semesters credits taken as an undergraduate

A limited number (10% of out total admissions) can be admitted "provisionally", meaning that the applicant doesn't meet the minimum admission standards. We usually reserve making offers of provisional admission until April or May. Provisionally admitted students are not eligible for financial support until they have met the conditions of their admission letter and moved to regular status. This generally requires completing any needed courses and obtaining at least a 3.0 GPA in the first 15 credits.